Tuesday 16th May, 2023 - Bruce Sterling

1.1.Reasons for and objectives of the proposal

This explanatory memorandum accompanies the proposal for a Regulation laying down harmonised rules on artificial intelligence (Artificial Intelligence Act). Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a fast evolving family of technologies that can bring a wide array of economic and societal benefits across the entire spectrum of industries and social activities. By improving prediction, optimising operations and resource allocation, and personalising service delivery, the use of artificial intelligence can support socially and environmentally beneficial outcomes and provide key competitive advantages to companies and the European economy.

Such action is especially needed in high-impact sectors, including climate change, environment and health, the public sector, finance, mobility, home affairs and agriculture. However, the same elements and techniques that power the socio-economic benefits of AI can also bring about new risks or negative consequences for individuals or the society. In light of the speed of technological change and possible challenges, the EU is committed to strive for a balanced approach. It is in the Union interest to preserve the EU’s technological leadership and to ensure that Europeans can benefit from new technologies developed and functioning according to Union values, fundamental rights and principles.

This proposal delivers on the political commitment by President von der Leyen, who announced in her political guidelines for the 2019-2024 Commission “A Union that strives for more” 1 , that the Commission would put forward legislation for a coordinated European approach on the human and ethical implications of AI. Following on that announcement, on 19 February 2020 the Commission published the White Paper on AI – A European approach to excellence and trust

2 . The White Paper sets out policy options on how to achieve the twin objective of promoting the uptake of AI and of addressing the risks associated with certain uses of such technology. This proposal aims to implement the second objective for the development of an ecosystem of trust by proposing a legal framework for trustworthy AI. The proposal is based on EU values and fundamental rights and aims to give people and other users the confidence to embrace AI-based solutions, while encouraging businesses to develop them. AI should be a tool for people and be a force for good in society with the ultimate aim of increasing human well-being. Rules for AI available in the Union market or otherwise affecting people in the Union should therefore be human centric, so that people can trust that the technology is used in a way that is safe and compliant with the law, including the respect of fundamental rights. Following the publication of the White Paper, the Commission launched a broad stakeholder consultation, which was met with a great interest by a large number of stakeholders who were largely supportive of regulatory intervention to address the challenges and concerns raised by the increasing use of AI.

The proposal also responds to explicit requests from the European Parliament (EP) and the European Council, which have repeatedly expressed calls for legislative action to ensure a well-functioning internal market for artificial intelligence systems (‘AI systems’) where both benefits and risks of AI are adequately addressed at Union level. It supports the objective of the Union being a global leader in the development of secure, trustworthy and ethical artificial intelligence as stated by the European Council 3 and ensures the protection of ethical principles as specifically requested by the European Parliament 4 .

In 2017, the European Council called for a ‘sense of urgency to address emerging trends’ including ‘issues such as artificial intelligence …, while at the same time ensuring a high level of data protection, digital rights and ethical standards’ 5 . In its 2019 Conclusions on the Coordinated Plan on the development and use of artificial intelligence Made in Europe 6 , the Council further highlighted the importance of ensuring that European citizens’ rights are fully respected and called for a review of the existing relevant legislation to make it fit for purpose for the new opportunities and challenges raised by AI. The European Council has also called for a clear determination of the AI applications that should be considered high-risk 7 .

The most recent Conclusions from 21 October 2020 further called for addressing the opacity, complexity, bias, a certain degree of unpredictability and partially autonomous behaviour of certain AI systems, to ensure their compatibility with fundamental rights and to facilitate the enforcement of legal rules 8 .
The European Parliament has also undertaken a considerable amount of work in the area of AI. In October 2020, it adopted a number of resolutions related to AI, including on ethics 9 , liability 10 and copyright 11 . In 2021, those were followed by resolutions on AI in criminal matters 12 and in education, culture and the audio-visual sector 13 . The EP Resolution on a Framework of Ethical Aspects of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Related Technologies specifically recommends to the Commission to propose legislative action to harness the opportunities and benefits of AI, but also to ensure protection of ethical principles. The resolution includes a text of the legislative proposal for a regulation on ethical principles for the development, deployment and use of AI, robotics and related technologies. In accordance with the political commitment made by President von der Leyen in her Political Guidelines as regards resolutions adopted by the European Parliament under Article 225 TFEU, this proposal takes into account the aforementioned resolution of the European Parliament in full respect of proportionality, subsidiarity and better law making principles.

Against this political context, the Commission puts forward the proposed regulatory framework on Artificial Intelligence with the following specific objectives…