Cloud computing is fundamental for a genuine and competitive single market for data and services. It is an essential condition for an innovative economy. The Commission’s recent Data Strategy aims to enable access to more secure, sustainable, interoperable, environmentally friendly and scalable cloud infrastructures and services for European businesses.

IT cloud with arrows on dark blue background

The global data volume is growing very fast. Whereas cloud computing happens mostly in large datacentres today, by 2025 this trend will reverse: 80% of all data is expected to be processed in smart devices closer to the user (edge computing). The availability of both edge and cloud computing is essential in a computing continuum to ensure that data is processed in the most efficient manner. Energy-efficient and trustworthy edge and cloud infrastructures will be fundamental for the sustainable use of cloud and edge computing technologies.

diagram of the scheme

Cloud computing is a key objective to increase Europe's sovereignty as outlined in the European Commission’s Data Strategy, Digital StrategyIndustrial Strategy and the EU recovery plan. Currently, the European Commission works on the establishment of a European Allliance on Industrial Data and Cloud, which will enable the development of several work streams: 

  • Joint Investment in cross-border cloud infrastructures and services to build the next generation cloud supply 
  • European marketplaces for cloud services, where users will have a single portal to cloud offerings meeting key EU standards and rules. 
  • EU Cloud Rulebook for cloud services, which will provide a single European framework of rules, transparency on their compliance and best practices for cloud use in Europe.

Member States have signed on 15 October 2020 a joint declaration on cloud where they express their will to collaborate towards the creation of a European cloud .

Other initiatives related to cloud computing are:

  • The Regulation on the free flow of non-personal data, together with the General Data Protection Regulation, raises legal certainty for cloud users, by ensuring the free movement of all data in the EU.
  • Data portability: the free flow of non-personal data Regulation also builds trust through facilitating a self-regulatory work on cloud switching and cloud security. This self-regulatory work was addressed by the DSM (‘Digital Single Market’) Cloud Stakeholder Groups. It has resulted in the recently finalised SWIPO data portability Codes of Conduct and the CSPCERT Recommendations for a candidate European cloud security certification scheme.

  • Cybersecurity: at the request of the Commission, the European cybersecurity agency  ENISA is working on a single European cybersecurity certification scheme for cloud services. The scheme will provide increased assurance to businesses, public administrations and citizens that their data is secure wherever they are stored or processed.

  • Data protection in the cloud: the Commission has facilitated a platform for industry to develop Codes of Conduct for data protection in the cloud. This has resulted in two Codes of Conduct that are currently reviewed by the European Data Protection Board. More information about the processing of personal and non-personal data in the cloud can be found in the Commission’s Guidance on mixed datasets.

  • Standardised Cloud Service Level Agreements (SLA) that guarantee the quality of cloud services in the European market.
  • Cloud use by the financial sector: financial service providers increasingly use cloud services to remain competitive. There must be clear requirements in place for outsourcing agreements between financial entities and cloud service providers. As announced in the Fintech Action Plan, the European Commission is currently working together with stakeholders, supervisors and regulators to define standard contractual clauses for such outsourcing agreements.

  • A European mapping of data flows that will allow to assess the value of data flows to the European digital economy.

In parallel, cloud computing and edge computing will be among those digital technologies that will contribute to achieving the sustainability goals of the Green Deal in areas such as farming, mobility, buildings and manufacturing.

See also the Cloud Computing brochure (September 2019)

The European Union also supports the development of cloud computing in Europe with research and innovation actions under the Horizon 2020 programme.

EU-funded projects will work on novel solutions for federating cloud infrastructures. New cloud-based services will have to respond to high-standard requirements with regard to data protection, performance, resilience and energy-efficiency. The services and infrastructures will have to meet the future digitisation needs of industry and the public sector. Addressing these challenges will also be part of and contribute to the technological ambitions of the Next Generation Internet (NGI).

In addition, the EU intends to invest €2bn via the European Data Strategy in a European High Impact Project that will, among other, federate energy-efficient and trustworthy cloud infrastructures and related services. Cloud technologies that have been developed within H2020 –funded research and by market actors will be deployed via the Connecting Europe Facility 2 (for cloud infrastructures interconnection) and Digital Europe (for cloud-to-edge services and cloud marketplaces) Programmes.

The European Cloud Initiative and Cloud Strategy

Next to the European Commission’s work to create an enabling and trust-building policy framework for cloud services in Europe, the European Cloud Initiative of 2016 presented a strategy for public investments to build:

The European Cloud Initiative builds on the results achieved under the 2012 European Cloud Strategy.