Germany has urged the EU to toughen its approach to Big Tech, as part of a wider push by Berlin to boost Europe’s “digital sovereignty”.
Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier wrote a letter to European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager and asked for tighter regulations on Big Tech as part of a push to increase the region’s “digital sovereignty,” according to the Financial Times. Altmaier wants a more aggressive line against companies like Google and Facebook.
“In light of current developments in the global data and digital economy, we require tougher oversight of abusive practices in order to maintain competition,” Altmaier said in the letter. “Specific rules of behaviour need to be imposed on market-dominating online platforms.”
Mr. Altmaier raised the issue of how to boost European tech at a summit in Dortmund last month, as he unveiled plans for a European cloud computing initiative, dubbed Gaia-X. Both France and Germany are keen to break the grip of US cloud computing companies, such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.
Gaia-X would be a “competitive, safe and trustworthy data infrastructure for Europe”, said Mr. Altmaier, adding that a Europe-run cloud system would “help restore our digital sovereignty” and serve as a “basis for a digital ecosystem”.
A spokesperson confirmed Mr. Altmaier’s letter, saying it contained proposals “to strengthen the European economy and industry by adjusting the framework conditions for competition and state aid law.
“The goal is to counter unfair competition by state-controlled and state-subsidized companies from third countries, and to toughen up oversight of abuses by market-dominant online platforms.”
Mr. Altmaier is also keen to protect the German — and by extension the European — economy from inroads by state-backed by Asian tech counterparts.
In February he unveiled an aggressive new industrial strategy that envisaged the creation of a state investment fund that would step in to pre-empt foreign takeovers of big German companies. The move is meant to create “national and European champions” that would be in a better position to compete with tech giants, not only in the U.S. but in Asia as well.
Recently, Germany implemented an ambitious new “digital antitrust law” to effectively regulate online markets. Over the last few years, antitrust law has transformed into a particularly powerful tool against market power in the online market. Margrethe Vestager made a name for herself with billions in fines and tax reclaims against companies, especially from Silicon Valley.