An announced partnership between Microsoft and a major French Artificial Intelligence firm has prompted outrage within the European Union, with some fearing that the deal could undermine the bloc's AI act. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)


MEPs ‘furious’ as French AI firm teams-up with Microsoft


An announced partnership between Microsoft and a major French Artificial Intelligence firm has prompted outrage within the European Union, with some MEPs fearing that the deal could undermine the bloc’s AI act.

Mistral AI, one of the EU’s biggest domestic players in the worldwide race for AI domination, announced on February 26 that it was entering into a “strategic partnership” with Microsoft and would integrate its new flagship AI chatbot with the US tech firm’s products.

That has raised questions regarding the EU’s recently passed Artificial Intelligence Act which, in part, was designed to give European companies a chance to compete at the global level without requiring the support of firms outside the bloc.

The deal has reportedly left some within the Brussels bubble “furious”. The European Commission is now reportedly planning to look into the agreement to see if it breaches EU rules.

Spanish politician and senior AI Act negotiator Ibán García told Brussels Signal: “The Commission has reacted quickly, announcing they will open an investigation.’

When asked if the controversy indicated that the EU’s artificial intelligence regulations may need further reforming, the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group politician expressed confidence in the AI act, although added that “more work” needed to be done.

“The AI Act is a very good piece of law on the paper,” he said.

“When implemented, we will review the effectivity over its two main goals: fostering European AI development and the protection of citizens’ fundamental rights over the AI risks.

“I sincerely believe, we got a very good balance among them,” he added, saying that MEPs will now need to work on the bloc’s AI liability directive over the “coming months”.

Others within Brussels seemed more critical of the current AI act in light of the controversy.

Many politicians have taken aim at the French Government in the wake of Mistral AI’s announcement, accusing Paris of “misleading” negotiators during the final drafting of the AI Act.

The digital policy advisor for Christian Democrat MEP Axel Voss – one of the key architects of the act in the European Parliament – has claimed parts of it were weakened on behalf of the French Government for the express purpose of protecting Mistral AI’s independence.

Parliamentary aid Kai Zenner said: “On a technical level and a political level in the [European] Parliament, we are extremely furious because the French Government for months was making this argument of European leadership, meaning that those companies should be able to scale up without help from Chinese or US companies.

“They were always blaming the Parliament that we are making it kind of impossible, for those national champions, unicorns to try to compete with their global competitors.

“Now they got all their wishes and they do it anyway – and I find this is just ridiculous,” he concluded.