The EU’s bid for tech sovereignty is plagued by internal squabbles, sources say.
This week POLITICO reported that Gaia-X, Europe’s data cloud project, is suffering from infighting that is impeding its progress.
Senior French and German ministers hailed the launch of Gaia-X just iover one year ago. The cloud initiative aims to provide companies with an alternative to Amazon Web Services and Alibaba. The EU leaders promised Gaia-x would help Europe regain its “digital sovereignty” in the face of dominant foreign players like Amazon and Google.
Gaia-X would be a key tool for allowing Europeans to “assert ourselves in the world,” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said at the June 2020 unveiling. He was joined in praise by his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire.
Now, sixteen months on, Gaia-X is revealing the problems with the EU’s tech ambitions. What has happened with Gaia-X shows how internal divisions can end up throttling high-profile projects even if they have the backing of the bloc’s most powerful countries.
The Gaia-X project has become “a mess”
More than a dozen industry and government officials involved with the work of Gaia-X told POLITICO that the project was struggling to get off the ground amid infighting between corporate members. There is also broad disagreement over its overall aims and a bloated bureaucratic structure that is delaying decisions. One industry official closely involved in the work of Gaia-X called it a “mess.”
Most believe that the bloc’s cloud industry is a crucial element to regain control over Europe’s industrial and personal data. But with change being too slow, it will likely remain reliant on foreign companies and exposed to the reach of Washington through extraterritorial laws like the U.S. CLOUD Act. This law allows the U.S. government to requisition European data held by U.S. companies.
In addition, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google’s cloud services have been flourishing, cementing their dominance over Europe.
Critics of the Gaia-X project predicted such a “backfire” back in 2020. They warned about inconsistencies in the underlying concept, including that U.S. tech giants Amazon or Google were among some 300 companies and organizations involved in setting up Gaia-X.
Indeed, the big U.S. tech companies now account for 69 percent of Europe’s data cloud market. The EU’s biggest cloud player, Deutsche Telekom, accounted for only 2 percent.