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Is Europe in danger of losing its sovereignty?

Is Europe in danger of losing its sovereignty?

It used to be that a country's sovereignty – its ability to do what it wants at home and abroad – depended mostly on military or economic clout. But in the digital age, when the ability to make sense of massive amounts of data will increasingly determine economic and military might, that's changing.


For the EU in particular, that's a problem: The world's largest economic bloc doesn't have anything comparable to Silicon Valley, whose massive digital companies lord over the data of billions of people and are poised to lead the next wave of digital innovation. Meanwhile, its companies in the US and East Asia make much of the physical hardware, like semiconductors, that powers the digital economy. Long-term, there's a risk that Europe could be cut off from key technologies in a crisis or end up overly dependent on tech companies in countries that might not always share Brussels' values on privacy and human rights.

Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming president of the European Commission, wants that to change. She's making a big push for "technological sovereignty" during her upcoming 5-year term. How?

First, by saying "no" to foreign tech giants that want access to Europe's lucrative market of 400-million consumers without respecting privacy rights. Brussels has had some success here: its strict data protection laws have already forced some of the world's biggest websites to conform their data practices to EU laws.

But being a regulatory superpower isn't enough. Europe also needs to ensure that its companies can compete in the digital age. Consider Europe's vitally important car industry, where the increasingly complex software that makes vehicles run will soon be more valuable than the rest of the car's parts combined. If one of Europe's most vital industries ends up beholden to foreign tech companies, its technological sovereignty will be in question.

Still, shoring up tech sovereignty won't be easy. The US and China aren't going to look kindly on attempts to rein in Silicon Valley. The US has already threatened tariffs in response to France's move to slap a tax on big digital firms, arguing that Paris unfairly singled out US tech companies. Uncle Sam isn't going to take other aggressive regulation from Brussels lying down. And trying to shut out Chinese 5G suppliers in order to give European manufacturers a leg up might stoke anger in Beijing.

What's more, the EU is actually 28 (ok, soon 27) countries who themselves don't all agree on questions about privacy regulation or how best to foster European technology champions. When Brussels comes asking them to change their views, they may refuse, citing their own...sovereignty.

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Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Watch as Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, explains what's going on in technology news:

Would Facebook actually leave Europe? What's the deal?

The deal is that Europe has told Facebook it can no longer transfer data back and forth between the United States and Europe, because it's not secure from US Intelligence agencies. Facebook has said, "If we can't transfer data back and forth, we can't operate in Europe." My instinct, this will get resolved. There's too much at stake for both sides and there are all kinds of possible compromises.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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The coronavirus pandemic threatened to bring Europe's economy to its knees. Then something remarkable happened: 27 member states came together. Joining GZERO World with Ian Bremmer is the woman at the heart of that response, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde. She'll explain how European nations were able to overcome political divisions and act quickly to prevent an all-out economic catastrophe on the continent.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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