EESC backs Commissioner Ansip's outline of forthcoming Artificial Intelligence strategy

EESC rapporteur on Artificial Intelligence (AI) Catelijne Muller says the strategy, as outlined by Commissioner Ansip to the EESC's plenary on March 15, fully meets the Committee's call for the EU to take global pole position in setting the framework for the responsible development and deployment of AI.

Ms Muller said the announcement made by Commissioners Ansip, Moedas and Gabriel on 9 March to set up an expert group on AI was warmly welcomed by the EESC, as it fully took on board the requests put forward by the EESC in its own–initiative opinion, which called for:

  • a pan-European ethical code for AI to make sure that the development of Ai is in line with EU values and fundamental rights;
  • a European AI infrastructure to foster the sustainable development of AI;
  • checks on laws and regulations to see whether they are fit for purpose in an AI era;
  • innovation in AI to be boosted, especially AI for the common good.

"I think Europe really took a global pole position at this point", said Ms Muller.

Commissioner Ansip described the state of play of the digital single market in the EU and reviewed the Commission's most important initiatives to make it a reality: the abolition of roaming surcharges, the forthcoming portability of digital content, the end of unjustified geo-blocking and the general data protection regulation to come into force in May.

Others important building blocks were still to come in the areas of telecoms, the e-privacy regulation and cybersecurity.

Commissioner Ansip stressed that fragmentation remained a major hurdle and the cost of non-Europe in the digital single market was huge: EUR 415 billion a year, according to a European Parliament study.

"It is important for all players to have harmonised rules because while big global players can navigate these 28 different sets of rules, for our start-ups and SMEs, it is practically impossible to understand those 28 sets of rules, and if we continue with this fragmented digital Europe we will send a very simple message to our people, especially our start-ups: stay at home or go to the US if you want to scale up", said the Commissioner.

Speakers in the debate emphasised the importance of ensuring a fair transition for workers when traditional jobs disappeared and new occupations had not yet emerged.

All agreed that lifelong learning must become a reality now more than ever to help everyone find their place in tomorrow's labour market though new skills for new jobs. (dm)