The author is President of the National Innovation Fund of Italy
Sovereignty has transcended geopolitics and economics today to take on a digital dimension. This is due to the rise of tech giants, whose influence is now undeniable. In the past year, five US technology companies – Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft – increased their sales by a fifth and reached USD 1.1 billion. US tech stocks today are worth more than the entire European stock market. And Chinese companies operate on a similar scale.
Unlike Washington and Beijing, Brussels has been slow to recognize the importance of digital sovereignty. It has instead channeled his efforts to stricter and broader regulation of the technology sector and becomes the world’s leading “regulatory superpower”. Bold interventions like that Digital Market Act and the Data Governance Act will strengthen policies related to competition and antitrust law. An equally ambitious proposal for Revision of digital taxation could close many of the existing gaps.
However, a comprehensive defense of Europe’s digital sovereignty requires three additional steps. First, Brussels needs a strategic, far-sighted approach to its own critical infrastructures and industrial policy. Second, it must be stressed that his concerns about the power of big tech are based on democratic rather than technocratic values. Third, it must advance the development of a global framework to ensure that technological disputes are settled amicably and diplomatically, rather than through protracted trade wars between Washington and Beijing.
Fortunately, the challenge of step one has been officially recognized, if not yet fully addressed. EU leader have agreed to pour At least 20 percent of the EUR 673 billion Covid Recovery and Resilience Facility for critical technologies and infrastructures related to AI, microprocessors, 5G networks and the Gaia-X Cloud Initiative, Quantum computing and cybersecurity.
Measures like these should help avoid the problems affecting the European automotive industry, such as: Lack of predominantly microchips made abroad. Volkswagen alone expects to sell 100,000 fewer cars. The European Commission specifies that the EU should produce by 2030 at least 20 percent the semiconductor in the world. Last year 10 percent were produced.
The second challenge will be crucial. This struggle is not about defending the power of incumbent European industry. It is about defending the data sovereignty of European citizens, their autonomy and their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
This could require the development of new governance models such as data trusts, where the underlying data, once anonymized, could be shared on behalf of a larger public good. Residents of BarcelonaFor example, you can access environmental data for local business and citizen groups. There is no reason to assume that today’s standard solution – with data that feeds the data protection-violating business models of technology platforms – is less technocratic and more democratic. It certainly isn’t.
Third, Europe’s insistence on democracy and diplomacy should inform how problems are being solved at international level. Some high level dates including prominent critics of Big Tech, According to Joe Biden’s government, Brussels could find a receptive audience across the Atlantic. Beijing has launched its own campaign contain its domestic technology industry.
Despite shared sovereignty concerns, China and the US are still very much at odds. The U.S. Commerce Department has a blacklist of Chinese companies, including Huawei and chipmaker SMIC, whose technologies could pose a threat to national security. China has retaliated by banning Tesla cars from military complexes. Both countries are increasing their spending on key components such as semiconductors.
As soon as Europe puts digital sovereignty at the center of its foreign policy, it will have the chance to embark on a new global path. The European solution cannot revolve around a Cold War mentality. Instead, a global “green and digital agreement” should be proposed that contains binding international rules on antitrust law, taxation, digital privacy, cybersecurity and sustainability.
The world has gotten a taste of big tech’s surveillance capitalism and how technology can support the big state, for example through China’s digital authoritarianism. Now it is up to Brussels to show the way to great democracy. Europe must use its digital sovereignty to offer the world a new kind of humanism that combines innovation and dynamism with an uncompromising defense of autonomy, sustainability and self-determination.