Artificial Intelligence fit for Europe. The VideoTalk with Werner Stengg (Vestager cabinet)


“Artificial Intelligence Fit for Europe. Building Trust in Times of Emergency”. This is the title of the first Brussels VideoTalk held on April 7. After a brief introduction by the President of the Institute for Competitiveness (I-Com), Stefano da Empoli, it was the turn of the guest speaker, Mr. Werner Stengg, member of the Cabinet of the Executive Vice-President for ‘Europe Fit for the Digital Age’ Margrethe Vestager, European Commission.

The VideoTalk is the new interactive online event format recently launched by I-Com, designed to cope with the current emergency and to allow I-Com to continue its activities. Following the line of our usual Power Breakfasts, VideoTalks host a high-level speaker from EU Institutions and are open to a restricted number of selected participants.

The VideoTalk has been the opportunity to discuss the new digital package published by the European Commission on 19 February 2020, with a particular focus on the White Paper Artificial Intelligence: a European Approach to Excellence and Trust. As is known, the digital package also includes the overall strategy, Shaping Europe’s Digital Future, the strategy on data, A European Strategy for Data, and two reports (B2G Expert Group Report: Towards a European Strategy on business-to-government data sharing for the public interest and the Commission Report on Safety and Liability Implications of AI, the Internet of Things and Robotics).

According to some stakeholders, the AI regulatory heavy-handed approach, envisaged by the white paper, would further diminish the chance for the EU to bridge the investment gap with the US and China. This and other issues were raised during the debate – Could the reliance on European data paradoxically set a limit on the global reach of EU AI players? And how realistic is the perspective of wide data sharing agreements across European industry? When could mandatory data access be envisaged and under which circumstances?

Furthermore, a major stress was placed on competitiveness, regarding several aspects. For instance, should US and China digital companies be seen more as potential partners that could help European digitalization, or as competitors to defeat or at least hold back the EU market? An additional point of reflection concerned the money needed to implement the Digital Strategy and the AI White Paper and, in particular, whether the budget allocated in the next MFF is appropriate and proportionate for the achievement of the targets identified by the Commission.

The event also offered the opportunity to discuss how the European Union is facing the coronavirus challenge and how the ongoing emergency will impact the Commission’s priorities, including those related to the new digital strategy. In this regard, the discussion focused on how the COVID-19 emergency will affect the EC digital roadmap, including AI and data strategy implementation.

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