On May 26, ECIPE held its first online seminar during which Matthias Bauer presented his recent report on Opportunities and Pitfalls of the European Technology Sovereignty. Members of the European Parliament, Dita Charanzová from Renew Europe and Axel Voss from European People’s Party commented on the results of the study. Fredrik Erixon, a co-author of this publication, moderated the webinar.
Matthias Bauer has started a conversation by explaining the concept of national sovereignty and the ongoing discussion among European leaders. He stressed that while wanting to achieve technology sovereignty, the EU cannot do it alone as a global economic power will be more distributed by 2050. Mr. Bauer has also highlighted the fact that no economy can set standards alone, but need to have a capacity to influence others. Moreover, as the Covid-19 situation is still developing, Matthias Bauer pointed to some lessons we can draw already. Digital technology has allowed many EU businesses and citizens to continue operation during the lockdown. It was possible thanks to the energy, ingenuity and reliability of domestic and foreign firms. However, if we embark on a protectionist way towards technology sovereignty, we risk having national sovereignty, which would not provide much-desired economic and innovation benefits. However, an open and non-discriminatory approach will create new opportunities for European companies to compete globally.
Ms Dita Charanzova acknowledged that isolating ourselves will do more harm than good in the long term. She also added that it’s important to create a ‘real single market’ within the EU. Ms. Charanzova also noted the importance of the rule-based system where each company accept the same regulation and compete on a level playing field. Mentioning the example of the digital services, Ms Charanzova brought attention to the discussion of finding a good balance and how rigorous we should be when it comes to the rules that we will put into place in the ex-ante regulation. Given the unpredictability of the consequences, and the possibility of retaliation against the European companies, at the end of the day, EU companies and consumers might suffer the most.
Axel Voss started his intervention by describing the EU political and economic position between the US and China. Such a situation enables Europeans to find a new way based on our values. However, so far, we have acted in a too much-complicated manner. Going forward, we should ensure that we are not fragmenting our policies and approach even more. Mr. Voss has emphasized that the best solution would be to create regulations rather than directives. Yet, to do so, both the EU and the Member States have to change the mindset and become more efficient. Achieving digital sovereignty also means that Europe needs to be more active in new technological fields and areas that have not yet have established players. The EU should also try to set standards worldwide, even though we might not have this capacity yet.
The audience has also engaged and the discussion and asked whether defining technology sovereignty too narrowly won’t reduce the openness and limit the capacity to innovate. But, on the other side arguments were raised that creating regulation might not be a potent instrument that everyone expects it to be. In the end, we might end up with self-sufficiency approach that will limit growth opportunities for European companies.
You can watch the entire discussion below.