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The European Commission presents its long-awaited ambitions for our digital future

After intense speculation and much anticipation, last week the European Commission unveiled the initial three building blocks which will contribute to forging a Europe fit for the digital age: A Communication: Shaping Europe's Digital Future; A White Paper on Artificial Intelligence: a European approach to excellence and trust and A Communication: A European strategy for data.

In a press conference on Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed that the substance within the three documents lay the foundations for the EU’s ambition to create a single market for digital services, optimize its access to data and to fully grasp the opportunities Artificial Intelligence is providing.

Following Von der Leyen’s press statement, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton and Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager spoke in more detail about the papers:

Digital Strategy

Every citizen must reap the benefits digitization is offering, that was how Vestager introduced the digital strategy. “Technology should work for the people and not the other way around” and “companies of all sizes should compete on equal terms” were some of her comments acknowledging her stance on the accessibility for everyone to digital services and the way she wants to continue ensuring fair competition fighting against the market power held by a few.

White Paper on AI

Excellence and Trust. Those are the building blocks of the EU’s approach to regulating artificial intelligence. Without public and private sector partnership and trust by citizens, Europe will not reap the benefits of AI.

The Commissioners stressed the importance of regulating high-risk AI and preventing bias to make citizens feel comfortable using products featuring AI techniques. According to President von der Leyen: “Europe is already leading in AI but we are aware of the changes in the landscape and have to do more.” Furthermore, Executive Vice-President Vestager emphasised the need for an appropriate level of human oversight, preferably in the shape of a European governance structure. Lastly, significantly increasing the number of skilled workers through education on AI is deemed crucial to “win the battle.”

Data Strategy

“We cannot speak about AI without speaking about data” was at the very core of Commissioner Breton's presentation of the Data Strategy. He emphasised the necessity to create a single market for data in which data can flow freely within the EU enabling researchers, businesses and public administrations to access this data and facilitate innovation. “The battle for industrial data starts now and Europe will be the main battlefield because we have the strongest and largest industrial base where data comes from”, the Frenchmen added.

Elaborating on the data strategy, Breton pointed to a regulatory framework with rules on data access, sharing and use, a European industrial cloud platform to run and store the data in a safe manner and action aimed at building specific sector data spaces (e.g. industry, green deal, mobility, health).

In the meantime, France and Germany have agreed on the way forward regarding digital policy and released a joint statement saying they were very pleased digital issues were a priority for the European Commission highlighting their satisfaction the Commission is “aiming in particular to promote a European data strategy."

The Swedish government welcomed the Commission’s initiatives, but Anders Ygeman, Sweden’s minister for energy and digitalization made clear his wish for the Commission to go further in regulating content on platforms: “The current EU rules of liability are not enough to remove and keep illegal material on the internet platforms. Owners’ responsibility to keep their platforms free of hatred, threats and other criminal content should be regulated by law.”


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