Germany, Italy and France have reached an agreement on how AI should be regulated, according to a joint paper seen by Reuters, which is expected to accelerate negotiations at the European level.
The three governments support commitments that are voluntary, but binding on small and large AI providers in the European Union that sign up to them.
The European Commission, the European Parliament, and the EU Council are negotiating how the bloc should position itself.
In June, the European Parliament presented its AI Act designed to contain the risks of AI applications and avoid discriminatory effects, while harnessing the innovative power of AI.
On Friday, MEPs walked out of a meeting with member state representatives after reaching a deadlock over the proposed approach to foundation models, according to Eurativ.
France, Germany, and Italy were among the larger member states pushing against regulation, a move which threatened to derail efforts to get the legislation passed in this session of the European Parliament altogether.
The German government is hosting a digital summit in Jena, in the state of Thuringia, on Monday and Tuesday that will bring together representatives from politics, business, and science.
Issues surrounding AI will also be on the agenda when the German and Italian governments hold talks in Berlin on Wednesday.
What is the European Union (EU) Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act?
As part of its digital strategy, the EU wants to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure better conditions for the development and use of this innovative technology.
AI can create many benefits, such as better healthcare; safer and cleaner transport; more efficient manufacturing; and cheaper and more sustainable energy.
In April 2021, the European Commission proposed the first EU regulatory framework for AI. It says that AI systems that can be used in different applications are analysed and classified according to the risk they pose to users.
The different risk levels will mean more or less regulation. Once approved, these will be the world’s first rules on AI.
EU’s Parliament is to make sure that AI systems used in the EU are safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory and environmentally friendly. AI systems should be overseen by people, rather than by automation, to prevent harmful outcomes.
Parliament also wants to establish a technology-neutral, uniform definition for AI that could be applied to future AI systems.
Germany, Italy and France : 3 nations and 3 different approaches to national AI strategies
About France’s strategies and approach
France has shown considerable interest in AI in recent years. The country has made the technology a priority at the highest level, with President Emmanuel Macron discussing the topic at length in a widely read Wired interview in 2018 (two years after Barack Obama, then US president, participated in a similar interview with the magazine).
While it was commissioned by the government, the French strategy was written by a team led by Cédric Villani, one of France’s AI stars and a member of parliament for La République en Marche! As a result, the strategy is more ambitious than a governmental or ministerial publication would have been.
To achieve this, it also advocates for “hefty salary top-ups” and a considerable reduction in related administrative tasks in research institutions and universities. The strategy also discusses AI’s impact on the labour market, the development of ecological AI, and ethics and diversity issues in AI. It recommends that France create a digital technology and AI ethics committee that is open to society and promotes public education.
The strategy has a generally upbeat tone; while it does not neglect the dangers of AI, it calls it “one of the most fascinating scientific endeavors of our time” and notes that “in recent years, artificial intelligence has entered a new era, which gives rise to many hopes”.
Villani, in his foreword to the strategy, speaks about his personal enthusiasm for AI and expresses its authors’ conviction that “France – and Europe as a whole – must act synergistically, with confidence and determination, to become part of the emerging AI revolution”.
For Germany, last year was also important. Having been criticised as slow to address AI issues, the German authorities noticeably sped up their activities in the area in 2018. In June, the Bundestag put together the Enquete-Kommission, a committee of enquiry of MPs and experts. The following month, the government published the “cornerstones of its AI strategy”; in August, it created a digital council to advise it.
This was followed by the publication of the German AI strategy in November. Throughout the year, the government, ministries, and other private and public actors held public conferences, online consultations, and expert hearings on AI.
The document views AI primarily through an economic lens. It concentrates on preserving the strength of German industry – particularly small to medium-sized companies, the famous Mittelstand– by ensuring that AI will not allow other countries to overtake Germany economically. The government’s hope is that AI will help the Mittelstand continue to manufacture world-leading products.
The strategy also mentions AI’s impact on the climate, public administration, and the health sector. The German government sees “ethical and legal requirements” as an integral part, and the future “trademark”, of AI made in Germany. In this regard, Berlin follows the European Commission’s declared aim for Europe to become a leader in ethical AI.
Although it has not yet published a national AI strategy, Italy made its first attempts to think about new technological challenges more broadly in its digital agenda for 2008, the “Digital Growth Strategy 2014-2020”, and its plan for implementing high-speed broadband. Although they do not concentrate on AI, these documents provide useful insights into the country’s attitude towards technological disruption.
Judging by the Italian documents, the Italian approach to AI is likely to focus on education and training, public services, and the economy. The government has already paid special attention to AI in public services. A white paper entitled “Artificial Intelligence: At the Service of Citizens” – published in March 2018, and scheduled to be updated every three years – is the most significant AI-related document the Italian government has produced thus far.
Written by an AI task force within the Agency for Digital Italy (a technical body within the Presidency of the Council of Ministers tasked with ensuring the implementation of the objectives laid out in the EU’s “Digital Agenda for Europe”), the paper lays out the challenges of integrating AI into government services.