On 19 February, the EU Commission published a communication on shaping Europe’s digital future ('the communication') together with a white paper on artificial intelligence (AI) and a European strategy for data. The Commission is seeking feedback from business on its AI and data proposals.

The communication sets out the EU’s digital ambition for the next five years, and the papers on AI and data are two of the three immediate flagship initiatives; the Digital Services Act package, which will tackle platform-related issues, will be adopted by the end of this year.

AI proposals 

While the new Commission had initially announced that it would propose an EU legislative framework on AI within its first 100 days, this goal was scaled back and instead the Commission has launched a stakeholder dialogue

Interested stakeholders have until 19 May to give feedback on some of the suggested approaches. For example, the Commission proposes a distinction between ‘high risk’ and ‘low risk’ AI applications. This would be assessed by reference to:

  • business sector – healthcare, transport and energy would be high risk; and 
  • the level of 'impact on the affected parties'. 

High-risk applications – including those used for remote biometric identification – would be subject to legal requirements like extensive record keeping and human oversight. These could form part of a new EU legal framework for AI, which would be accompanied by changes to EU safety and liability laws.

In addition, for AI products and applications entering the EU single market, the Commission proposes a conformity assessment and an EU governance structure; this would 'play a key role in facilitating the implementation of the legal framework', as well as act as a 'forum for regular exchange of information and best practice'.

Listen to our podcast containing more detail on the AI white paper.

Data proposals 

The Commission’s proposed data strategy is also open to stakeholder feedback. It aims to 'enable the EU to become the most attractive, most secure and most dynamic data-agile economy in the world'. 

The Commission has identified a number of problems that the EU, national governments and companies face, such as availability of data, imbalances in market power relating to access to and use of data, and data interoperability.

The Commission’s proposed strategy includes:

  • creating common European data spaces, particularly in nine sectors (eg healthcare, transport and financial services); and
  • legislative action to facilitate business-to-business and business-to-government data-sharing, including possible amendments to the EU’s intellectual property framework.

The Commission also plans to mobilise funding for the creation of federated cloud infrastructures.

Next steps 

As well as its AI and data proposals, the communication contains a number of interesting legislative and non-legislative initiatives for different aspects of the digital economy. 

Towards the end of this year, we expect the Commission to publish an action plan to support the audiovisual and media sectors. 5G, as well as 6G, will remain high on the agenda, with initiatives planned on radio spectrum policy and connected and automated mobility. 

The Commission will also address 'labour conditions of platform workers' and the digital skills gap, test whether EU competition rules are fit for the digital age, and investigate 'new and emerging markets that are shaping our economy and society'. Finally, at the beginning of next year, the Commission will set out its strategy for global digital co-operation.

The communication touches on various sectors, business models and areas of law, and we will be publishing more content soon from around our network.

If you’d like to find out more about how the Commission’s initiatives might affect your business, please contact us.