Home RegionsEurope EU Should Be Building Connections, Not Walls, As Part of Its Ambitious Digital Agenda

EU Should Be Building Connections, Not Walls, As Part of Its Ambitious Digital Agenda

by Eline Chivot

BRUSSELS—In response to the European Commission’s unveiling of a data strategy and a white paper on artificial intelligence (AI), the Center for Data Innovation released the following statement from Brussels-based Senior Policy Analyst Eline Chivot:

Today’s announcements show that the EU is committed to pursuing an ambitious digital agenda designed to maximize European success in the data economy. Unfortunately, the EU has chosen the right goal but the wrong tactics. Key pillars of the Commission’s new plan suffer from fundamental flaws. Its strategy to establish “European data spaces”—a common digital environment with a shared set of technical and legal rules to facilitate data sharing within Europe—doubles down on policies like data localization, which would force companies to store and process data domestically, and other protectionist measures that would cut off foreign cloud providers out of fear they might encroach on Europe’s technological sovereignty.

In addition, the Commission’s call for a new legislative framework for artificial intelligence would impose additional regulatory costs on businesses using AI, which risks undermining the stated ambition for Europe to be a global leader in AI. As the white paper correctly notes, an extensive body of product safety and liability legislation already applies to AI. Calls for additional compliance mechanisms, governance structures, and labelling regimes are based on unjustified fears about AI that would be better addressed through industry-led standards and best practices.

It is a mistake to think that isolation and independence will put Europe on a stronger footing in the digital economy than coordination and cooperation, or that regulation is an appropriate substitute for innovation. Europe has much to gain from working together with its allies, including the United States, Canada, and Japan, to pursue joint initiatives in areas like artificial intelligence, open data, and the Internet of Things, and it should recalibrate its efforts to work with its allies and take a light-touch regulatory approach in the digital economy.

Prioritizing policy initiatives to expand the use of data and artificial intelligence is an important and worthwhile goal, and many of the proposals, such as expanding access to high-value data sets, investing in digital skills, and improving data security, will strengthen European competitiveness. The Commission should build on these parts of its plan while scaling back the more protectionist and interventionist measures.

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