European Union Alliance Aims to Compete in Cloud Services

In the European Union, 25 countries pledged to provide up to €10 billion over the next seven years to build a cloud computing service to compete with Alibaba, Amazon and Google. Dubbed the European Alliance on Industrial Data and Cloud, the partnership will draw funding from existing EU programs and debut by the end of 2020. EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton stated the declaration is a “foundation stone for the establishment of European cloud technology.” Cyprus and Denmark are the only two EU holdouts.

Politico reports Breton added that, “contrary to the prejudices, we are not late [on cloud development] … We are the first to get involved in the industrial cloud.” In fact, the alliance is “a key part of the European Commission’s data strategy, which aims to create a single market for industrial data.”

The Alliance’s mandate is “to develop business, investment and implementation plans for European cloud technologies in the public and private sectors.” The creation of the entity also fulfills the EU goal of making the region “less dependent on foreign technology.”

Members of the alliance vow to “create common European standards and policy norms … [for] pan-European cloud services, and help small and medium-sized businesses, startups and the public sector embrace cloud technology.”

“In order to achieve digital sovereignty, we need to start approaching data processing the way major American and Chinese companies — the hyper-scalers — approach it,” said German economy minister Peter Altmaier. “This is an area where we’re far from being equals.” Of the targeted €10 billion, the EU will invest €2 billion from programs including the Digital Europe Programme, Connecting Europe Facility 2 and InvestEU. The balance of the money will be raised from “both industry and member countries.”

The alliance’s declaration also stated that non-European cloud providers must “guarantee European standards in terms of security, data protection, consumer protection, data portability and energy efficiency and contribute to European digital sovereignty” as well as offer “adequate assurance” that strategic and sensitive data will remain under EU control.

One of the first cloud initiatives out of the EU is Gaia-X, led by Germany and France, “to build up a European platform that sets common standards for cloud technology.” Non-European cloud computing companies cannot become directors of Gaia-X and they have limited voting rights.

At ETNO, the group representing top European telecoms, director general Lise Fuhr approved, stating that, “EU governments and the public sector need to be fully committed to the initiative by fully shifting to cloud services.” “We call for EU targets and commitments that reflect the demand side of the cloud investment story,” she said.

DigitalEurope, a tech lobby, also stated it was applying for Gaia-X membership.