February 7, 2024

Europe Leads the Way: Historic Approval of EU's AI Act Sets Global Standard

The European Union's unanimous approval of the final text of the AI Act marks a historic moment, celebrated by Commissioner Thierry Breton.

In a momentous stride toward regulating artificial intelligence (AI) across its member states, the European Union has unanimously voted to greenlight the final text of the EU’s AI Act. This watershed moment was confirmed by Thierry Breton, the Commissioner for the Internal Market of the EU, who lauded the Act as a groundbreaking and unparalleled advancement in the global landscape of AI regulation.

The AI Act introduces a risk-based approach to oversee AI applications, particularly focusing on high-risk sectors such as governmental utilization of AI in biometric surveillance. It also mandates regulations for AI systems, including those akin to ChatGPT, and imposes transparency rules before these technologies can be brought to market. This pivotal decision follows a political consensus reached in December 2023, with subsequent efforts concentrated on finalizing the legislative text for approval.

This agreement represents the culmination of extensive negotiations, with the COREPER vote of the permanent representatives of all EU member states held on February 2. This procedural milestone clears the path for the Act to progress through the legislative channels, including a crucial vote by an EU lawmaker committee scheduled for February 13, followed by an anticipated vote in the European Parliament in March or April.

At its core, the AI Act embodies the principle that the higher the risk posed by an AI application, the greater the accountability lies with its developers. This principle is particularly pertinent for AI systems operating in critical domains such as job recruitment and educational admissions. Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President of the European Commission for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, underscored the emphasis on high-risk scenarios to ensure that the development and deployment of AI technologies align with the EU’s core values and standards.

The implementation of the AI Act is slated for 2026, with certain provisions coming into effect earlier to facilitate a gradual integration of the new regulatory framework. In addition to laying down the regulatory groundwork, the European Commission is proactively supporting the AI ecosystem within the EU. This includes the establishment of an AI Office tasked with overseeing compliance with the Act, particularly for high-impact foundational models that pose systemic risks.

Furthermore, the Commission has unveiled initiatives to bolster local AI developers, such as enhancing the EU’s supercomputer network. These initiatives aim to augment generative AI model training capabilities, ensuring that Europe maintains its leadership in AI innovation while upholding ethical and regulatory standards.

This legislative milestone underscores the EU’s steadfast commitment to spearheading responsible and ethical development of AI technologies. By setting a global precedent, the EU endeavors to strike a balance between fostering innovation and safeguarding fundamental rights and societal values.

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