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European technological sovereignty

  • Politiques, institutions et démocratie

European technological sovereignty

  • Politiques, institutions et démocratie

The concept of “sovereignty” must be considered in its original definition in order to establish a clear objective for the European Union

The current state of the debate on the legal structure of the European Union is not conducive to the legal establishment of European sovereignty. However, it is already a tangible geopolitical and democratic issue that reflects its member states’ sovereignty challenges. In this definition exercise, Renaissance Numérique advocates for the use of the term “sovereignty” in its strictest sense, that of the “power to be able”. Digital technology must be seen as a new strategic dimension, opened up by technological developments, and through which the expressions of state sovereignty are conveyed and materialised. It thus complements land, sea, air, and space. Its mastery allows states to confirm their sovereignty in the other strategic dimensions.

Renaissance Numérique suggests discussing “technological sovereignty”

The question at the heart of the topic is that of the strategic dependence of the European Union when it comes to digital technologies. Yet, without technological expertise, there can be no strategic autonomy in the digital field. Mastering the strategic digital technology aspect is not only a matter of digital technology. It more widely encompasses a certain number of technologies. Ranging from the raw materials needed to manufacture electronic chips, to the exploitation of digital services’ usage data, these layers include a diversity of material strata and digital services. Some of these layers are prerequisites for guaranteeing sovereignty, and for each of them there is a critical threshold below which technological sovereignty is not ensured. Renaissance Numérique thus suggests the use of the terms “technological sovereignty” rather than “digital sovereignty”.

In terms of technological sovereignty, the European principle of subsidiarity must prevail

For investment capacity reasons, technological sovereignty can only be achieved at the European level. Historically, the technological sovereignty objective has called for massive investments to master entire technological chains (cf. weapons, nuclear, space). In terms of digital technology, the European Union must be considered here as a way to leverage power for the Member States. Therefore, as far as technological sovereignty policy is concerned, Member States must ensure that the principle of subsidiarity enshrined in European Union law prevails. This principle does not negate their national sovereignty. On the contrary, it allows its strengthening thanks to collective means. 

The EU must think about the “public/private" relationship in a strategic manner

The ability of a local or regional authority to export its technologies is a means of ensuring not only its technological sovereignty, but also a leverage of power vis-à-vis its international counterparts. Yet, the European Union lacks a partnership method of European power, which would combine public and private interests and stakeholders. While the technological sovereignty objective calls for massive and rapid investments, it is more than ever necessary for the EU to adopt a convergent approach to guide its political and economic agendas. The EU must now develop its economic, legal, and administrative expertise in a strategic dimension, and integrate the independence of its sectoral and transversal regulators with the affirmation of its strategic objectives.


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