On February 19, 2020, the European Commission (the “Commission”) released a suite of documents including its White Paper on Artificial Intelligence (“AI”), entitled “a European approach to excellence and trust.” In addition, the Commission published two communications—its European strategy for data and a Digital Strategy document entitled “Shaping Europe’s Digital Future.”

In the Commission’s press release, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stated: “Today we are presenting our ambition to shape Europe’s digital future. It covers everything from cybersecurity to critical infrastructures, digital education to skills, democracy to media. I want . . . digital Europe [to] reflect[] the best of Europe—open, fair, diverse, democratic and confident.”

The Digital Strategy paper published by the Commission sets out how it intends to position Europe as a “trendsetter” with respect to data, specifically via three key objectives relating to digital technologies over the next five years:

  • Technology that works for people. The focuses under this objective are on technology that makes a difference in the everyday lives of individuals and on streamlining collaboration and interoperability with respect to data.
  • A fair and competitive economy. This objective focuses on creating a frictionless single market with competition on equal terms and a respect for the rights of consumers.
  • An open, democratic and sustainable society. The aim here is to create a trustworthy environment with empowered citizens, enhancing democratic values and contributing to a sustainable economy.

The Commission’s White Paper on AI presents its vision for a framework for trustworthy AI and sets out the risks presented by the development of AI, including risks to fundamental rights, such as privacy and non-discrimination. It also sets out potential adjustments and enhancements that could be made to existing EU legislation in order to address the specific risks created by AI systems. The White Paper also discusses the types of requirements that will need to be considered when designing a future regulatory framework for AI, and how such a regulatory framework would be enforced and governed.

The White Paper is open for public consultation until May 19, 2020.

The Commission’s European strategy for data outlines the policy measures and investments needed for the EU to compete in the global, digital market while preserving its high standards of privacy and security. The communication points to fragmentation and market imbalances as potential obstacles. Yet it also sets out how it intends to create a “true European data space” by establishing a regulatory framework for data governance, access and reuse between businesses, between businesses and government, and within administrations. The communication also describes how the Commission intends to support the development of systems and infrastructure that enable EU businesses to take advantage of opportunities in the data economy, and how it intends to launch sectoral specific actions.

The communication states, “If the EU is to acquire a leading role in the data economy, it has to act now and tackle, in a concerted manner, issues ranging from connectivity to processing and storage of data, computing power and cybersecurity.”