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Issue Brief May 19, 2021

Proposal for a US-EU Digital Council: Building a comprehensive conversation

By Frances Burwell

How should the new Biden administration meet the digital challenge with our European allies? In this issue brief, Europe Center Distinguished Fellow Frances Burwell proposes a US-EU Digital Council as a forum for high-level, strategic dialogues to build a transatlantic consensus on digital and tech policy. 

As the new Biden administration confronts its foreign policy priorities, it should not avoid the looming digital debate with its European allies. Transatlantic policy on the digital space is by no means aligned between US and European policymakers. While the United States has taken a largely laissez faire approach to regulation, the European Union serves as the leader in digital regulation. Yet, the effects of digital policies do not stop at each other’s borders, and transatlantic rifts in regulation will continue to have immense consequences. From digital taxation to data storage and privacy rights, issues that will define the success or failure of transatlantic digital policy—with hundreds of billions of dollars on the line—remain unsettled. 

An US-EU Digital Council Digital Council offers a starting place for discussions on these issues. This Digital Council also has the potential to foster significant breakthroughs, or at the very least provide an arena to air grievances and share perspectives on digital regulation. In shaping an effective and productive Digital Council, policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic should remember to: 

  • Gain the commitment of senior leadership on digital and tech policy; 
  • Focus on strategic discussions;
  • Not shy away from policy differences between the United States and the EU;
  • Have authority to engage agencies and departments across governments;
  • Delegate specific issues to relevant decision-makers, provide guidance, and track progress; and
  • Provide an opportunity for all stakeholders—business, consumers, and legislators—to engage.

A successful Digital Council will provide a meaningful and concrete manifestation of transatlantic engagement, and cement the United States and Europe as leaders in digital and tech policy.

The Europe Center promotes leadership, strategies and analysis to ensure a strong, ambitious and forward-looking transatlantic relationship.

Image: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attend a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2021. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via Reuters