How to Strengthen Europe’s Policy Brief Agenda on Digital Connectivity



Maaike Okano-Heijmans | Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael

As the US–China trade war evolves into a more permanent conflict at the nexus of trade, technology and data, Europe needs to act on the challenges of digital connectivity. An edge in innovation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is crucial, as digitization transforms the global economy. Moreover, dominance in the fields of data and technology is vital for military dominance, and the United States has shown no restraint in demanding support from its allies to maintain its leading position. The call to ban Huawei from providing 5G infrastructure is the most well-known such example. But the United States’ push for a new export control regime for emerging technologies illustrates that the US–China conflict is impacting the EU and its member states and their relations with the United States and China in other fields as well. The EU needs to act if it is to remain a relevant player in the global reconfiguration of power and sources of power.

The EU’s ‘Europe–Asia Connectivity Strategy’, adopted in October 2018,1 should help the EU and its member states on their way, but falls short of providing the necessary strategic guidance in the digital field. Essentially a value proposition for sustainable, comprehensive and rules-based connectivity, the strategy largely focuses on the field of transport. This focus may have seemed natural considering the boom in Chinese investments and loans for infrastructure development in Europe recent years, but today, as the fourth industrial revolution2 sparks a more conflictual international environment, European stakeholders are left ill-equipped to deal with growing challenges in the field of digital connectivity.



[To read the original brief, click here.]

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