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Editorial: The EU States Digital Sovereignty.

Athens, Wednesday, 25 October 2023

By Angelos C. Tsigkopoulos, Publisher, The Decision Maker

(Pic by Wikipedia)

In an increasingly interconnected and digitalized world, the concept of digital sovereignty has gained significant importance. Digital sovereignty refers to a nation's ability to exercise control over its own digital ecosystem, policies, and technologies without undue influence from external actors. In the European Union (EU), digital sovereignty has become a prominent concern as the bloc strives to safeguard its interests in the digital realm and protect the fundamental rights of its citizens.

The EU's Digital Sovereignty Concerns

The EU faces several challenges in ensuring its digital sovereignty. One major concern is its dependence on foreign technologies. Many EU countries heavily rely on non-EU tech giants for essential digital infrastructure and services. This reliance raises concerns over potential vulnerabilities and the loss of control over critical sectors. The EU seeks to reduce this dependence and build its own capability to ensure greater control and competitiveness in the digital space.

Another critical digital sovereignty issue for the EU is data privacy and protection. The vast amount of personal data generated by individuals within the EU has become a valuable resource for both domestic and foreign entities. Ensuring that citizens' data is protected while simultaneously leveraging its value for economic development is a delicate task. The EU has taken steps to address this issue through the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which sets robust standards for data privacy and protection within the bloc.

Additionally, the EU faces cybersecurity threats that can compromise its digital sovereignty. Cyberattacks, both from state and non-state actors, pose a significant risk to critical infrastructure and systems within the EU. Protecting against these threats requires not only advanced technological measures but also robust cooperation and information sharing among member states.

Steps taken by the EU to ensure digital sovereignty

The EU has implemented several measures to enhance its digital sovereignty. The GDPR, introduced in 2018, establishes a framework for protecting the personal data of EU citizens. It grants individuals greater control over their data and imposes strict obligations on organizations that process such data. The GDPR not only protects citizens' privacy rights but also contributes to strengthening the EU's position as a global leader in digital regulation.

Furthermore, the European Digital Strategy, unveiled in 2020, aims to shape Europe's digital future by fostering innovation, investment, and regulatory frameworks that support digital transformation. The strategy focuses on key areas such as connectivity, data, digital skills, and digital public services. By investing in these areas, the EU seeks to build its own digital capacities and reduce dependency on external technologies.

In addition to regulatory measures, the EU is committed to investing in research and innovation to ensure its digital sovereignty. The Horizon Europe program, with a budget of over €95 billion, aims to drive technological advancements and support collaborative research projects across member states. By investing in research and innovation, the EU aims to stay at the forefront of digital developments and maintain its competitiveness in the global digital economy.

Challenges in achieving digital sovereignty

Despite its efforts, the EU faces several challenges in achieving digital sovereignty. One significant challenge is striking the balance between privacy and security. While data protection is crucial, stringent regulations can sometimes hinder innovation and the development of new technologies. It is essential for the EU to find the right balance that protects individuals' privacy rights without impeding advancements in the digital sphere. Moreover, technological advancements and the digital divide pose challenges to achieving digital sovereignty. Rapid technological progress often outpaces regulatory frameworks, making it difficult for the EU to adapt and ensure control. Additionally, the digital divide, both within and outside the EU, poses challenges, as some parts of the population may lack access to digital technologies and skills. Bridging this divide is crucial for achieving digital sovereignty that benefits all citizens.

Additionally, achieving digital sovereignty requires cooperation not only within the EU but also with other countries. The challenges posed by cross-border cyber threats and global technology dominance necessitate international collaboration. The EU should engage in diplomatic efforts and foster strategic partnerships to establish common rules and standards for the digital world, thereby safeguarding its interests and promoting a global digital ecosystem that respects its values.

Concluding, digital sovereignty is a vital concern for the EU as it strives to protect its interests and ensure the well-being of its citizens in the digital era. Through measures such as the GDPR, the European Digital Strategy, and investments in research and innovation, the EU is making significant progress towards achieving digital sovereignty. However, challenges remain in striking the right balance between privacy and security, addressing the digital divide, and fostering international cooperation. Continuous vigilance and collaboration are necessary to safeguard and strengthen the EU's digital sovereignty in an ever-evolving digital landscape.


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