Commissioner Andrus Ansip focused his intervention on the challenges and benefits of Artificial Intelligence. From the Workers' Group, these benefits can only be achieved if the challenges linked to human factors and working conditions are also properly addressed.
Catelijne Muller, rapporteur of a critically acclaimed opinion on AI, called for a human-in-command approach, where humans would retain control over technology by drawing the right boundaries. As the challenges linked to AI were affecting societies globally, Europe should take the lead globally to ensure that AI is deployed in line with EU values and fundamental rights. Pierre Jean Coulon, President of the EESC's section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society, stressed that protecting workers and citizens was essential to ensure a fair transition, particularly because traditional trades were already disappearing. Lifelong learning and training were therefore fundamental and these, in turn, required massive investments. Franca Salis-Madinier pointed out that the EESC was preparing an opinion examining how to anticipate the impact of AI on working conditions with a view to preventing inequalities as much as possible and securing a just transition. She added that life-long learning in this context should be a real and transferable right in Europe.
Marcos Peña focused on the key role of participative democracy in addressing the challenges in today's volatile world and particularly in the negotiations that will shape the future of work. He saluted the representatives of European civil society in the EESC, the Spanish ESC and the other national ESCs as players who underpin the social and economic cohesion of the continent by using dialogue and compromise to find shared solutions to common problems.
Gabriele Bischoff, President of the Workers' Group, warmly welcomed the President of the Spanish ESC and praised the important work that had been undertaken jointly by the two Committees. Both institutions were symbols of participatory democracy but also of a reflective civil society that engages for the better of all citizens. The civil society in Spain played a key role in expressing citizens' concerns as it was clearly illustrated during the recent demonstrations in the country, one in favour of dignified pensions and another calling for an end to violence and discrimination against women. And in these challenging times for democracy, the way the EU would listen to its citizens and address their concerns would be a defining test for Europe.
Gabriele Bischoff also underlined the joint mission of the two Committees in the fight for equality. 2018 was the European Year of Cultural Heritage and Europe's culture of equality was a very important part of this heritage.