European Council Approves Landmark AI Legislation

Written by Jeremy Werner

Jeremy is an experienced journalists, skilled communicator, and constant learner with a passion for storytelling and a track record of crafting compelling narratives. He has a diverse background in broadcast journalism, AI, public relations, data science, and social media management.
Posted on 05/21/2024
In News

On May 21, the European Council approved the Artificial Intelligence Act, also known as the EU AI Act, a groundbreaking law designed to harmonize AI regulations across the European Union. This landmark legislation, the first of its kind globally, adopts a risk-based approach to AI regulation, setting stricter rules for higher-risk AI systems to safeguard societal welfare. By doing so, the EU aims to set a global standard for AI regulation, emphasizing trust, transparency, and accountability.


The AI Act seeks to foster the development and adoption of safe and trustworthy AI systems within the EU’s single market, benefiting both private and public sectors. It also aims to protect the fundamental rights of EU citizens while stimulating investment and innovation in AI across Europe. The legislation applies exclusively to areas governed by EU law, with exemptions for military, defense, and research purposes.


The adoption of the AI Act represents a significant milestone for the European Union. Mathieu Michel, Belgian Secretary of State for Digitization, praised the legislation, noting its importance in addressing global technological challenges while creating opportunities for societal and economic advancement. Michel emphasized that the AI Act underscores the need for trust and transparency in handling emerging technologies, ensuring that innovation can thrive in a regulated environment.


The AI Act categorizes AI systems based on their risk levels. Low-risk AI systems will face minimal transparency obligations, while high-risk AI systems must meet stringent requirements to access the EU market. Certain AI practices, such as cognitive behavioral manipulation and social scoring, will be banned due to their unacceptable risks. Additionally, the use of AI for predictive policing based on profiling and systems that categorize individuals by biometric data, such as race, religion, or sexual orientation, is prohibited. The legislation also addresses general-purpose AI (GPAI) models. GPAI models that do not pose systemic risks will have to adhere to limited transparency requirements, while those with systemic risks will be subject to more stringent regulations.


To ensure proper enforcement of the AI Act, several governing bodies will be established. An AI Office within the European Commission will oversee the enforcement of the rules. A scientific panel of independent experts will support these activities, and an AI Board comprising member states’ representatives will advise on the consistent application of the law. Additionally, an advisory forum will provide technical expertise to the AI Board and the Commission.


Infringements of the AI Act will result in fines based on a percentage of the offending company’s global annual turnover or a predetermined amount, whichever is higher. SMEs and startups will face proportional administrative fines. Before deploying high-risk AI systems, entities providing public services must assess the fundamental rights impact. Increased transparency is mandated for the development and use of high-risk AI systems, with certain users required to register in the EU database for high-risk AI systems and inform individuals when emotion recognition systems are in use.


The AI Act promotes an innovation-friendly legal framework, encouraging evidence-based regulatory learning. The law includes provisions for AI regulatory sandboxes, allowing for the controlled development, testing, and validation of innovative AI systems in real-world conditions.


Following approval, the AI Act will be signed by the presidents of the European Parliament and the Council, then published in the EU’s Official Journal. It will enter into force 20 days after publication and become applicable two years later, with exceptions for specific provisions. The AI Act is a crucial component of the EU’s policy to advance safe and lawful AI across its single market. The proposal was submitted by Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, in April 2021. European Parliament rapporteurs Brando Benifei and Dragoş Tudorache facilitated a provisional agreement on December 8, 2023, paving the way for the AI Act’s adoption.



If you’re wondering how the EU AI Act, or any other AI regulations and laws worldwide could impact you and your business, don’t hesitate to reach out to BABL AI. Their Audit Experts can address your concerns and questions while offering valuable insights.

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