“European Digital Sovereignty”: Successfully Navigating Between the “Brussels Effect” and Europe’s Quest for Strategic Autonomy

Paper by Theodore Christakis: “This Study discusses extensively the concept of “European Digital Sovereignty”. It presents the opportunities opened by the concept but also the risks and pitfalls. It provides a panorama of the major debates and developments related to digital/cyber issues in Europe. Here is the Executive Summary of the Study:

“The Times They Are A-Changin”. When Jean-Claude Juncker, then President of the European Commission, proclaimed in 2018 that “The Hour of European Sovereignty” had come, half of Europe criticized him, recalls Paul Timmers. Today hardly a day goes by in Europe, without a politician talking about “digital sovereignty”.

From a purely normative point of view, the concept makes little sense. It can only further accentuate the classic confusion surrounding the use of the term “sovereignty”, which is one of the most equivocal terms in legal theory and which has been criticized by a famous scholar for often being nothing more than “a catchword, a substitute for thinking and precision”. Still, from a political point of view, “European digital sovereignty” is an extremely powerful concept, broad and ambiguous enough to encompass very different things and to become a “projection surface for a wide variety of political demands”.

This study analyses in a detailed way the two understandings of the term: sovereignty as regulatory power; and, sovereignty as strategic autonomy and the ability to act in the digital sphere without being restricted to an undesired extent by external dependencies. While doing so, this study presents a panorama of the most recent le-gislative proposals (such as the Data Governance Act) and the most important debates on digital issues currently taking place at the European level: 5G deployment and cybersecurity concerns; international data transfers and foreign governments’ access to data after SchremsII; cloud computing; the digital services tax; competition law; content moderation; artificial intelligence regulation; and so many others….(More)”.