EU ministers say life without Facebook is great after Meta warned it may pull its services from Europe

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French and German ministers quipped that Europe would "live very well" without Facebook after Meta said it might pull out of Europe.
ERIC PIERMONT/AFP via Getty Images
  • Two EU leaders welcomed Meta's warning last week that it may leave the EU over data sharing issues.
  • "Life has been fantastic," said a German minister of his experience not using Facebook or Twitter.
  • Meta later said it isn't "threatening" to pull out of Europe, but was highlighting a business risk.
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On Monday, two top European officials shrugged off Meta's warning that it could shut its services in Europe if data regulations there continue preventing the tech giant from sending user data back to the US.

"After being hacked, I've lived without Facebook and Twitter for four years, and life has been fantastic," German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said at a press conference in Paris. 

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who spoke alongside Habeck, said: "I can confirm that life is very good without Facebook and that we would live very well without Facebook."

"Digital giants must understand that the European continent will resist and affirm its sovereignty," Le Maire added.

"The European Union is such a big internal market with so much economic power that if we act in unity, we won't be intimidated by something like this," Habeck also said.

The pair were responding to Meta's annual report, released on February 3, which said it may pull services such as Facebook or Instagram from the continent if it couldn't rely on a new or alternate means to transfer data from EU to the US.

"If a new transatlantic data transfer framework is not adopted and we are unable to continue to rely on SCCs or rely upon other alternative means of data transfers from Europe to the United States, we will likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe," the annual report said. 

Meta has fought since mid-2020 for the legal right to transfer user data back to the US, after the European Court of Justice struck down a data-sharing agreement between the US and the EU over concerns that the data surveillance doesn't meet the EU's data protection standards.

Much of the dispute has centered around an investigation into Meta (then known as Facebook) by Ireland's data protection watchdog, Data Protection Commission, which raised concerns that the company's data transfers were no longer legal.

The social media company said in its February report that it was expecting the final ruling on data sharing in the first half of 2022.

Responding to Le Maire and Habeck's comments, Markus Reinisch, Meta's vice-president for Public Policy in Europe, clarified the firm's stance in a statement on Tuesday, writing that Meta "is not wanting or "threatening" to leave Europe.

"We have absolutely no desire to withdraw from Europe. Of course we don't," Reinisch wrote. "But the simple reality is that Meta, like many other businesses, organisations, and services, relies on data transfers between the EU and the US in order to operate our global services."

"Much like 70 other EU and US companies, we are identifying a business risk resulting from uncertainty around international data transfers," he added.

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