Gaia-X: a good project in theory, an impossible one in its current form

Gaia-X was born of an initiative by German businesses and decision-makers launched in 2020. It later expanded with French support to become a joint EU project. Common standards are currently being drawn up as a basis for the activities. The EU needs to be active in keeping the project on the right track to promote the use of cloud services.

The aim is to create an open standard for sharing and exploiting European data.

  1. Sovereignty and independence: Gaia-X aims to give companies and public-sector entities complete control over their data and services. European companies must be free to choose where and how their data is processed.
  2. Federation: The project seeks to create a common technological foundation to enable federated services. The aim is to facilitate data mobility between different platforms.
  3. Security and trust: Gaia-X ensures secure data processing and protection. That is why common security standards and certification methods are required.
  4. Sustainable development: The project emphasises the energy efficiency and environmental friendliness of digital infrastructure.

The project must genuinely contribute to – and not hinder – EU competitiveness

As the project has gone on, it has become difficult to manage and government-led, and many companies have lost interest. The change in the European security landscape will also affect the project. Except for Germany and France, no EU member states have any companies that would be widely used and could provide similar services, so the benefits of Gaia-X will ultimately accrue only to these two countries and companies based there.

Europe cannot afford the “digital sovereignty” championed by France if all it boils down to is protectionism. The attempt to block the activities of US cloud service providers will significantly undermine European competitiveness.

While the EU spends its time drawing up principles, global cloud providers are investing in improving their services and enhancing their already strong cybersecurity. Secure data management and cybersecurity are among the core business activities of cloud service companies.

The Gaia-X project aims to strengthen European digital independence. The concern that an over-reliance on European technologies may limit innovation and access to the best possible solutions on a global scale is justified.

The EU should tighten its grip on the project and do more to get it back on track.

How should Gaia-X be implemented?

Finnish and European companies face tough competition in global markets. Standards allow for quick and easy access to markets and underpin business competitiveness. The EU’s standardisation strategy aims to ensure that standards meet evolving needs and are used as effectively as possible to support the EU’s competitiveness and various policy objectives.

All the goals of Gaia-X can be achieved with existing, recognised and standardised technologies. Time does not need to be consumed in drafting new standards. The global competitiveness of the European solution can be ensured, enabling data mobility and flexible changes.

Therefore, it would be advisable for all Gaia-X-certified cloud storage solutions to be based either on internationally accepted standards or open-source software maintained by independent non-profit foundations.

Elina Ussa, Managing Director, FiCom