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Ursula Von der Leyen's State of the Union Address: A Digital Policy Roadmap for Europe

In her annual State of the Union speech, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen underlined the European Union's commitment to shape a sustainable and inclusive digital future. Titled "Answering the Call of History," the speech covered a wide array of topics, but our focus here is on the significant digital policy initiatives she outlined.

AI Development and the AI Act: Von der Leyen emphasized the importance of responsible artificial intelligence (AI) development. She pointed at the European AI Act as the world's first comprehensive pro-innovation AI law, and “already a blueprint for the whole world”. This groundbreaking legislation sets the tone for AI governance globally, prioritizing human-centric, transparent, and responsible AI development.

“Our number one priority is to ensure AI develops in a human-centric, transparent and responsible way”, she said.

Von der Leyen called for a collaborative approach to AI governance. She proposed the establishment of a global body, akin to the IPCC for climate, bringing together scientists, tech companies, and independent experts. This body would provide insights into AI's risks and benefits for humanity, ensuring a coordinated response.

DMA and DSA: Looking at the year behind us, Von der Leyen acknowledged the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA) as “historic achievements” for Europe's strengthened digital policy. In the words of the President of the Commission, these instruments are creating a safer digital space, protecting fundamental rights, and establishing clear responsibilities for big tech companies.

Data, Privacy, and Human Rights: While not delving deeply into these topics, Von der Leyen reiterated Europe's commitment to safeguarding data, privacy, and human rights in the digital age. Also in this case, the DMA and DSA set a precedent for global digital regulation and are instrumental in achieving these objectives by imposing stricter rules on data handling and ensuring transparency in online platforms.

Ursula Von der Leyen's State of the Union address sends a clear message: Europe is determined to lead the way in shaping the digital landscape responsibly. With groundbreaking legislation like the AI Act and the ongoing efforts to establish global AI governance, Europe is poised to set the standard for digital policies worldwide. The DMA and DSA further underscore Europe's commitment to fostering a safe and fair digital environment for all its citizens.


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