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The European Commission is a pivotal agenda-setter for European digital policy, not the least because of its powers in governing the internal market and the external trade relations of the EU. In digital policy, the Commission has to balance partially contradicting goals such as fostering innovation and economic growth, ensuring the protection of EU citizen’s rights, and managing the security vulnerabilities of networked societies. For these choices, not only rapid technological change and domestic politicization but also international competitive pressures in economic, normative, and security terms matter. How do such international pressures shape the Commission’s “European third way” of digital policy?

To tackle this question, the bridging project pools expertise from the WZB units Global Governance and Politics of Digitalization. Combining in-depth qualitative case studies of individual Commission policies with quantitative text analyses of the digital policy narratives that the Commission has communicated over the last two decades, we map and explain the geo-political and geo-economic sources for the Commission’s choices in regulating digital issues in Europe. We thereby contribute to ongoing scholarly and societal debates on the effects of growing rivalries in the international system and on international “tech wars”, specifically.