An open EU and close collaboration with the US are the keys to digital sovereignty

European influence on digital policy only exists if we are part of the wider global digital realm, which involves close collaboration with the United States
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo speak with France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the EU-US Trade and Technology Council summit in Paris | Photo: Alamy

By Dita Charanzová

Dita Charanzová (CZ, RE) is a Vice-President of the European Parliament and a member of the delegation for relations with the United States

18 Aug 2022

The European Parliament recently secured a deal on two major pieces of digital legislation: both the Digital Services Act (DSA), which offers new rules to protect consumers, and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which targets the lack of competition in digital markets, will significantly change the internet as we know it.  

In late May, on the heels of this new legislation, I was in Silicon Valley to visit leading US tech companies including Google, Meta and Apple as part of a delegation from the Internal Market Committee; from our meetings, it was clear how important the DSA and the DMA are for these businesses.  

In contrast to my last visit six years ago, when the question was whether we needed to legislate the digital world, the discussion this time around was about the problems that both sides, politicians and tech companies, realise are happening. There was an understanding that something needs to be done, and a desire to face these problems and create global rules together.  

The importance of collaborating with the United States and others should not be understated. European influence only exists if we are part of the wider global digital realm. If the European Union adopts laws in isolation, we risk creating barriers that will cut off this cultural and economic exchange. We will cut ourselves off from sources of innovation and opportunities for growth.  

To this end, forums like the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC), where experts can look for a common framework for digital regulation, are vital. After two TTC meetings, in Pittsburgh and Paris, the working parties are now creating concrete results that will feed into our next digital laws. 

The TTC, however, is facing a headwind. Ever since former US President Donald J Trump was elected, and now with the war in Ukraine, we have heard European leaders speak about digital sovereignty as central to our digital policy.  

For some, the answer to digital sovereignty is a closed EU, where we design all digital products and produce them within our territory. However, this is an unwise strategy, as we have neither the technical experts nor the manufacturing ability or physical infrastructure to put this into practice. We can and should build our capacity while also recognising that it will never be great enough to meet demand. Plus, relying solely on internal capacity would block us from accessing improvements from outside the EU, always putting us one step behind. 

The only way to have the digital infrastructure we need is to cultivate transatlantic trust and expand it to include other like-minded states.

The only way to have the digital infrastructure we need is to cultivate transatlantic trust and expand it to include other like-minded states. I agree that Chinese and Russian hardware or storage should not be part of our infrastructure. However, I think we can put our trust in the ability of the US to produce hardware and services that will meet our standards. 

Clearly, recent history has called this trust into question, and the US has some rebuilding to do. But I am confident that the TTC and other efforts will lead us to new transatlantic agreements. 

My visit to Silicon Valley was a reminder that the digital realm must be viewed within a global context. Now back on European soil, I am even more convinced that our future must be an open one, based on unrestricted innovation instead of new barriers. 

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