October 15, 2020

BRUSSELS – Today, global technology association ITI highlighted the need for an open and transparent approach throughout the follow-up to the EU Member States’ joint declaration on “Building the next generation cloud for businesses and the public sector in the EU.”

“ITI supports the laudable goal of facilitating the deployment of trusted, secure, interoperable, and energy-efficient cloud infrastructure,” said Guido Lobrano, ITI’s Director General for Europe. “As data become even more vital to society and the economy, governments, businesses, and the public must have access to the most advanced data processing and storage capabilities. The development of next generation cloud computing can be advanced by integrating investments and other efforts of the private sector, national governments, and the EU. However, excluding or otherwise treating foreign entities differently would limit access to some of the best technology, harm competition, and be incompatible with Europe’s longstanding commitments to free trade and open markets.”

“We support the declaration’s objectives of protecting data, satisfying market needs, and benefitting Europe’s economy,” continued Lobrano. “However, we are concerned that a European cloud initiative as described in today’s announcement – if not grounded in a sound governance that enables full and equal participation of all stakeholders – could impede fair access to the European market and cause misalignment with international standards. This could ultimately prove counterproductive to the aim of expanding public sector utilisation of globally competitive cloud services. To that end, we welcome the opportunity to provide recommendations for improvement to ensure the initiative meets our shared goals.”

The GAIA-X initiative and preliminary policies – albeit in their early stages and still in development – are particularly relevant as they include various prerequisites for participation which are governed by opaque and ill-defined governance structures, and would in practice add hurdles for non-EU providers.

While the Declaration states that all cloud providers are welcome in European cloud federation, it also plainly states that data stored in European federation clouds should not be subject to laws of foreign jurisdictions. This language is contradictory and troubling as it would in practice exclude any non-EU providers from the initiative – a major U-turn from Europe’s long-standing commitment to free trade, multilateralism, and open and fair competition. Moreover, such a requirement would effectively inhibit cloud service providers established in Europe from leveraging the economies of scale necessary for modern, effective cloud service delivery, thereby limiting the services available to European governments.