Quo Vadis European Digital Sovereignty?
The Corona crisis has impressively demonstrated the dependence of our modern society on ICT (information and communication technology). The major challenges in climate protection and health, currently especially about the COVID-19 pandemic, can only be solved or supported with trustworthy IT. As digitalization is developing exponentially, it is changing the economic strength of entire nations. It will change the face of our economy, but also our culture, our civil society, politics, and the lives of every individual more permanently than any other technology before.
Europe today stands for a high level of data security and data protection. The EU is probably the most trusted area in the world when it comes to these issues. This is a significant competitive advantage that must be maintained and built upon. On the other hand, Europe has lost its already weak position in ICT technology even more in the last 15 to 20 years, and this both technically and from the entrepreneurial point of view. Europe is being left behind by the market-leading countries in terms of IT technology and is thus threatening to become a digital development country in large parts. Europe is on its way to becoming a digital colony.
In March this year heads of the government of Germany, Estonia, Denmark, and Finland have called the European Commission for an offensive to strengthen the EU’s digital sovereignty. 1 They pointed out that digital value creation and digital innovation take place to a significant extent outside Europe. Furthermore, they stressed that dependencies and weaknesses of European digital capacities, capabilities and technologies were becoming increasingly apparent.
Europe needs the courage to take its digital future into its own hands. This requires competent decisions with clear priorities to avert the path into a digital developing country and subsequently into a digital colony. This also requires conscious decisions about what is more important for Europe: digital sovereignty or submitting to economically justified international constraints. Ultimately, it is a value decision, but one that must be realized against the backdrop of technology with a power developing exponentially.
Only a visionary and courageous step towards IT, flanked by skillful regulation, has a chance of sparing Europe the fate of a digital colony. What does Europe need to do? Several topics need to be addressed, such as:
- An amendment of the antitrust law, merger rules and procurement to ensure a global level and fair legal framework and competitive conditions for companies offering digital products and services.
- Targeted strengthening of technological capabilitiesfor digitalization in Europe through relevant research, innovation and industrial policy that favors European companies where Europe is lagging to make them globally competitive (e.g., “Cyber Airbus”).
- Development and promotion of digital infrastructures under European technological sovereignty(e.g., “Cybersecurity made in Europe”).
- Risk-tolerant investment strategy (e.g., for venture capital) so that European start-ups and medium-sized companies can grow and scale to be able to play a significant role in global competition.
Overcoming fragmentation in bringing several stakeholders together to develop in digital ecosystems is the first step towards European digital sovereignty. By bringing together leading research, technology, industrial and public competencies CONCORDIA is helping to build the European Secure, Resilient and Trusted Ecosystem.
(by Gabi Dreo Rodosek, Manfred Broy, Udo Helmbrecht)