The platform, GAIA-X, is expected to be operational – at least in prototype form – early next year and open to users outside of Europe who agree to abide by European standards. German economics Peter Altmaier said the goal is “nothing less than a European moonlight in digital policy”.
Germany and France will create a non-profit association to coordinate and organize the data infrastructure, said Altmaier. Designed last year and initially announced in October, GAIA-X follows an existing push from the two largest economies in the European Union to create a consortium of car batteries to catch up with its Asian rivals.
The cloud computing project “could not have been more timely” as Europe tries to emerge from a deep recession caused by the coronavirus crisis, said French Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire.
“With the COVID crisis, companies turned massively to telework. This makes the need for a secure European cloud solution even more urgent, “said Le Maire at a press conference by video link from Paris.
“The crisis has also shown that giant tech companies are the winners … the European digital space must be protected,” he added, promising that the new platform “will ensure the application of political rules based on EU values and standards ”.
“We are not China, we are not the United States – we are European countries with our own values and our own economic interests which we want to defend,” said Le Maire. He stressed the importance of “interoperability”, allowing businesses to easily switch to the new system without losing data.
The two ministers said the project had brought together 22 companies in France and Germany, including Dassault Systèmes, Orange, Siemens, SAP, Robert Bosch and Deutsche Telekom. They did not give financial details. The Mayor called on “all other European companies and countries” to join the initiative.
Beyond that, “the idea is that we invite businesses around the world to provide their cloud services according to European standards and rules,” said Altmaier. “Anyone who wants to have the GAIA-X label will have to respect and satisfy several sets of rules,” especially on interoperability and data migration.
He said the success of the project “will be crucial for Germany, France and Europe in terms of our economic strength, our competitiveness and our sovereignty”.