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The European Data Union: European Security Integration through Database Interoperability

Project description

A closer look at the making of the European Data Union

Data is growing exponentially, and information stored in autonomous databases is becoming increasingly interconnected. Europe’s policymakers are building a Data Union – one of the largest real-life experiments of database interoperability – to facilitate public authorities’ access across diverse IT systems. This is important in terms of public security practices, institutional governance and protecting fundamental rights. However, little is known about how interoperability structures and rearranges modern power relations. In this context, the EU-funded DATAUNION project will theorise the socio-material practices that underpin database interoperability. It will evaluate the implications of the Data Union’s construction, develop a multimodal study of how digital technologies feed European security integration, and deliver new insights about the frictions shaping the making of a European Data Union.


EU policy-makers are constructing a European Data Union. Its ambition is database interoperability with information stored in autonomous databases becoming interconnected and available to authorities across Europe. However, database interoperability is not a mere technical fix, but an inherently political process. In the design of existing and future databases lays the foundations of future European security integration and the redefinition of some of its core dimensions: security practices, institutional governance, and relation to fundamental rights. Despite its political importance, little is known about how database interoperability actually structures and re-arranges modern power relations. The construction of the European Data Union, as one of the largest real-life experiments of database interoperability, represents a fascinating opportunity to unpack this issue. Hence, the DATAUNION project will pursue four objectives: (1) Theorizing the socio-material practices that underpin database interoperability through the innovative notion of security tinkering, defined as the processes through which conflicts and solutions related to database interoperability are addressed, dodged or solved; (2) Developing a ground-breaking multi-modal approach bringing Critical Making Practices to the study of security practices in order to retrace how database interoperability is implemented on the ground; (3) Delivering new empirical knowledge on the processes and challenges of all three main European interoperability initiatives, and how they shape the future of European security integration; and (4) Evaluating the ethico-political implications of the construction of the European Data Union. Overall, the DATAUNION project will transform Critical Security Studies’ conceptual and methodological repertoire and will have a major impact on International Relations’ and EU Studies’ understanding of the role of digital technologies in European security integration.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 499 750,00
1050 Bruxelles / Brussel

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Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/ Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest Arr. de Bruxelles-Capitale/Arr. Brussel-Hoofdstad
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 499 750,00

Beneficiaries (1)