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Digital Sovereignty: From Narrative To Policy?

The debate in Europe about digital sovereignty, technological sovereignty, data sovereignty and strategic autonomy has been building over recent years at both the EU level and the level of individual Member States. The different concepts – and their diverse interpretations – cover the sovereignty concerns of citizens, states and the EU itself, and range from the protection of fundamental rights to addressing geo-economic strengths and vulnerabilities and European military concerns.

Dennis Broeders, Raluca Csernatoni, Kristina Irion, Monica Kaminska, Giorgio Monti, Margarita Robles-Carrillo, Simona Soare, Paul Timmers
05 December 2022
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The language of digital sovereignty and strategic autonomy – on which the authors focus in this research note – has become integrated into the policy statements and documents of the European Union, even if definitions of the terminology remain scarce.

This article summarises four main policy contributions. First, the idea that much of the narrative of digital sovereignty and strategic autonomy has been used to reinforce the EU’s international reputation as a policy innovator. Second, the authors recommend that the EU should recognise that strategic autonomy is a balancing act between increasing independence and strategic cooperation, and requires increased coordination of its digital policies and relationships with 'likeminded’ countries, especially the United States. Third, the article suggests to determine effective mechanisms for policy enforcement (particularly as proposals for new digital policies abound) and work actively towards mitigating competition for technology-related funding between Member States and with other like-minded countries. Finally, the article concludes that instrumentalising internal market policies for geopolitical reasons is actually very difficult, given existing EU legal structures.

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