French EU presidency: universal charger, chat control & Euro 7 emissions standard

France set the program for its presidency in the EU Council from January to the end of June 2022 and published it on Friday. On 65 pages, the new chairmanship of the body of government representatives of the member states describes its guidelines, priorities and overarching goals such as a sovereign and humane Europe with a strong growth model.

“Own rules for the digital world”

The continent should therefore be significant for “technological excellence”. The proposed model will support innovation and growth of European players in the digital field, but at the same time the EU will have to set up “its own rules for the digital world”.

It is important to reconcile “economic development with climate policy ambitions” and to offer “high quality, qualified and better paid jobs”. The French presidency will be more specific according to the plan for example “continue work on the various dossiers that contribute to a harmonized framework within the internal market while ensuring a high level of consumer protection”. This applies in particular to the proposal for a universal charger, “which will make everyday life easier for users and at the same time meet a goal of environmental protection”.

In fact, there have been EU guidelines for years, according to which manufacturers of mobile phones, tablets and other devices that use the radio spectrum should supply their customers with a universal charging plug. So far, however, the focus has been on self-regulation. So far, Apple has only partially followed the non-watertight requirements.

With a draft law, the EU Commission now wants to introduce uniform charging cables based on the USB-C connection.

Speed for EU digital legislation

France wants to “push ahead” the debate with the EU Parliament on the law for digital services. MPs will finalize their position on the Digital Services Act (DSA) next week. Authorities of any kind should therefore be able to send host providers without a judge’s reservation in future cross-border orders to take action against illegal content.

In order to regulate large online platforms more closely, the Council Presidency will work in parallel “for the progress of the negotiations on the law for digital markets”. The EU needs an instrument for precautionary monopoly control of corporations such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook, as envisaged in the current drafts of the Council and Parliament for the Digital Markets Act (DMA). The planned new antitrust approaches served “the accessibility and fairness of the digital markets”.

The French want to quickly take up the controversial and delayed project of the commission for a comprehensive “chat control”. “In order to strengthen the legal instruments for combating child crime on the Internet,” negotiations will be held on the forthcoming Commission proposal to prevent and combat the sexual abuse of minors, “it said. In the room there is also an obligation for providers of continuously encrypted messenger services such as WhatsApp, Signal and Threema to scan private messages of their users for sexual abuse of children.

Increasing cybersecurity

The council leadership wants to bring the talks of the EU committees to a “successful conclusion” about the no less contested draft directive for access to electronic evidence (e-evidence). Corresponding access to data in the cloud or e-mail accounts are “often decisive in criminal investigations”.

However, this would mean that fundamental rights would have to be preserved. “Increasing cybersecurity will be a priority of the Council Presidency,” says the program. The EU’s capacities for preventing and responding to cyber attacks should be expanded in the “fight against hybrid threats”, and more relevant exercises should be carried out.

France plans to continue work on the e-privacy regulation for the protection of privacy and personal data in electronic communication, which is supposed to bring about new cookie rules. According to the paper, one of its priorities will be the development of trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI) “in the service of the people”. The main controversial issue here is a potential ban on biometric face recognition.

The modernization of the directive on general product safety, which is important for AI systems, implants and brain-computer interfaces, is also on the agenda.

Not a word to Gaia-X

Digitization in the healthcare system is to be “a central area of responsibility” for the presidency. France wants to accelerate important projects of common European interest (IPCEI), especially in the areas of hydrogen, electronics and cloud computing. After adversity, there is no talk of the previous Franco-German flagship cloud project Gaia-X, but the planned legislative initiative on microchips.

France also wants to deal with the “introduction of a new European emission standard for all pollutants except CO2 for the market launch of new vehicles “(Euro 7). The carmakers currently have to nibble on complying with the exhaust gas limits for vehicles of the Euro 6 standard. The successor to air quality specifications will also be about the question of whether and when the internal combustion engine will finally prevail the end.

According to the announcement, the French will quickly start negotiations on a proposal for a regulation to create a harmonized framework for access to vehicle data. The agenda also includes decarbonising industry and various modes of transport, as well as stimulating a sustainable circular economy with new regulations for batteries, for example.

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