Steering Europe towards an ethical, innovative AI future

MEP Axel Voss calls for future EU mandates to prioritise the effective implementation of the AI Act

By Axel Voss

Axel Voss (DE, EPP) is a member of Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee

05 Apr 2024

As the European Union gears up for the upcoming elections, the continent finds itself at a critical juncture. The next wave of leaders will be tasked with steering the EU towards a future defined by technological prowess, regulatory adaptability and global competitiveness.

In this outgoing mandate, we have already taken a bold step by introducing the AI Act, a comprehensive regulatory framework designed to govern the development and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI). As we approach the next mandate, it is imperative for the EU to focus on the effective implementation of this landmark legislation. The AI Act not only safeguards fundamental rights but should also promote innovation and ethical AI practices.

To ensure successful implementation, EU leaders must collaborate with industry experts, academia and civil society. However, member states must also collaborate among each other to ensure a harmonised approach to implementation. Fragmentation in the digital sphere will be our biggest weakness. Transparency, accountability and a robust enforcement mechanism should be at the forefront of the EU's strategy to navigate the intricate landscape of AI development.

In addition, as technology evolves, so must the regulatory frameworks that govern it. The EU must embark on a thoughtful and adaptive reform also of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was another landmark EU legislation that showed flaws in its fragmented implementation and unfitting nature for new technologies. The GDPR needs to be able to address emerging challenges of data protection without stifling innovation. Reform efforts should focus on enhancing user control over personal data, fostering international co-operation on data protection standards, and streamlining regulatory processes. Striking a delicate balance between protecting privacy and enabling data-driven innovation is essential. The EU should leverage the lessons learned from GDPR implementation to create a more agile and responsive regulatory framework.

As technology evolves, so must the regulatory frameworks that govern it

In the end, whatever we do on the regulatory landscape, we will not succeed without the right investments. The EU stands at a crossroads in the global technological race, with the United States and China having surged ahead in nearly every technological category, particularly in artificial intelligence. The AI Act does not lead to brain drain, but it will also not lead to brain gain. To secure a competitive edge, European leaders must invest significantly in research and development, innovation ecosystems and digital infrastructure, and provide an attractive framework for research. Additionally, targeted investments in education and digital skills development will ensure a technologically literate workforce capable of driving innovation. This not only concerns AI but also other new developments in quantum computing or virtual worlds where we need a competitive edge and prepare for the consequences of its widespread use in the next mandate.

The European Union's policy priorities until 2029 must revolve around shaping a future that embraces technological innovation while safeguarding fundamental rights with a geostrategic view. We can regulate technology as much as we want, but it will not have a result unless we are also on the forefront of technological development based on our democratic values. As citizens head to the polls, the choices made in the upcoming elections will set the course for a resilient, competitive and technologically advanced European future.

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