Brussels' self-styled "digital enforcer", Thierry Breton, has taken a victory lap on social media after the European Parliament approved the bloc's controversial AI Act. (EPA-EFE/RONALD WITTEK)


‘Digital enforcer’ Breton takes a bow as European Parliament approves AI Act


Brussels’ self-styled “digital enforcer”, European Commissioner Thierry Breton, has taken a victory lap on social media after the European Parliament approved the European Union’s controversial AI Act.

The legislation aims to render many implementations of the technology illegal while stringently controlling its use in “high-risk” sectors.

Having faced resistance from the French and German governments earlier this year due to the bill’s perceived harshness, the EC managed to negate such opposition, obtaining preliminary approval to move forward with the regulation from each of the bloc’s 27 Member States in February.

The AI Act was then handed off to the European Parliament, with an overwhelming number of MEPs voting in favour of the bill on March 13.

“Democracy one, Lobby zero,” Breton crowed online after the result was announced, heralding the act as “the world’s 1st comprehensive, binding rules for trusted AI”.

“Europe is NOW a global standard-setter in AI,” his post continued.

“We are regulating as little as possible – but as much as needed!”

Others within the Parliament also clamoured to take credit. The Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group claimed its members were the main reason the AI Act succeeded in its passage.

“The world’s first-ever regulation on Artificial Intelligence becomes a reality, thanks to S&Ds,” the group boasted.

“Thanks to the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, the new law will guarantee that no matter how this technology evolves, people’s rights will be shielded.”

Members of the liberal-leaning RENEW group took to X to praise fellow party-member Dragoș Tudorache for the legislation’s success. The Romanian politician served as the co-rapporteur for the act.

“Our AI Act sets the global norms to protect citizens from high-risk AI and promote responsible deployment practices,” the group’s official social media stated.

“Congratulations to our rapporteur [Dragoș Tudorache]!”

While the majority of MEPs and EU Member States are in favour of the new rules, some representatives in Brussels remain sceptical regarding its merit.

In a press release, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) parliamentarian Markus Buchheit said that, while his party supported regulating AI in principle, such efforts were best left to European countries on an individual basis.

“It is not the EU but the States themselves that should push this agenda forward according to their own priorities,” he said.

“Due to its inherent sluggishness, the EU is hardly in a position to adequately support this rapidly developing technology.

“Nation States are far more competitive with more flexible actors such as the Internet giants than the overly bureaucratic EU, which hardly takes national circumstances into account,” he concluded.

Others lashed out at the act for not doing enough to protect personal privacy in Europe. Left-leaning human-rights NGO Amnesty International branded the bill a “failure”.

The non-profit’s AI advisor Mher Hakobyan said: “The AI Act offers only limited protections to impacted and marginalised people.”

The Left group in the European Parliament described the bill’s text as being “not ambitious enough”, accusing parliamentarians of bowing to the demands of Big Tech.

“In a rush to have the first-ever AI regulation, the EU is adopting a new law that prioritises the interests of Big Tech over citizens’ safety,” the Left said.

“Member States failed to guarantee strong protections for consumers and citizens, preferring instead to make exemptions for national security reasons and rolling out the red carpet for Big Tech.

“This means the positive elements of the legislative proposal are severely undermined by the many exclusions and exceptions,” the group concluded.

The AI Act will now be submitted for one final round of textual corrections before it is formally passed by the Parliament before the end of its latest legislature.

It will also need to be formally endorsed by the Council of Ministers.