“We need an alliance of tech democracies” to face China. Will the opening of the European Commissioner Vestager to President Biden be enough to convince the Member States?
“We need the core for an alliance of democracies at the highest levels, because the system rivalry in which we find ourselves is closely linked to the technological race”. To declare it, interviewed by the German newspaper Handelsblatt, is the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, who is also responsible for the digital agenda.
Following the presentation of the “2030 Digital Compass” plan for greater European autonomy in the digital field, the Commissioner spoke out in favor of the United States initiative for an alliance of democracies for technology in order to face China as a systemic rival. This rivalry comes mainly from China, whose policy is “much more ambitious and much more global,” Vestager points out. According to which digital technologies are a central element in this competition, as essential “for the functioning of authoritarian regimes”.
The European Commission has spoken. It remains to be seen whether the individual Member States, particularly France and Germany, will now be less tepid on the idea of an alliance between democracies, which has been so much discussed for months on the other side of the Atlantic.
Matthew Kroenig, director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center and professor at Georgetown University, explained yesterday in an interview with Formiche.net that “if they want to keep up with the Chinese challenge, the United States must bring together allies from the European and Indo-Pacific front, France, Germany, Italy, but also Canada, Australia, South Korea in a single forum. Boris Johnson can turn into the first government meeting of the D-10 ”. Strategic autonomy ?: “I confess that the discourse of European strategic autonomy is difficult to understand in Washington DC,” replied the expert. “It seems”, he continued, “that Paris and Berlin have remained in the days of [Donald] Trump, when they claimed they had to ‘do without’ the United States.
But the interview also has repercussions within the European Commission. In recent days, four “digital sovereign” leaders, including the German chancellor Angela Merkel, they had tried, with a letter, to run over the president Ursula von der Leyen of the role of champion of European digital sovereignty, bypassing both Vestager and Thierry breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market.
The Danish commissioner (feared in Silicon Valley) may have wanted to respond to that letter with this interview, in which she also remarked that she was not convinced by the proposals made by Germany for a relaxation of the European Union competition legislation, functional to set up European industrial champions capable of competing better with Chinese companies, supported by the state. By the way, he explained: “You cannot choose an element of the Chinese system and say that we want it too, we should leave the Chinese to be Chinese”.
And as for Silicon Valley, Vestager called for a consensus between the European Union and the United States for the regulation of groups like Google, Amazon and Facebook. With the administration of Joe Biden, the US position on the technology industry has changed and “this allows for new discussions,” he added.