20 Apr 2023

A recipe for success? Assessing the EU’s actorness and effectiveness in the data protection domain

Aengus Collins

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Data protection is one of the most important policy domains for the EU in terms of its global governance ambitions and successes. This report evaluates the evolution of the EU’s data protection framework from the 1980s until 2020 and assesses how the EU has performed over time regarding its actorness and its effectiveness in this specific policy domain.

The overall picture that emerges is an unambiguous one of increasing actorness. Two case studies are used to document the EU’s effectiveness – the EU’s Privacy Shield negotiations with the United States, and its work with the Council of Europe (CoE) on the revised Convention 108.

This CEPS In-Depth Analysis report identifies four factors that are likely to be important determinants of the outlook for the EU in the data protection domain. These are (i) the need to prevent slippage on data protection fundamentals, such as consent; (ii) continuing challenges related to national fragmentation; (iii) the possible trade-offs between strong data protection and levels of EU innovation and growth; and (iv) the prospect of further increases in the EU’s international influence.

This report is part of a series drawing on the outcomes of the EU-funded TRIGGER (Trends in Global Governance and Europe’s Role) project that ran from 2018 to 2022.

Using the conceptual framework developed as part of TRIGGER, the report moves beyond observing the characteristics of the EU as an actor to explore its actorness/effectiveness over time in a specific policy domain – in this case, data protection.