European Powerhouses Germany, France, and Italy Set Course for AI Regulation

November 21, 2023

Germany, France, and Italy have reached an accord on the future regulatory approach to artificial intelligence (AI).
European Commissioner in charge of the Internal Market Thierry Breton (R) and Executive Vice-President of the European Commission with responsibility for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager (L) give a press conference on Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the European Commission in Brussels. Photo by Anadolu Images

In a groundbreaking move, Germany, France, and Italy have reached an accord on the future regulatory approach to artificial intelligence (AI), as per a joint document reviewed by Reuters. This consensus is a pivotal moment that is likely to hasten the ongoing policy discussions at the European Union level regarding AI governance.

The joint paper delineates a framework emphasizing “mandatory self-regulation through codes of conduct” specific to foundational AI models. These models, which are critical to generating diverse AI outputs, will now be subject to a new regulatory regime that focuses on their application rather than on the technology per se.

Amidst active dialogue among the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the EU Council, this tri-nation agreement marks a significant stride towards a unified EU stance on AI. The document outlines the introduction of “model cards” — detailed descriptions provided by developers that clarify a machine learning model’s capabilities and limitations, rooted in the best practices of the AI development community.

An AI governance body

A novel feature of the proposed regulatory framework is the establishment of an AI governance body. Tasked with formulating guidelines and ensuring compliance with model card standards, this body will play a crucial role in overseeing the responsible deployment of AI technologies.

In a move supportive of innovation, the agreement initially recommends against the immediate imposition of sanctions. However, it does propose the eventual creation of a sanctions mechanism to address persistent violations of the established code of conduct.

Germany’s Economy Ministry, alongside the Ministry of Digital Affairs, has taken a leadership role in the discussions, advocating for regulatory measures that focus on AI’s application rather than the underlying technology itself. Digital Affairs Minister Volker Wissing lauded the agreement, stressing the importance of regulating AI applications to ensure Europe’s competitiveness in the global AI market.

Delicate balance needed

Economic Affairs State Secretary Franziska Brantner expressed the delicate balance needed between capitalizing on AI’s potential and curtailing its risks, especially in an area that is still navigating uncharted legal territory.

This trilateral consensus comes at a critical juncture as global governments increasingly prioritize AI, with Britain hosting its inaugural AI safety summit just last month. Germany is also set to host a digital summit in the city of Jena, which is expected to gather political, business, and academic thought leaders to further delve into AI and its broader implications.

The agreement will likely influence upcoming discussions when German and Italian officials meet in Berlin for talks later this week, with AI regulation undoubtedly a key agenda item. The collaborative stance of Germany, France, and Italy signifies a concerted effort to steer AI development in a direction that is innovative yet ethically sound and well-regulated.

Sources: Reuters and CNBC

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