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France and Germany draw up plans to grow Europe’s cloud computing sector

France and Germany are drawing up plans to strengthen Europe’s data infrastructure amid concerns that the continent is overly dependent on US cloud suppliers.

The two countries announced on Tuesday (29 October) that they would present proposals in the new year for growing Europe’s cloud computing sector, following a workshop on the subject at the end of next month.

Europe’s slow progress on cloud computing has become a key concern among governments in recent months. Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming president of the European Commission, has cited the EU’s technological sovereignty as a personal priority, while Germany has backed the development of a new European cloud service, called Gaia-X.

The French-German initiative was announced in a joint statement from the countries’ finance ministers. France’s Bruno Le Maire said: “We want to establish a safe and sovereign European data infrastructure, including data warehouses, data pooling and develop data interoperability.” Germany’s Peter Altmaier added that the country must “regain” its “digital sovereignty”.

According to Gartner, Amazon Web Services had a 47.8 per cent share of the public cloud computing market in 2018, followed by Microsoft Azure (15.5 per cent) and China’s Alibaba (7.7 per cent). None of the top five providers are European.

The former head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, warned earlier this month that Europe’s failure to compete with the United States and China on technology was diminishing its global standing.

“Europe looks less relevant and less powerful,” Sawers told delegates at technology conference in London. “Certainly when we fail to develop the sort of global tech companies that both the United States and China have developed, well Europe is in a weaker position.”

He added that Europe’s slow progress on technology meant it would be “increasingly dependent” on other countries for security, “above all the United States, at a time when the United States is less attentive to the interests of its allies”.