European Interest

MEPs hold first debate on proposed rulebook for Artificial Intelligence with Commissioners

flickr/European Parliament/CC BY 2.0

The Legal Affairs Committee discussed the new legislative proposals on AI aimed at fostering trust, AI uptake and investment across the EU.

The discussion in the Legal Affairs Committee on Thursday focused on the new Commission proposal for a legal framework on AI. Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton presented the new rules saying the EU is among the first to lay down rules for AI using a simple approach: banning the unacceptable risk, imposing strict conditions for high risk and insuring transparency for algorithms. “We want AI systems on the market to be safe, reliable, and non-discriminatory irrespective of [their] origin”, he added.

Safeguarding fundamental rights

During the debate, several MEPs focused their questions on the ethical uses of AI and the protection of fundamental rights of citizens in the new rules. They raised doubt over the banning or limiting the use of real time biometric identification systems (like facial recognition) in public spaces by law enforcement and the potential risk of mass surveillance, discrimination or wrongful incrimination of citizens.                                                       Commissioner Breton explained the proportionate approach of the proposal to MEPs, which considers strict obligations for high-risk AI systems (used for example in transport, education, justice systems) and a ban in principle on systems deemed a clear threat to safety and rights of people, with very strict and clearly defined exceptions (e.g imminent terrorist threat).

Investment and innovation

During the debate, some MEPs expressed their hopes for a balanced approach that brings legal certainty for SMEs and promotes innovation in the EU. Mr Breton underlined that the new guidelines and safeguards for AI will help attract more investors to Europe, as they will bring more clarity and predictability for innovators.

The Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee, Adrián Vázquez Lázara (Renew, ES) said “The committee has made clear to Commissioner Breton that ensuring that future regulation of Artificial Intelligence will be a priority for the Legal Affairs committee and a safe point of departure to build a transparent environment for citizens and companies where fundamental rights are respected.”

Civil liability rules for AI

MEPs also held a discussion with Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders earlier in the day, who said the Commission intends to follow up on Parliament’s legislative report on civil liability for AI and put forward a proposal later this year that aims to protect victims in cases where AI is involved.                                                                                        Numerous questions were also discussed with Commissioners Reynders and Breton in relation to upcoming rules on Sustainable corporate governance, the Digitalisation of Justice, the new package on platforms regulation (Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act), the implementation of the Copyright directive and freedom of the press.

The European Parliament and the member states will debate and vote on the Commission’s proposals on a European approach for Artificial Intelligence and on Machinery Products in the ordinary legislative procedure. Once adopted, the Regulations will be directly applicable across the EU.

Parliament adopted its proposals the regulation of AI in the EU last year, approving two legislative reports on civil liability regime for AI and on the framework of ethical aspects of artificial intelligence, which paved the way for the European Commission legislative proposals presented on 21 April 2021. The committee on Legal Affairs also drafted two own-initiative reports on Intellectual property rights for the development of AI technologies and on guidelines for use of AI the military and civil sector.

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