LEAK: Commission outlines plan to create single EU data space by 2030

The EU wants to invest in “High Impact Project on European data spaces and federated cloud infrastructures” up to €6 billion. [CommScope / Flickr]

The EU wants to create by the end of the decade a genuine single market for data that corresponds to its economic power, prioritising nine “strategic sectors” including health, climate, agriculture and energy, and dedicating up to €6 billion to investment in data centres, according to the Commission’s data strategy draft seen by EURACTIV.com.

The ‘European strategy for data’, expected to be published on 19 February, outlines the  Commission’s vision for a genuine single European data space, “where personal as well as non-personal data, including business-sensitive data, are secure and businesses have also easy access to an almost infinite amount of high-quality industrial data boosting growth and creating value, while minimising human carbon footprint”.

The volume of data produced in the world is growing very rapidly, from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to an expected 175 zettabytes in 2025.

In order exploit the potential for European citizens and businesses, the Commission document states that “by 2030, the share of data stored and processed in the EU, as well as the EU’s share of the data economy, should at least correspond to its economic weight.”

In 2018, the share of the EU in the global economy was around 16%. But according to some estimates, that data stored in EU territory could be as much as one-fourth of it.

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If implemented, the …

The data strategy will be presented together with a communication on “Shaping Europe’s digital future” and a White Paper on Artificial Intelligence. These are the Commission’s three building blocks to progress on the digital transformation, one of the overarching priorities of President Ursula von der Leyen.

The strategy focuses on data generated by businesses, as the EU executive believes that Europe could become a leading player in this field, comparable to the dominant position US and Chinese companies enjoy in private data, thanks to Facebook, Google, Tencent, Alibaba, and the like.

“Currently, a small number of ‘big tech’ firms hold a large part of the world’s data. A large part of the data of the future will come from industrial and professional applications, areas of public interest or internet of things applications in everyday life, areas where the EU is strong,” the strategy reads.

Priority sectors

The strategy prioritises nine strategic sectors where the use of data “will have a systemic impact on the entire ecosystem, but also on citizens.”

These sectors are manufacturing, climate, mobility, health, finance, energy, agriculture, law and public procurement, and skills.

The Commission intends to fund the establishment of data spaces in these sectors. The goal is to overcome the “legal and technical barriers to data sharing across organisations, by combining the necessary tools and infrastructures”, helping to build trust between organisations, the paper says.

The EU executive admits that Europe’s “technological dependence” on strategic infrastructures is one of the barriers to progress towards the singe data market. 

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For that reason, the Commission wants to invest in a “High Impact Project on European data spaces and federated cloud infrastructures”. 

“The project will fund infrastructures, data-sharing tools, architectures and governance mechanisms for thriving data sharing and Artificial Intelligence ecosystems,” the document says.

The EU should dedicate between € 4-6 billion during the next financial period (2021-2027), of which the Commission could aim to finance around €2bn.

Data rules 

The strategy outlines a series of actions for the coming years to build the single European space for data. The first step is a legislative framework for the governance of common European data spaces in the last quarter of this year.

This enabling framework will determine what data can be used in what situations, facilitate cross-border data use, and prioritise interoperability requirements and standards within and across sectors.

This proposal will be followed by an implementing act on high-value data sets (Q1 2021), to facilitate the use of open data across the EU for free, in a machine-readable format.

In 2021, the Commission will also explore in a ‘Data Act’ proposal how to legally address some issues, including existing hurdles that hinder data sharing, and clarify rules for the responsible use of data (such as legal liability).

It will also consider in what cases access to data should be made compulsory, under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory conditions. 

In the last quarter of 2021, the EU executive intends to create a framework to measure data flows and estimate their economic value within Europe, as well as between Europe and the rest of the world.

The following year, the strategy foresees the launch of an EU (self-)regulatory cloud rulebook, (Q2 2022) and a European cloud services marketplace (Q4 2022).

The strategy puts a special emphasis on storing and processing data according to the European rules and values, in order to build a trustworthy ecosystem and become a global reference as it was for privacy rules with GDPR.

“The EU can become a leading role model for a society empowered by data to make better decisions – in business and the public sector,” the strategy reads.

“To fulfil this ambition, the EU can build on a strong legal framework – in terms of data protection, fundamental rights, safety and cybersecurity – and its internal market with competitive companies of all sizes and varied industrial base”.

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[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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