Building a European data economy is part of the Digital Single Market strategy. The initiative aims at fostering the best possible use of the potential of digital data to benefit the economy and society. It addresses the barriers that impede the free flow of data to achieve a European single market.

General need for action

Digital data is an essential resource for economic growth, competitiveness, innovation, job creation and societal progress in general.

The EU needs to ensure that data flows across borders and sectors. This data should be accessible and reusable by most stakeholders in an optimal way. A coordinated European approach is essential for the development of the data economy, as part of the Digital Single Market strategy.

The European Commission adopted a Communication on "Building a European Data Economy", accompanied by a Staff Working Document on January 2017, where it:

  • looks at the rules and regulations impeding the free flow of data and present options to remove unjustified or disproportionate data location restrictions, and
  • outlines legal issues regarding access to and transfer of data, data portability and liability of non-personal, machine-generated digital data.

The European Commission has launched a public consultation and dialogue with stakeholders on these topics to gather further evidence. This process will help identify future policy or legislative measures that will unleash Europe's data economy.

The development of the European Data economy is one of the three emerging challenges identified in the mid-term review. The actions to be implemented are:

  • to prepare a legislative proposal on the EU free flow of data cooperation framework (autumn 2017)
  • to prepare an initiative on accessibility and re-use of public and publicly funded (spring 2018)

In addition, the Commission will continue its work on liability and other emerging data issues.

For more details, read the Communication.

Data should be able to flow freely across borders and within a single data space

Facing the challenge

Removing data localisation restrictions: the free flow of data

Free flow of data means the freedom to process and store data in electronic format anywhere within the EU. It is necessary for the development and use of innovative data technologies and services.

In order to achieve the free flow of data, the European Commission will collect more evidence on data location restrictions and assess their impacts on businesses, especially SMEs and startups, and public sector organisations. The Commission will also discuss the justifications for and proportionality of those data location restrictions with Member States and other stakeholders. It will then take justified and appropriate follow-up actions, in line with better regulation principles, to address the issue.

Exploring the emerging issues relating to the data economy

The European Commission is currently defining, scoping and articulating the following issues in order to trigger and frame a dialogue with stakeholders:

  • Non-personal machine-generated data need to be tradable to allow innovative business models to flourish, new market entrants to propose new ideas and start-ups to have a fair chance to compete.
  • Data-driven technologies are transforming our economy and society, resulting in the production of ever-increasing amounts of data. This phenomenon leads to innovative ways of collecting, acquiring, processing and using data which can pose a challenge to the current legal framework.
  • Access to and transfer of non-personal data, data liability, as well as portability of non-personal data, interoperability and standards are complex legal issues.

This consultation process will contribute to the policy choices taken by the European Commission in the future.

Useful links

Stakeholder dialogue

Have a look at the workshops organised on how to build a European data economy.


Communication and staff working documents

Visual material

  • Facsheet on Building a European Data Economy


Background documents

Team responsible
Tuesday, 10 January, 2017
Last update: 
Thursday, 17 August, 2017