Germany and France to discuss potential for Europe-only communications network

Out-Law News | 17 Feb 2014 | 4:15 pm | 1 min. read

The potential for a new Europe-only communications network will be discussed during a meeting of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande later this week.

Merkel said she would raise the issue with Hollande during a discussion the duo are set to have on Wednesday, which will include talks on the progress of reforms to the EU's data protection regime.

She said officials would speak with European providers to discuss whether it is possible to build communication networks "within Europe" and remove the need for emails and other communications to be sent to the US, according to a transcript from a weekly podcast (2-page / 31KB PDF) Merkel contributes to.

A move to develop a Europe-only communications network appears to have been prompted by concerns over the scope and scale of US surveillance activities. Reports last year suggested Merkel's communications had been monitored by the US' National Security Agency (NSA), whilst other leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden alleged that the NSA could access data stored on the servers of some major US technology companies, including those belonging to EU citizens.

Amidst the Snowden revelations and concerns for privacy rights, German IT trade body the Bundesverband IT-Mittelstand last June said Europe should look into forming an IT equivalent to aeronautical giant Airbus to protect privacy and rival the IT infrastructure offered by US companies such as Google and Microsoft. Airbus is a European-based airplane manufacturer formed by a group of European aviation companies in 2001 to challenge the dominance of US companies such as Boeing in the production of airliners.

Munich-based technology law specialist Christian Knorst of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, previously identified potential competition law issues that could arise if a single European IT supplier was formed to challenge the position of Microsoft, Google and others in the cloud computing and other communication markets.

He said that the focus should instead be on improving funding for small businesses and encouraging them to compete with US companies on privacy, he said. The expert backed calls for a European IT strategy to focus efforts on supporting emerging technology companies in the region "wishing to provide European privacy-proven products".