In the first 100 days of managing the Covid pandemic, more European credos have tumbled than in 30 years. A crisis without precedent is laying bare widening cracks in the international order. The post-war world architecture is faltering. The United States is going it alone in the name of "America first", going so far as to take the risk of destabilising its strategic alliances, for example by moving troops stationed in Germany without any consultation. China is systematically trying to use the frailties of declining multilateralism to its advantage. From the Belt and Road initiative to its mask diplomacy, it has paved the way for an economic, technological and geostrategic empire spreading across Asia, Europe and Africa. Nobody knows what the world will look like tomorrow, but one thing is clear: no European country can hope to influence the new world order on its own. We must project ourselves on the scale of a continent. And faced with the risk of becoming a battleground for world tensions, Europe cannot stand idly by. The era of a conciliatory or naïve Europe that solely relies on the virtue of its soft power is behind us. We are now seeing the dawn of a Europe that is determined to defend its strategic interests.
The era of a naïve Europe that solely relies on the virtue of its soft power is behind us
Starting, and without any hesitation, with the protection of our internal market. It is our first asset, our common good, our economic engine and now our instrument of solidarity. This is in no way an attempt to isolate ourselves. But for too long, no doubt, Europe has relied on the hypothetical reciprocity of its trading partners, ultimately subjecting the Old Continent to unfair competition and relegating our strategic interests – our security even – to second place. Putting an end to this "European paradox" is at the heart of a Europe affirmed in its values, firm in its ambitions and confident in its means. A powerful and geopolitical Europe that protects our critical companies against predatory – sometimes politically motivated – foreign acquisitions and drastically strengthens the control of state aid that allows foreign companies to compete on unfair terms with our own here in the EU. A Europe that diversifies its sources of supply and reduces its economic and industrial dependencies without complacency – starting with the September action plan on the critical raw materials that we need for our twin green and digital transition, followed by a review of our healthcare supplies.
A powerful Europe that protects our critical companies against predatory foreign acquisitions
We will also strengthen the protection of our information space, which is still too largely dominated by non-European geo-economic players, and establish the legal framework for a single European data space. Europe missed the first wave of the personal data economy. It will not miss the enormous potential of industrial data that is whetting the appetite of the GAFAMs and other BATXs. We are also working to secure our 5G networks, because our critical infrastructures cannot be vulnerable. And we are finalising a new cyber security strategy – a "European Cyber Shield" – to take into account the arrival of billions of connected things, from cars to children's toys, healthcare devices and household appliances. Industrial data, 5G, cyber security and computing power will condition our sovereignty for decades to come.
Protect our democracies against the menace of disinformation
Finally, we have to protect our democracies against the menace of disinformation. Let us be clear: well-identified foreign powers are trying to destabilise our democracies, our electoral processes and our economies, with major platforms – at best through lack of anticipation, at worst through negligence – as proxies. The Commission will present a new legislative proposal (Digital Services Act) by the end of the year that strikes a balance between responsibility and freedom of expression in the information space, as it did with the GDPR to protect our personal data.
Leaving the era of naivety behind us, we must take advantage of the recovery phase to avoid becoming locked into a new geostrategic dependence on the United States, our traditional but retreating ally, or a geo-economic dependence on China, our competing partner and systemic rival.
A powerful Europe, without ostracism or discrimination
By building, today, the foundations of tomorrow's autonomy, our Continent has the opportunity to establish a set of rules, infrastructures and technologies that will make it a powerful Europe, without ostracism or discrimination. We will come back to this.