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Estonia becomes first country to offer e-residency digital citizenship

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

The Republic of Estonia, a small country in northeastern Europe, has become the world’s first country to offer e-residency. A new scheme has allowed people from all over the world to get a digital identity provided by the Estonian government and set up a company with zero per cent corporate tax in Estonia.

The credit card sized e-residency permit provides the holder with an array of services, like submitting taxes online, accessing bank accounts, digitally signing documents, etc.

In a short span of six months after the scheme’s launch, Estonia already has 2,000 e-residents. According to a news report, Estonia is planning to increase this number to 10,000 by the end of this year.

This scheme gives access to the digital services of Estonia; however, the card should not be mistaken for unrestricted access to Estonia or the European Union (EU). The managing director of the e-Estonia showroom, Siret Schutting told IANS, “The services of the e-residency card are restricted to the virtual world, so residency or citizen services are not included and this cannot be used as an identification card or replace the mandatory visa or passport for entry into the EU.”

Since this scheme of e-citizenship is a fairly new product, several modifications are being done to it in order to improve the services it offers. Earlier, it was essential for a new e-resident to be present in Estonia at least once to identify him/her with biometric data. However, now all these formalities can be completed in any of the Estonian embassies located globally.

India has responded to this new scheme in a positive manner. Estonian Ambassador to India, Viljar Lubi, said, “Interest in India has been very keen, even without us actively promoting it. In India, it has been proved time and again that good ideas spread the fastest by word of mouth.”

This scheme is very useful for the entrepreneurs who intend to expand their business to the European Union. An Indian businessman, Bashyam Krishnan, told the news agency, “This is a simple and accessible gateway to the European Union. One can set up a company within 10 minutes. And from there on, the EU becomes your market.”

Krishnan added, “The services offered as a part of this are varied and nearly everything can be done with the touch of a button. The system is that easy and user friendly. Additionally, multiple security measures are there from secure passwords to a log system to check illegal access. I believe that it is extremely secure.”

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European Union Opening New Front in Its Quest to More Closely Regulate Big Tech Companies

In addition to selling its own products, Amazon also allows third-party retailers to sell their goods through its site

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FILE - Caption European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager addresses a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, Jan.11, 2016, after the EU demanded Monday that Belgium recover millions of euros from 35 large companies in back taxes. VOA

The European Union is opening a new front in its quest to more closely regulate big tech companies, saying Wednesday it was investigating whether U.S. online giant Amazon uses data from independent retailers to gain an illegal edge when selling its own products.

EU antitrust Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said she is taking a “very close look at Amazon’s business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules.”

In addition to selling its own products, Amazon also allows third-party retailers to sell their goods through its site. Last year, more than half of the items sold on Amazon worldwide were from third-party sellers.

The EU opened a preliminary probe into the issue last year, and Vestager said it has shown that “Amazon appears to use competitively sensitive information — about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace.” Using the information could give it an unfair competitive edge.

European Union, Technology, Companies
The European Union is opening a new front in its quest to more closely regulate big tech companies, saying Wednesday it was investigating. Pixabay

In a parallel case, Germany’s competition regulator said Wednesday that Amazon was changing some of its business conditions for traders on its online marketplace worldwide after it raised concerns about some terms. The regulator said that the changes affect a range of issues such as a one-sided exemption from liability to Amazon’s benefit as well as the place of jurisdiction for disputes.

Other EU countries like Austria, Luxembourg and Italy are also independently investigating Amazon but EU spokeswoman Lucia Caudet said the national probes did not overlap with the EU investigation.

Amazon said it would cooperate with the EU authorities, according to media reports.

The EU’s investigations into major companies like Amazon have led the way in a global push to more tightly regulate tech giants, as many governments wonder if they are becoming too big for the good of the wider economy.

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Among the key questions are not only whether the tech giants abuse their market dominance to choke off competition, potentially stifling choice for consumers, but also whether they are adequately protecting users data and paying their fair share of taxes in countries where they operate.

Tech companies do huge business across Europe but pay taxes only in the EU nation where their local headquarters are based, often a low-tax haven like Luxembourg or the Netherlands. The result is they pay a far lower rate than traditional businesses. France has tried to address the problem by unilaterally imposing a 3% tax on big tech companies’ revenue in the country. The U.S. government is not happy about that and finance ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy countries will discuss the issue this week in Paris.

Ursula von der Leyen, the EU Commission President elect who should take up her role in November, has said she will try to be more vigilant to make sure such companies pay enough taxes.

European Union, Technology, Companies
EU antitrust Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said she is taking a “very close look at Amazon’s business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer. Pixabay

Amazon has already been the target of previous EU investigations. Two years ago, officials ordered it to pay $295 million in back taxes to Luxembourg after finding that the company profited from a tax avoidance deal with the tiny European country. EU officials also investigated Amazon’s e-book business.

Also Read- Buzz Aldrin Recalls the First Moments of Apollo 11 Launch

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the House Judiciary Committee is investigating the market power of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. Congress is this week holding a two-day hearing on Facebook’s plan to create a digital currency, Libra, which governments in the U.S. and Europe have been skeptical about. (VOA)