Substantial insights have emerged in recent weeks regarding what to expect from a forthcoming European Artificial Intelligence (AI) legislative proposal, due to be presented by the European Commission in early 2021.
The latest discussions confirmed that the regulation of this new technology relies on closely interlinked legislative initiatives, ranging from the new EU Data Strategy and the creation of a Single Data Market to the Commission's Green Deal plan to address climate and environmental challenges. The final objective is to ensure a sustainable digital economy and achieve the ambition of making the European AI regulatory framework a model for the rest of the world.
On 26 and 27 October, a European Parliament special committee on Artificial Intelligence in the Digital Age (AIDA) held its first two hearings with Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager and Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton. The establishment of the AIDA committee confirms the strategic importance of the topic for EU lawmakers, as it has been created to provide an institutional forum to coordinate work on the upcoming legislation with the other EU Institutions and to discuss the main issues that the AI regulatory framework will need to tackle.
During the recent AIDA discussion, Executive Vice-President Vestager highlighted the human-centric approach currently being pursued by the Commission which she said aims to create an ecosystem of excellence and trust based on the values on upon which the EU society is built. Commissioner Breton put the accent on the strategical importance that data, and in particular industrial data, play when regulating AI. Mr Breton stressed that the goal of the EU executive is to create a Single Data Market, intending to ensure data interoperability and the robustness of data sets.
The French Commissioner also unveiled the structure of the upcoming AI proposal, expected to take the form of a 'five-pillar' approach. The main areas identified will be as follows:
In advance of the AIDA hearing, the European Parliament in plenary session approved the first set of recommendations regarding how AI should be regulated in Europe. More specifically, the reports adopted a focus on three crucial areas when it comes to the legislative debate around AI:
Artificial Intelligence has also been at the centre of discussions in the Council, where the German Presidency on 21 October issued Conclusions on the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the context of Artificial Intelligence and Digital change. According to the Presidency Conclusions, the main source of concern around AI and fundamental rights is the use of biometric tools in public spaces for mass surveillance purposes. If these systems are to be permitted, the Council calls for "clear legal requirements" to be put in place. EU fundamental values, together with legal certainty, are viewed as the core prerequisite for a digitally sovereign Europe.
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