Opinion column by Philippe Latombe: But who does Ursula von Der Leyen stand for?

Source : Smartrezo

On February 24, the day Ukraine was invaded, EU leaders agreed on sanctions aimed at minimizing Russia’s ability to finance the war it started. Since February, seven EU sanctions packages have already gone into effect.

In reaction to the four referenda on annexation to Russia, the European Commission added another layer on September 28 by presenting an eighth package of sanctions to the EU member states with the announced objective of an agreement by the 27 on new restrictive measures before the European Council of October 6 and 7 in Prague.

I do not intend to discuss the long-term effectiveness of an embargo that is constantly being tightened and that, because of this, inevitably finds its limits in the fact that it is only practiced by Westerners, and not really by the rest of the world (which is a lot of people). The assessment of such a strategy will only be established a posteriori, when the episode of the war in Ukraine will belong to History and will make the happiness of researchers.

In the meantime, while Joe Biden is making the buzz in the media with his repeated memory lapses, it must be noted that he shows an intact intellectual vigor when it comes to taking advantage of the current European difficulties. And it must be said that the American president’s March sales operation was carried out brilliantly.

In an old reflex inherited from the last century, Europe, panicked by the self-inflicted closure of the Russian gas tap, is turning to its ally across the Atlantic for help. American shale gas production isn’t exactly the greenest thing around? We will have to build methane tankers by the hundreds? Port terminals to regasify part of the LNG received? Never mind! It’s well known that only fools don’t change their minds.

Doesn’t that solve the supply problem for this winter? That’s not a problem, we’ll get our supplies elsewhere, we’ll buy them from Azerbaijan, which has resumed its attacks on Armenia, and we’ll even buy Russian gas at a much higher price from other countries, thus enabling it to circumvent the embargo. Years of major mistakes in energy production and diversification must be made good, and time is running out. It is essential that Europeans be able to heat their homes and run their industries, especially the Germans, who are major consumers of gas and, until recently, of Russian gas. “Necessity is the law,” says the old adage, widely developed by Montesquieu in the Esprit des lois.

At the same time, and to everyone’s surprise, on that same March 25, 2022, the European Commission and the White House announced an agreement in principle to frame the transfer of transatlantic data, while the situation had been blocked since 2020, with the cancellation of the previous legal framework, the Privacy Shield, deemed not to be compliant with the GDPR by the European Court of Justice (CJEU). On the substance of this new agreement, nothing, or so little.

What does it have to do with the energy crisis, with the war in Ukraine? At first glance, none. On closer inspection, however, and I had already ironized on the subject at the time, it looks like a “I sell you my (expensive) shale gas”, “you give me your data”, a negotiation which it will not escape anyone that it does not meet the requirement of balance usually sought between two contracting parties. As the United States has still not recognized the RGPD, it is as if we were agreeing to supply America with a “Nordstream” of our personal data, the same data described as the black gold of the 21st century. Has Europe surrendered in open country?

For six months, radio silence or almost, and a few days ago, this announcement, on Politico in particular: “The White House is expected to issue its long-awaited executive order on transatlantic data transfers next week, according to three officials with knowledge of the matter. Now, if the new data transfer framework between the EU and the U.S. does not ensure adequate protection of users’ privacy, the new agreement will likely be referred to the CJEU, and retested once again. Companies that have not yet switched to providers not subject to U.S. surveillance laws, will continue to break the law. Here too, the urgency is becoming clear.

The room for maneuver, so that the political agreement does not crash into legal realities, seems all the more narrow (and that is an understatement) that according to the little information that has leaked about the American position, the announced “Data Protection Review Court” would not see the light of day, contrary to the promises made in the initial announcement; the American promise to limit American mass surveillance to what is “necessary and proportionate” would no longer be on the agenda, as the Americans persist in practicing the mass surveillance already rejected by the CJEU.

The abandonment of our digital sovereignty is finally sadly comparable to the one we are experiencing in terms of energy. And it seems that here too the lessons are not being learned. What is the point of leaving the Nordstream dependence on Russian gas if it is only to depend on the goodwill of the United States and to repeat the same mistakes, even if, as the children say, it is “less bad”? Substituting one dependency for another does not make us sovereign, especially when our data is used as a bargaining chip. In both cases, we must urgently remedy a situation inherited from our bad decisions, from our procrastination and from these repeated abandonments of sovereignty, which penalize our future.

One thing is certain: when the terms of application of the agreement in principle reached six months ago on the framework for the transfer of our data are announced, we will know very clearly for whom Ursula von Der Leyen is rolling.


Author : Philippe Latombe


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