Vienna Working Group on Digital Europe

New Endeavours

In autumn 2020, a new focus has been added to the Centre for European Integration Research. A group of new scholars, led by Gerda Falkner, dedicate their work to the role of the EU in shaping the gradually advancing process of digitalisation and its implications for democracy and society. This group consists of:

Gerda Falkner, Director (Digitalisation and Democracy)

Anke Obendiek, Post-Doctoral Researcher (The EU’s regulatory responses
in Internet Governance: Between liberal and sovereigntist claims)

Sebastian Heidebrecht, Post-Doctoral Researcher (The EU’s Digital Single
Market and varieties in national Digitalisation)

Timo Seidl, Post-Doctoral Researcher (Implementing EU Digital Policies: The
member states, and beyond)

Elke Schraik, Pre-Doctoral Researcher (The EU’s role in the competition for
global digital leadership)



Conference on Digital Sovereignty


The VWGDE has organised a conference for the 28th and 29th of April 2022, entitled Digital Sovereignty - Rhetoric and Reality.

Digitalisation, it has become commonplace, is rapidly transforming the way we “travel or design, make and consume things” (von der Leyen, 2020 b). It requires policymakers to walk a tightrope between market-making and market-correcting, between fostering digital markets and regulating them (Newman, 2020; Seidl, 2021). However, digitalisation is not limited to questions of political economy but increasingly gains a geo-economic dimension. The internet is fragmenting into a splinternet (Lemley, 2021) and states increasingly seek to protect and promote their model of digital governance. A quarter of a century after John Perry Barlow told the governments of the world that they have “no sovereignty” (Barlow, 1996) in cyberspace, those very governments reassert their “digital sovereignty” (Chander and Sun, 2021).

The debate on digital sovereignty has reached Europe too, where the term has become a buzzword among EU policymakers (Obendiek, 2021). Ursula von der Leyen has made it the centrepiece of her Commission’s digital agenda, describing it as the “capability that Europe must have to make its own choices, based on its own values, respecting its own rules” (von der Leyen, 2020 a). And for Thierry Breton, digital sovereignty is about “Europe defending its strategic interests. Being assertive of our values. Firm in our ambitions. Confident of our means.” (Breton, 2020). But what is behind the buzz? What does the term actually mean? And most importantly, does the political rhetoric match the policy reality?

In other words, we are interested in if and how the discourse on digital sovereignty is translated into actual policy in the EU. Existing scholarship has outlined the contested nature of key digital policies, such as the GDPR (Laurer and Seidl, 2020; Schünemann and Windwehr, 2020). We are interested in the degree and nature of policy change in various policy subfields that are affected by digitalisation, from trade policy (data flows) to indust-rial policy (creating digital champions), from data protection (data sovereignty) to internal market policy (digital single market), and from monetary policy (digital Euro) to competition policy (digital market power). Where policy is changing, are we observing first-order change in the settings of existing instruments, second-order change in the types of instruments used, third-order change in the policy goals, or even 'paradigmatic change' (Daigneault, 2014; Hall, 1993)?




Day 1 (28 April 2022)

9:30-10:30 Welcome & Framework Paper Presentation and Discussion

(Vienna Working Group on Digital Europe: Gerda Falkner, Sebastian Heidebrecht, Anke Obendiek, Elke Schraik, Timo Seidl – Universität Wien, AUT)

10:30-11:00 Break

11:00-12:30 Digital Sovereignty in EU Policies (Chair: Sebastian Heidebrecht)

ODigital Sovereignty and Its Impact on EU Policymaking (Andrej Savin – Copenhagen Business School, DNK)

A Strategic Turn? The EU in the Making of Internet Standards (Clément Perarnaud – Centre for European Policy Studies & Vrije Universiteit Brussel, BEL; and Julien Rossi – Université Rennes 2 and Université de technologie de Compiègne, FRA)

12:30-14:00 Lunch Break

14:00-15:30 Digital Sovereignty: Old or New? (Chair: Anke Obendiek)

On the Path to Digital Mercantilism? An Analysis of Policy and Media Discourse on EU Digital Policy (Pascal König and Georg Wenzelburger – Technische Universität Kaiserslautern, DEU)

Fear of Technological Dominance: A Comparative-Historical Analysis of the European Policy Change (Cosmina Moghior – National University of Political and Administrative Studies SNSPA, ROU)

15:30-16:00 Break

16:00-17:30 Digital borders (Chair: Anke Obendiek)

Digital Sovereignty and Private Tech: A Historical Juncture in European Security Cyber Governance. (Helena Farrand Carrapico – Northumbria University, GBR; and Benjamin Farrand – University of Newcastle, GBR) Digital Sovereignty Meets Platform Reality. (Meelis Kitsing – Estonian Business School, EST)

Day 2 (29 April 2022)

9:30-11:00 Internal and external dynamics of digital sovereignty (Chair: Elke Schraik)

A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing? The Influence of European Digital Sovereignty Discourse on EU External Relations Policy Change. (Julia Carver – University of Oxford, GBR)

Democratising Digital Sovereignty: Enhancing Democratic Participation in Decision-making about Digital Infrastructure. (Julia Rone – University of Cambridge, GBR)

11:00-11:30 Break

11:30-13:00 (Shifting) Understandings of Digital Sovereignty (Chair: Timo Seidl)

Three Concepts of Digital Sovereignty (Kristin Anabel Eggeling and Rebecca Adler-Nissen – University of Copenhagen, DNK)

Self-Sovereign Identity: A Paradigm Shift in the EU Data Sovereignty Policy? (Bilgesu Sumer – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, BEL)

13:00-14:00 Lunch Break

14:00-15:30 Lobbying (Chair: Timo Seidl)

EU Platform Regulation and Industry Lobbying: Constellations of Interest and Power in a Contested Regulatory Field (Robert Gorwa, Grzegorz Lechowski, Daniel Schneiss – WZB Berlin Social Science Center, DEU)

Undermining Lobbying Coalitions: The Interest Group Politics of Internet Content Regulation. (Max Heermann – University of Konstanz, DEU)

15:30-16:00 Break

16:00-17:30 An International Outlook on the Digital Sovereignty Debate (Chair: Sebastian Heidebrecht)

Digital Sovereignty as an Emergent Discursive Order. (Mauro Santaniello and Francesco Amoretti – Università degli studi di Salerno, ITA)

Impact of Offensive Cyber Operations on Digital Economy: Vulnerable Industries and Changing Currencies. (Nori Katagiri – Saint Louis University, USA)

17:30-18:15 General Debate and Closing