The European Union (EU) is currently trying to establish its data strategy. Part of this strategy is to establish ‘data spaces’. One of the purposes of these data spaces is to help greater sharing of non-personal data. However, there is a question about whether what the EU might propose will violate international law.

A copy of the European Commission’s ‘Data Governance Act’ (DGA) indicates that data-sharing entities, called ‘data intermediaries’, should be set up to help exchanges of data between data producers and data acquirers. These entities should be subject to strict conditions, the DGA says. This is to build trust in the new system.

The DGA says that one of the requirements will be that public sector data must be processed in the EU and that any companies which handle the data must be legally established in the EU.

This raises the question of whether such a system would violate international law. The EU has commitments to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). One of these commitments is that the EU must allow access to its market for data processing from states outside the EU. The EU is also not allowed to force overseas businesses to establish in the EU.

The EUs Internal Market Commissioner, Thierry Breton, said that the Commission would seek to trigger an exemption to WTO rules. He said that this should ensure that proposals would comply with the WTO commitments. However, he has said that the EU will not change its commitments. He added, ‘We have very good lawyers in the Commission.’


violate – If you ‘violate’ an international law or agreement, it means that you break it. You do not do what the law or agreement says you must do.

entities – An entity is something (for example an organisation or company) that has its own independent legal existence.

subject to - In this context, it basically means 'under the authority of and have to comply with'.

overseas – This means a foreign country, especially a country that is across a sea or an ocean.

to trigger – To trigger basically means to activate something (for example, an event or situation) or an event which causes something else to happen.

(c) Cambridge Legal English Academy 2020

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