Leveraging commons for a European model of non hegemonic digital sovereignty


The European Union, faithful to its values and principles, must continue to work towards a strong and democratic European society, adapted to the digital age. As the world continues to fragment, the digital sector accelerates more than ever the current geopolitical trends. In this context, Europe can rely on the founding principles of a free, open, neutral, unique and secure Internet, of which it is the cradle, to define its model of digital sovereignty. Digital commons offer the opportunity to put into practice a model of collective and shared digital governance, dedicated to strengthen our common sovereignty.

Under the French presidency of the Council of the European Union, digital commons have become a European topic

On June 21 and 22, 2022, many European digital actors gathered in Toulouse for the Digital Assembly. They discussed many topics related to the digital future of Europe, such as the socio-economic challenges of metavers and Web3, the mobilization of the digital sector to ensure the maintenance of digital infrastructure in Ukraine or the connection between climate and digital transitions.

On this occasion, the Ambassador for Digital Affairs presented the conclusions of the working team on digital commons, those "non-rivalrous and non-exclusive resources defined by distributed and communal production, ownership and governance of informational capacities and technology". This report is the ambitious result of the work carried out under the French Presidency of the Council of the EU with 18 Member States (Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden) and the European Commission.

What place for digital commons in public policy?

After 4 months of exchanges and hearings with representatives of digital commons communities, the working team has observed an imbalance between the daily use of major digital commons (Wikipedia, Linux, …) and the lack of contribution to ensure the sustainability of these strategic resources. Taking into consideration digital commons in institutions and public policies is a necessary condition to establish a European digital sovereignty.

Several initiatives favoring open source projects and digital commons already exist, as the European Union and several Member states have launched initiatives at their own levels to promote innovation and the free use of data for an open society that protects the rights of its citizens. Collectively, we assert that we must now go beyond these uncoordinated efforts. A real cultural shift would allow the establishment of open and collaborative resources and infrastructures, in the service of innovation and citizen participation.

The working team makes four major proposals

  • Create a one-stop shop for digital commons, to direct actors and communities to the appropriate funds and public support, while providing expertise and human resources to facilitate and accelerate the application process.
  • Launch a call for proposals to quickly and efficiently fund the commons identified as strategic for the European digital sovereignty. We encourage Member states to coordinate their financial efforts in this area.
  • In the long term, establish an autonomous European foundation for digital commons, whose governance would be open and shared with the communities concerned. This structure would aim at fostering the development of digital commons ecosystems across Europe, facilitating the dissemination of the digital commons model and supporting the development of new commons.
  • Apply the "digital commons first" principle in public administrations, in order to contribute to the development of common and open solutions.

Strengthened by its history, Europe has the chance to be the model of a digital society reflecting its values. It must not miss this opportunity to become the protector of open source and digital commons communities, and the builder of open and sovereign public infrastructures, with the help of the best developers.