Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on data, microprocessors and eID

On 12 November, during the session of the ITRE Committee of the European Parliament, MEPs exchanged with Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on the digital initiatives. Commissioner Vestager explained that stricter requirements should apply to sensitive data. Such data should be shared in a responsible manner. The Commissioner also gave details on the upcoming European digital identity. The acquisition of ARM by US giant NVIDIA was mentioned in the Q&A part.


Data: distinction between sensitive and non-sensitive data

Margrethe Vestager underlined that the Commission wants to create a Single market for data where everyone is welcome as long as they respect European rules and values, including GDPR.

The Commission differentiates between sensitive data and non-sensitive data.  For now the Commission is focusing on non-personal data such as industrial data. Sensitive data, such as commercial data, need a higher protection. If these data are shared, they need to be shared in a responsible manner (this could mean only on EU territory, as mentioned by Commissioner Thierry Breton). If they are not sensitive, they can be shared much further.

The Commission is very much inspired by the Finnish example when it comes to data accessibility.


AI: balance between trust and innovation

The Commissioner explained that the proposals recently adopted by the European Parliament (see briefing here) are duly taken into account by the Commission. They will certainly influence its work.


A European digital identity building on national identities

Margrethe Vestager stated that “it is time to create a secure European digital identity, building on eIDAS.” The European Commission wants to provide all businesses and citizens with a reliable digital identity, building on national identities. They want to ensure that this identity is recognised by the public and private sectors, and that it can work cross-border. The objective is also for users to have a better control over their data. “This requires a close relationship with the European Parliament, Member States and companies”.

Margrethe Vestager added that everyone is aware that an intense lobbying will take place on this proposal on digital identity. This is why the Commission needs a strong proposal.


Digital Services Act: market should stay contestable

Commissioner Vestager wants to create the right conditions for European digital services to innovate and grow. The upcoming Digital Services Act will address those markets which are prone to market failures with the establishment of gatekeepers. These markets need to stay open and contestable.


Critical investments

20% of the Recovery Fund will be used for digital initiatives. Margrethe Vestager explained that the Commission wants to reserve a critical mass of investments for capacities, such as processors, cybersecurity, 5G connectivity, quantum computers, eGovernment, skills etc.


Q&A with the MEPs from the Committee

MEP Christian Ehler (EPP, Germany) asked how it was possible to reconcile competition and the idea of European champions. He mentioned the fact that there is only one microprocessor manufacturer left in Europe.

MEP Mikulas Peksa (Greens/Pirate, Czechia) congratulated the European Commission for focusing on open source software regarding digital identity. However, he questioned the EU institutions dependency on foreign companies for enterprise software. Companies in control of the software provide data to US authorities. For example, the voting system of the European Parliament is completely dependent on Apple and other companies. EU institutions should set an example.

Margrethe Vestager answered that Europe already has a project of common interest on microprocessors. Europe needs to push for the next generation of micro-processors. She insisted on the need to reduce the energy consumption of technologies. The carbon footprint needs to stay under control.

On Gaïa-X, Margrethe Vestager explained that this is a French-German initiative, that European cloud providers exist already. The quality these providers offer is part of the logic addressed in this proposal.

MEP Angelika Niebler (EPP, Germany) highlighted that she is very keen on having data stored in Europe. She mentioned the acquisition of ARM by the US giant NVIDIA. She underlined that waiting for the next generation of chip is not enough.

Margrethe Vestager observed that this acquisition has not been notified to the European Commission yet, hence she could not comment on this point.

MEP Maria-Manuel Leitao-Marques (S&D, Portugal) asked whether the European identity would be supra-national or a federation of identities? She stood in favour of national ownership.

Margrethe Vestager answered that national ownership is of essence on the question of eID. On the other hand, there are services that need to be developed. National solutions are not used in the entire EU. The Commission needs to ensure that identity solutions can be used even in the private sector.


Next steps:

By the end of the year: proposal for a Data Governance Act

Q1 2021: proposal for a Data Act and proposal for a European digital identity


If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Camille Dornier - Policy Manager:

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