How Europe is working towards Digital Sovereignty

In March, four EU leaders, Angela Merkel (Germany), Mette Frederiksen (Denmark), Sanna Marin (Finland) and Kaja Kallas (Estonia), wrote a letter encouraging the European Commission President to support digital sovereignty in Europe. In the letter they call for EU-based data cloud solutions, an EU ecosystem for digital identities and digital sovereignty in critical areas. They mention that the Commission should make proposals of new initiatives as well as strengthening ongoing initiatives. The letter was sent albeit several initiatives in Europe is already working towards digital sovereignty in EU.

GAIA-X

One of these initiatives is GAIA-X. It is a project planned to be an open digital ecosystem that provides a flexible data infrastructure based on European values, such as data privacy, security, transparency and respect for data rights.

The project makes it possible to connect centralised and decentralised infrastructures to offer digital sovereignty of cloud service and to support interoperability via open interfaces and standards. The EU aims to have three out of four companies using cloud computing services by 2030 which makes this decentralised infrastructure even more relevant.

The GAIA-X project was initiated by the German government and is now being developed in collaboration with France and more than 300 organizations. The use cases range from agriculture, energy, finance, geoinformation, health to mobility, SME, public sector and smart living. Once the GAIA-X Association is legally established it will be possible for further members to join, specially from the European member states.

This is an ambitious project that aims to support the call for the “EU-based data cloud solutions”. The project still has a way to go before it is fully realised. For one, the application process to legally establish the GAIA-X Association is still ongoing. Secondly, they mention that missing technologies or services, needed by participant in the ecosystem, will be developed. Hopefully more EU member states will join this project ensuring that the infrastructure becomes a cross-border European solution.

Data Sovereignty Now

Another EU project is Data Sovereignty Now. They are a coalition of 11 partners that aim is to give individuals and organisations the control of how the data that they generate is viewed, used and shared.

Data Sovereignty Now aim to have the public- and private sectors collaborating on creating a decentralised infrastructure based on open standards and a distributed network. Data should be transportable in this network allowing data owners to choose which platforms and entities to give access and where to store their data. The project is based on three principles:

  • Decentralised data storage
  • Users can give access to their data instead of uploading it
  • The data owner is in full control.

Data Sovereignty Now are working on an EU ecosystem for digital identities as requested by the EU leaders. But if a decentralised identity is to be of value for data owners, a distributed network of public- and private entities acknowledging the solution is needed. This will require shared standards, technical and operational agreements and the support of both private industries and European governments.

European Blockchain Partnership

Lastly, it is also worth to mentioning the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP) which is a declaration signed by the 27 member states. Their main focus is to build the European Blockchain Service Infrastructure (EBSI) to provide a European blockchain with servers on European soil. The chain will consist of distributed nodes across the member states to ensure digital sovereignty for European governments and businesses in Europe. EBSI also work to support trusted data sharing and to implement a Self-Sovereign Identity model for the EU member states. To read more about decentralised identity please read Self-Sovereign Identity – A Possibility for More Data Control for Users.

The European Blockchain Partnership aims to serve as both a technological and regulatory sandbox to understand blockchain use cases and risks and to assist policy makers to make informed regulation in this area. This is especially important as blockchain technology are becoming increasingly critical for digital processes in public and private sectors in the European Union.

There are several other initiatives aiming at creating and strengthening digital sovereignty in Europe, for example this report on European digital infrastructure and data sovereignty by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

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