On 2 February 2024, the EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act was unanimously approved by the Council of EU Ministers.
This is a major step taken by the EU, noting that the AI Act has previously been plagued by delays, setbacks and purportedly proposals for significant changes in direction. Notably, concerns raised by Germany were recently addressed through a compromise, with related updates being made to the draft text of the AI Act. Other Member States have indicated that they retain certain reservations and will look to monitor how the AI Act’s implementation will proceed, however ultimately the representatives of all 27 Member States approved the proposed text.
The next steps in the process involve the European Parliament's approval, with two parliamentary committees set to vote on February 13. The full European Parliament plenary vote is anticipated in April. Upon adoption, the AI Act will enter into force 20 days after publication in the official journal, with different application dates implemented for prohibited AI systems, high-risk AI systems, and other systems.
The European Commission is expected to play a crucial role in leading an anticipated raft of secondary legislation and establishing an AI Office. As part of the AI Act's implementation, an expert group will be formed to advise and assist the European Commission in avoiding overlaps with other EU regulations.
Despite potential challenges in the form of amendments proposed by pro-privacy lawmakers during the European Parliament approval process, confidence remains high that the AI Act will pass with no significant changes.
As the EU now seems to be the first of the major blocs to issue rules to regulate AI, the AI Act may potentially serve as a significant influence on the direction of travel for AI regulation globally.
Our previous blog post on this subject can be accessed here.