On Wednesday June 29, EU40 – the Network of Young MEPs, hosted an event entitled, ‘EU AI ACT: Are we striking the right balance? Fostering Innovation while protecting EU citizens fundamental rights.’ This highly topical in-person discussion, which took place at the Microsoft Centre, Brussels, helped to facilitate a multi-stakeholder dialogue between representatives of the European Parliament, the Commission, and industry experts. Guest panelists included EU40 MEP Ms. Eva Maydell (BG-EPP), who is the ITRE Rapporteur for the AI Act; Mr. Werner Stengg, member of the Vestager Cabinet, who holds responsibility for AI and the Data Economy; Ms. Cornelia Kutterer, Senior Director at Microsoft (AI, Privacy and Digital); and Mr. Angel Martin, Senior Director at Johnson & Johnson (Digital Health). The event was moderated by EU40 Managing Director, Mr. Alessandro Da Rold.
Overall, there was a general consensus across the panel, that while AI regulation was certainly necessary, it should seek to avoid overburdening industry with overly complex legal requirements and costly implementation procedures, both in terms of capital and human resources. On a different note, MEP Maydell also raised concerns regarding the use of AI by bad intentioned international actors, stressing, “we cannot talk tech, without talking geopolitics…it is clear we cannot ignore the power struggle between democracies & autocracies.” Here, the issue of governmental misuse of power (through AI technologies), in attempting to sure up societal control was raised. Following the first half hour of talks, active participation from the audience was encouraged, with interesting interventions focusing upon technical aspects of the legislation, human rights concerns, and questions surrounding implementation.
Last year, the European Commission published an ambitious proposal to regulate Artificial Intelligence. The announced regulation, however, which was intended to be the first of its kind, has been slow to progress due to the file’s technical, political, and juridical complexity. In particular, outstanding issues concerning legal definitions, potential civil rights violations, and the financial/bureaucratic impact facing SMEs and larger multinationals, remains the focus of much intense discussion and debate. The first draft of the European Parliament report was published earlier this year, with discussions on amendments expected throughout the summer. The intention is to reach a compromise by September and to hold the final vote in November.
In light of this timeline and the ongoing debate relating to this important topic, EU40 decided to organize a multi-stakeholder discussion, brining together leading experts from across both the EU institutions and the private sector, to help address some of the most pressing issues associated with regulating AI within both an EU and wider international context. The Artificial Intelligence Act has important implications across various areas of public life, such as healthcare policy, data economy, and civil rights: thus, by bringing together diverse perspectives, we hope to better understand the ins and outs of this critically important piece of EU legislation. Principally, the gathering sought to explore whether the AI Act is striking the right balance between the necessity for AI regulation on the one hand, and the freedom to allow technological innovation and entrepreneurialism on the other.
The full event recording is available below.