Broadly, common European data spaces are EU-wide common, interoperable data spaces in strategic sectors in which data pooling and sharing takes place. In March 2024, the proposed regulation for a European Health Data Space (EHDS) was provisionally agreed between the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. It is the first common European data space to emerge in a specific area. Presented in its European strategy for data in February 2020, originally the European Commission proposed to promote the development of common European data spaces in nine strategic economic sectors and domains of public interest. Since then, a further five strategic economic sectors and domains of public interest have been identified.

A single market for data

The Commission’s European strategy for data seeks to harness the opportunities created by the proliferation of data through technology, using, in particular, data as a fuel for the development of artificial intelligence. It envisages a single market for data in which both personal and non-personal data, including sensitive business data, flows across borders and sectors with appropriate safeguards in place, for the benefit of businesses and citizens alike. The development of common European data spaces and their gradual interconnection will form just one of the pillars of the single market for data.

Key features

14 common European data spaces are in development in the following sectors / domains: agriculture, cultural heritage, energy, finance, green deal, health, industry (manufacturing), language, media, mobility, public administrations, research and innovation, skills, and tourism. (See the Commission’s Second Staff Working Document on Data Spaces, published in January 2024). Notably, the data spaces are not the same for each sector / domain: each takes into account their unique characteristics. However, two key elements are shared by all data spaces: technical tools and infrastructures necessary to use and exchange data, and appropriate governance mechanisms. The general key features of a common European data space as outlined in the Commission’s first Staff Working Document published in 2022, are:

  • A secure and privacy-preserving infrastructure to pool, access, share, process and use data.
  • A clear and practical structure for access to and use of data in a fair, transparent, proportionate and non-discriminatory manner and clear and trustworthy data governance mechanisms.
  • European rules and values, in particular personal data protection, consumer protection legislation and competition law, are fully respected.
  • Data holders will have the possibility, in the data space, to grant access to or to share certain personal or non-personal data under their control.
  • Data that is made available can be reused against compensation, including remuneration, or for free.
  • Participation of an open number of organisations/ individuals.

Use cases

Use cases outlined by the Commission give a sense of the potential for data spaces:

  • As part of the common European green deal data space, Destination Earth is developing a highly accurate digital model of the Earth. Users, including non-scientific experts, will be able to access and interact with vast amounts of Earth system and socio-economic data in order to enable projections on urban flooding and heat exposure, for example, which will allow downstream applications to calculate related safety and health risks in cities and allow for timely policy measures to be taken.
  • The common European agriculture data space will allow comparative analyses between farms in order to improve their sustainability and economic performance.
  • The mobility data space is an important resource for managing intermodal logistics in the freight sector as well as for personal mobility.

Enabling EU legislative framework

The creation of the common data spaces and other actions in the European strategy for data are underpinned and enabled by a range of cross-sectoral and sector specific legislation:

  • The Data Governance Act (2022/868), which has applied since 24 September 2023, is a key building block for data spaces. It seeks to incentivise the construction of a reliable data sharing system through four main pillars: re-use of public sector data; data altruism; data intermediation services and the European Data Innovation Board. (To learn more about this EU regulation, please see our briefing here).
  • The Data Act (2023/2854) is another key pillar of the data strategy. This comprehensive regulation aims to remove barriers to the access to high-quality data, particularly in the industrial context, and applies from 12 September 2025. (See our series on the Data Act, commencing with the briefing here.)
  • From 9 June 2024, the implementing act on high-value datasets under the Open Data Directive (2019/1024) applies. The Open Data Directive concerns the reuse of public-sector information, including publicly funded research data. The implementing act lays down specific high-value datasets and the arrangements for their publication and re-use.

Meanwhile, the focus on data access and its use in the Digital Markets Act (2022/1925) and on transparency and access to data in audits in the Digital Services Act (2022/2065) aligns to the objectives of the European strategy for data.

On a sectoral basis, the EHDS aims to put citizens at the centre of healthcare, giving them full control over their data to obtain better healthcare across the EU; and to open up data for research and public health uses. In the finance sector, the Commission’s proposal in June 2023 for a framework for Financial Data Access (COM (2023) 360 final) (FIDA) is one of three components for a common European financial data space. It will establish clear rights and obligations to manage customer data sharing in the financial sector beyond payment accounts.

As regards personal data, the development of common European data spaces builds on the GDPR and ePrivacy Directive (2002/58/EC), although in 2022, concerns were raised by the EDPB and EDPS in their Joint Opinion on the proposed EHDS (03/2022), and in August 2023 the EDPS made some suggestions and recommendations as to the final form of the proposed FIDA (Opinion 38/2023).

Part of the vision in the European strategy for data is that “the EU should create an attractive policy environment so that, by 2030, the EU’s share of the data economy – data stored, processed and put to valuable use in Europe – at least corresponds to its economic weight, not by fiat but by choice.” As innovators seek to make use of these large data pools, the success of the policy environment will, to a large extent, depend on the ease with which data holders and data users can navigate between the enabling regulatory framework mentioned above, existing data protection and ePrivacy rules and where applicable, the rules laid out in the forthcoming AI Act.