On May 21st the European Council unanimously approved the Artificial Intelligence Act, a law designed to harmonise rules on AI(Photo by Xavi Torrent/Getty Images)


European Council ‘unanimously’ approves Artificial Intelligence Act


The European Council has “unanimously” approved the Artificial Intelligence Act, a law designed to harmonise rules on AI.

European Union officials said the Act, passed on May 21, had the potential to establish a precedent for creating “a global standard for AI regulation”, adding it was a “milestone for the EU” and the first of its kind worldwide.

Mathieu Michel, Belgian secretary of state for digitalisation, said: “With the AI act, Europe emphasises the importance of trust, transparency and accountability when dealing with new technologies while at the same time ensuring this fast-changing technology can flourish and boost European innovation.”

Following the Act’s passage, Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “Europe is speaking with one voice on AI,” adding: “And no, it’s not a cloned one.”

According to the French Secretary of State of Digital Affairs, the AI Act will “enable [the EU] to better regulate artificial intelligence in the future, while preserving innovation.”

The new law categorises different types of artificial intelligence according to risk levels ranging from normal to no risk, limited risk and high risk.

An AI system deemed of limited risk would be under lighter transparency obligations, while high-risk AI systems would be subject to strict requirements and obligations in order to be allowed access to the EU market.

The act also includes partial bans on AI-powered predictive policing based on profiling, as well as the use of biometric data to categorise people according to specific categories such as race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Systems using “cognitive behavioural manipulation” and “social scoring” will also be banned from the EU.

The bloc has established various governing bodies with diverse powers to enforce the common AI rules throughout the EU, including an AI Office within the European Commission, a scientific panel of independent experts, an AI Board with Member States’ representatives and an advisory forum for stakeholders.

Not everyone is happy about the AI act, with human rights NGO, Amnesty International, having been a vocal critic of the legislation.

Mher Hakobyan, Amnesty International’s Advocacy Advisor on Artificial Intelligence said on March 13 that “while EU policymakers are hailing the AI Act as a global paragon for AI regulation, the legislation fails to take basic human rights principles on board”.

Others have warned that the rules could render the EU less competitive on the global stage, with such fears previously prompting Germany and France to oppose the rules before being cajoled by the European Commission into coming onside.