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Merkel, Kroes’ propositions for EU cloud “aren’t contradictory,” says EC

EU data roaming regulations and the rise of personalised user policies

This weekend German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the creation of a secure European communications network that would avoid US-based networks and servers.

But after questions about the compatibility of Neelie Kroes’ proposals to create a well-governed ‘Open Internet’ with Merkel’s calls for an “EU only”  infrastructure, the European Commission reiterated support for the German Chancellor’s calls for better security and data protection but declined to comment on how the two proposals would feasibly coexist.

In response to allegations made by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, including reports that implicate the US government in spying directly on the German chancellor, Merkel took to her weekly podcast to criticise how American-headquartered web companies operate in regions that govern data protection and data residency more rigorously, like the EU and Germany more specifically.

She said she plans to speak with French president Francois Hollande on Wednesday to discuss concrete proposals to guarantee stronger data protection guidelines in Europe, potentially including the establishment of a secure European communications network that never reaches the US, keeping European citizens’ data out of US intelligence agencies.

“Above all, we’ll talk about European providers that offer security for our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send emails and other information across the Atlantic,” Merkel said. “One could build up a communication network inside Europe.”

Merkel has been vocal on the need for stronger data protection regulations in Europe and is pushing for a multilateral framework that would cover among other things lawful communications interception, which the European Commission treats as a separate legal issue.

Still, it is unclear to what extent Merkel’s call for an “EU only” communications network fits with European Commission head of the digital agenda Neelie Kroes’ proposals for an ‘Open Internet,’ which is designed to promote collaboration and competition among network and cloud service providers.

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At the height of the NSA / GCHQ revelations last summer some had suggested Kroes supported the creation of a pan-European private cloud platform to solve the government surveillance issue, something she eventually denied in November.

“For me a European cloud does not mean a new centralised European super-infrastructure. Our role is rather to federate and enhance national, regional and local initiatives. Allowing people, products and services to freely circulate without borders and barriers,” Kroes said.

In response to questions at a press conference in Brussels Monday morning about the potential incompatibility of Merkel’s proposal with Kroes’, a European Commission spokesman played down German Chancellor’s remarks.

“We support Chancellor Merkel’s calls for better networks, and better data protection and security on those networks as part of a broader digital industrial policy,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say that Chancellor Merkel and Kroes are contradicting each other,” he said.

He continued: “I think what [Merkel] was talking about was making sure that there are European-based services, and that if people want to ensure that their data doesn’t leave Europe, that they have the option to use a service where their data is stored within Europe – that’s very different from making it mandatory that you have to use these service, or preventing you from accessing the data that you want to access when you travel to places like the US.”

“But this is part of the point – we need to wait until Wednesday to hear what comes out of the discussions that happen in Paris,” he added.

The spokesperson said European Cloud Partnership, a public-private sector group working towards the development of a European cloud market, will release further recommendations next week on the topic of a “European Trusted Cloud Space.”

Germany has in many ways pioneered data protection in Europe, a practice that has only become more ingrained among European cloud and communications service providers following last summer’s NSA / GCHQ revelations.


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