Beyond sovereignty as authority: the multiplicity of European approaches to digital sovereignty

Authors:
Daniel Lambach Goethe University, Germany

Search for other papers by Daniel Lambach in
Current site
Google Scholar
Close
and
Linda Monsees Institute of International Relations, Germany

Search for other papers by Linda Monsees in
Current site
Google Scholar
Close
Restricted access
Get eTOC alerts
Rights and permissions Cite this article

Digital Sovereignty is core to many contemporary debates on the regulation of digital technology, securing supply chains and strengthening the digital economy. In this paper, we focus on the European debates and policies around this project. We argue that the notion of digital sovereignty should be understood more as an overarching economic, societal and geopolitical project, rather than a project aimed at achieving any kind of political sovereignty or autarky in the digital sector. We arrive at this conclusion by analysing European policy documents and commentaries from various stakeholders for two cases: platform governance and semiconductors. The case of platform governance shows how the EU and its member states struggle to extend their regulatory power over the ‘data monopolies’ of the major Silicon Valley companies. The other is semiconductors, where the EU has kick-started several projects to improve the competitiveness of European manufacturers in a highly integrated global market. These examples demonstrate two things: a) that the pursuit of digital sovereignty does have some impact on the Internet (platform regulation) but also extends to other technological fields beyond it (semiconductors) and b) that digital sovereignty is not only a regulatory or technological project but also an economic, societal and geopolitical one.

  • Alam, S., Chu, I., Lohokare, S. and Saito, S. (2020) Globality and complexity of the semiconductor ecosystem – Accenture and GSA study, https://www.gsaglobal.org/globality-and-complexity-of-the-semiconductor-ecosystem/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Atal, M.R. (2021) The Janus faces of Silicon Valley, Review of International Political Economy, 28(2): 33650. doi: 10.1080/09692290.2020.1830830

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bellanger, P. (2014) La Souveraineté Numérique, Paris: Éditions Stock.

  • Bellanova, R., Carrapico, H. and Duez, D. (2022) Digital/sovereignty and European security integration: an introduction, European Security, 31(3): 33755. doi: 10.1080/09662839.2022.2101887

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bendiek, A. and Stürzer, I. (2022) Advancing European Internal and External Digital Sovereignty: The Brussels Effect and the EU-US Trade and Technology Council, Berlin: German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bietti, E. (2022) A genealogy of digital platform regulation, SSRN. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.3859487

  • Bradford, A. (2020) The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Bundesregierung (2020) Together for Europe’s recovery: programme for Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union (1 July to 31 December 2020): Council of the European Union.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bundesverband der deutschen Industrie (2020) Europas Dgitale Souveränität Nachhaltig Stärken, Berlin: Bundesverband der deutschen Industrie.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Burwell, F.G. and Propp, K. (2020) The European Union and the search for digital sovereignty: building ‘Fortress Europe’ or preparing for a new world? Atlantic Council.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cartwright, M. (2020) Internationalising state power through the internet: Google, Huawei and geopolitical struggle, Internet Policy Review, 9(3).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Celeste, E. (2021) Digital sovereignty in the EU: challenges and future perspectives, in F. Fabbrini, E. Celeste and J. Quinn (eds) Data Protection Beyond Borders: Transatlantic Perspectives on Extraterritoriality and Sovereignty, Oxford: Hart Publishing, pp 21128.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chander, A. and Sun, H. (2021) Sovereignty 2.0: University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper 2021/041.

  • Chenou, J.M. (2014) From cyber-libertarianism to neoliberalism: internet exceptionalism, multi-stakeholderism, and the institutionalisation of internet governance in the 1990s, Globalizations, 11(2): 20523. doi: 10.1080/14747731.2014.887387

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Christakis, T. (2020) ‘European Digital Sovereignty’: Successfully Navigating Between the ‘Brussels Effect’ and Europe’s Quest for Strategic Autonomy, Grenoble: Multidisciplinary Institute on Artificial Intelligence/Grenoble Alpes Data Institute.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Christou, G., Croft, S., Ceccorulli, M. and Lucarelli, S. (2010) European union security governance: putting the ‘security’ back in, European Security, 19(3): 34159. doi: 10.1080/09662839.2010.526109

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Couture, S. and Toupin, S. (2019) What does the notion of ‘sovereignty’ mean when referring to the digital?, New Media & Society, 21(10): 230522. doi: 10.1177/1461444819865984

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dewey, J. (1999) The Public and Its Problems, Athens: Swallow Press.

  • Drake, W.J., Cerf, V.G. and Kleinwächter, W. (2016) Internet Fragmentation: An Overview, Geneva: World Economic Forum.

  • Economist (2020) Who will benefit most from the data economy?, The Economist, https://www.economist.com/special-report/2020/02/20/who-will-benefit-most-from-the-data-economy, (Accessed: 20 Feb 2020).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Eriksson, J. and Giacomello, G. (2006) The information revolution, security, and international relations: (IR)relevant theory?, International Political Science Review, 27(3): 22144. doi: 10.1177/0192512106064462

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • European Commission (2020) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a Single Market For Digital Services (Digital Services Act) and Amending Directive 2000/31/EC, Brussels: European Commission, COM (2020) 825, 15 December 2020, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?qid=1608117147218&uri=COM%3A2020%3A825%3AFIN.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • European Commission (2021) Declaration of the industrial alliance for processors and semiconductor technologies, https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/alliance-processors-and-semiconductor-technologies.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • European Commission (2022a) Data Act: commission proposes measures for a fair and innovative data economy. Press release, 23 February 2022, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_22_1113.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • European Commission (2022b) Alliance on processors and semiconductor technologies. Shaping Europe’s digital future. 2022, https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/alliance-processors-and-semiconductor-technologies.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • European Commission (2022c) European chips act: factsheet. Shaping Europe’s digital future, https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/european-chips-act-factsheet.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • European Institute of Innovation & Technology (2020) European digital infrastructure and data sovereignty. A policy perspective.

  • European Union (2020) Joint declaration on processors and semiconductor technologies, https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/joint-declaration-processors-and-semiconductor-technologies.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ezell, S. (2020) An Allied Approach to Semiconductor Leadership. Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, Washington DC: Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, https://itif.org/publications/2020/09/17/allied-approach-semiconductor-leadership.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Farrand, B. and Carrapico, H. (2022) Digital sovereignty and taking back control: from regulatory capitalism to regulatory mercantilism in EU cybersecurity, European Security, 31(3): 43553. doi: 10.1080/09662839.2022.2102896

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Farrell, H. (2003) Constructing the international foundations of E-Commerce: the EU-US safe harbor arrangement, International Organization, 57(2): 277306. doi: 10.1017/s0020818303572022

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fischer, D. (2022) The digital sovereignty trick: why the sovereignty discourse fails to address the structural dependencies of digital capitalism in the global south, Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft. doi: 10.1007/s41358-022-00316-4

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Floridi, L. (2020) The fight for digital sovereignty: what it is, and why it matters, especially for the EU, Philosophy & Technology, 33(3): 36978. doi: 10.1007/s13347-020-00423-6

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Flyverbom, M., Deibert, R. and Matten, D. (2019) The governance of digital technology, big data, and the internet: new roles and responsibilities for business, Business & Society, 58(1): 319. doi: 10.1177/0007650317727540

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gesellschaft für Informatik (2020) Schlüsselaspekte Digitaler Souveränität.

  • Gillespie, T. (2010) The politics of ‘platforms’, New Media & Society, 12(3): 34764. doi: 10.1177/1461444809342738

  • Glasze, G., Cattaruzza, A., Douzet, F., Dammann, F., Bertran, M.G., Bômont, C., Braun, M., Danet, D., Desforges, A., Géry, A., et al. (2022) Contested spatialities of digital sovereignty, Geopolitics. doi: 10.1080/14650045.2022.2050070

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Goodkind, N. (2021) Biden administration sounds the alarm on the semiconductor crisis, Fortune Magazine, https://fortune.com/2021/07/16/biden-administration-sounds-the-alarm-on-the-semiconductor-crisis/, (Accessed: 17 Jul 2021).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Guzzini, S. (ed) (2013) The Return of Geopolitics in Europe? Social Mechanisms and Foreign Policy Identity Crises, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hobbs, C. (2020) Europe’s Digital Sovereignty: From Rulemaker to Superpower in the Age of US-China Rivalry, London: European Council on Foreign Relations.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hummel, P., Braun, M., Tretter, M. and Dabrock, P. (2021) Data sovereignty: a review, Big Data & Society, 8(1). doi: 10.1177/2053951720982012

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jiang, M. (2010) Authoritarian informationalism: China’s approach to internet sovereignty, SAIS Review of International Affairs, 30(2): 7189. doi: 10.1353/sais.2010.0006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kagermann, H. and Wilhelm, U. (2020) European Public Sphere: Gestaltung der digitalen Souveränität Europas. acatech IMPULS, München acatech.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Katzenbach, C. (2021) Die Governance sozialer Medien, in J.H. Schmidt and M. Taddicken (eds) Handbuch Soziale Medien, Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kleinhans, J.P. (2021) The Lack of Semiconductor Manufacturing in Europe. Why the 2nm fab is a Bad Investment, Berlin: Stiftung Neue Verantwortung Policy Brief, March 2021.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kleinhans, J.P. and Baisakova, N. (2020) The Global Semiconductor Value Chain: A Technology Primer for Policy Makers, Berlin: Stiftung Neue Verantwortung, https://www.stiftung-nv.de/sites/default/files/the_global_semiconductor_value_chain.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lambach, D. (2020) The territorialization of cyberspace, International Studies Review, 22(3): 482506. doi: 10.1093/isr/viz022

  • Lambach, D. and Oppermann, K. (2022) Narratives of digital sovereignty in German political discourse, Governance. doi: 10.1111/gove.12690

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Litvinenko, A. (2021) Re-defining borders online: Russia’s strategic narrative on internet sovereignty, Media and Communication, 9(4): 515. doi: 10.17645/mac.v9i4.4292

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Madiega, T. (2020) Digital Sovereignty for Europe, Brussels: European Parliamentary Research Service, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/de/document/EPRS_BRI(2020)651992.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mathews, J.A. and Cho, D.S. (2000) Tiger Technology: The Creation of a Semiconductor Industry in East Asia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Miailhe, N. (2018) The geopolitics of artificial intelligence: the return of empires?, Politique étrangère, (3): 10517. doi: 10.3917/pe.183.0105

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Miller, J., Keohane, D. and Kana, I. (2021) Car manufacturing hit by global semiconductor shortage, Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/e264fd41-7ee9-4fba-be3c-21446298efd9, (Accessed: 8 Jan 2021).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Monsees, L. and Lambach, D. (2022) Digital sovereignty, geopolitical imaginaries, and the reproduction of European identity, European Security, 31(3): 37794. doi: 10.1080/09662839.2022.2101883

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Monsees, L., Liebetrau, T., Austin, J.L., Leander, A. and Srivastava, S. (2023) Transversal politics of big tech, International Political Sociology, 17(1): olac020. doi: 10.1093/ips/olac020

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mueller, M. (2020) Against sovereignty in cyberspace, International Studies Review, 22(4): 779801. doi: 10.1093/isr/viz044

  • Nye, J.S. (2014) The Regime Complex for Managing Global Cyber Activities, Global Commission on Internet Governance Paper Series, No. 1, http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:12308565.

  • Nyman, J. and Burke, A. (eds) (2016) Ethical Security Studies: A New Research Agenda, Abingdon: Routledge.

  • Pasquale, F. (2016) Two narratives of platform capitalism, Yale Law & Policy Review, 35: 30919.

  • Pearson, G.L. and Brattain, W.H. (1955) History of semiconductor research, Proceedings of the IRE, 43(12): 1794806. doi: 10.1109/jrproc.1955.278042

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Peterson, J. and Sharp, M. (1998) Technology Policy in the European Union, Houndmills: Macmillan.

  • Poell, T., Nieborg, D. and van Dijck, J. (2019) Platformisation, Internet Policy Review, 8(4).

  • Pohle, J. and Thiel, T. (2019) Digitale Vernetzung und Souveränität: Genealogie eines Spannungsverhältnisses, in I. Borucki and W.J. Schünemann (eds) Internet und Staat: Perspektiven auf eine komplizierte Beziehung, Baden-Baden: Nomos, pp 5780.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pohle, J. and Thiel, T. (2020) Digital sovereignty, Internet Policy Review, 9(4).

  • Popiel, P. (2022) Regulating datafication and platformization: Policy silos and tradeoffs in international platform inquiries, Policy & Internet, 14(1): 2846.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Roberts, H., Cowls, J., Casolari, F., Morley, J., Taddeo, M. and Floridi, L. (2021) Safeguarding European values with digital sovereignty: an analysis of statements and policies, Internet Policy Review, 10(3).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rone, J. (2021) The return of the state? Power and legitimacy challenges to EU’s regulation of online disinformation, in B. Haggart, N. Tusikov and J.A. Scholte (eds) Power and Authority in Internet Governance: Return of the State, Cham: Routledge, pp 17194.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ruohonen, J. (2021) The treachery of images in the digital sovereignty debate, Minds and Machines, 31: 43956. doi: 10.1007/s11023-021-09566-7

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sahin, K. and Barker, T. (2021) Europe’s Capacity to Act in the Global Tech Race: Charting a Path for Europe in Times of Major Technological Disruption, Berlin: German Council on Foreign Relations.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schneider, N. (2022) Governable stacks against digital colonialism, tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, 20(1): 1936. doi: 10.31269/triplec.v20i1.1281

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Strategic Forum (2019) Strengthening strategic value Chains for a future-ready EU industry. Report of the strategic forum for important projects of common European interest, https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/37824.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Striphas, T. (2015) Algorithmic culture, European Journal of Cultural Studies, 18(4–5): 395412. doi: 10.1177/1367549415577392

  • van Dijck, J. (2020) Governing digital societies: private platforms, public values, Computer Law & Security Review, 36. doi: 10.1016/j.clsr.2019.105377

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • von der Leyen, U. (2022) Statement by President von der Leyen on the European Chips Act, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_22_866.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zeng, J., Stevens, T. and Chen, Y. (2017) China’s solution to global cyber governance: unpacking the domestic discourse of ‘internet sovereignty’, Politics & Policy, 45(3): 43264. doi: 10.1111/polp.12202

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
Daniel Lambach Goethe University, Germany

Search for other papers by Daniel Lambach in
Current site
Google Scholar
Close
and
Linda Monsees Institute of International Relations, Germany

Search for other papers by Linda Monsees in
Current site
Google Scholar
Close

Content Metrics

May 2022 onwards Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 1044 1044 133
Full Text Views 27 27 8
PDF Downloads 35 35 6

Altmetrics

Dimensions