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23. May 2024

THE AI OFFICE OF THE EU IS COMING: IDEA GOOD, IMPLEMENTATION – WELL …

Author: Alain Blaes, founder and managing director of PR-COM, a Munich-based communications agency specializing in high-tech

The AI Act has been passed and, after the EU Parliament, the individual states have also approved the new regulations. Now it’s time for practical implementation, but time is running out. The AI Act is due to be published in the Official Journal of the EU shortly, and will come into force 20 days later. Just six months later, companies will have to comply with the first requirements, and the full set of regulations will finally apply from summer 2026.

The EU’s AI Office will play a key role in this. According to the official interpretation, it will be the central point of contact for shaping AI regulation. So far, so good – however, key issues are currently unresolved, which is leading to a great deal of uncertainty in the economy.

Uncertainty no. 1: Open leadership role. The EU Commission has already started to set up the AI Office. However, it is still unclear who will be in charge. Filling this leadership position is by no means trivial, as he or she will determine the future direction. For example, when it comes to developing guidelines for general purpose AI, which includes chatbots, for example. Around 60 employees currently work in the two responsible departments – almost without direction, according to parliamentary circles.

Uncertainty no. 2: Political intrigue. A month ago, German MEPs wrote a letter to the Commission complaining about opaque recruitment procedures. They wanted to know who is involved in the search for the best candidate “for one of the most important tasks in the implementation of the AI law” and how. The MEPs have still not received an answer. Many observers therefore fear that the appointment of the head of the AI Office will become a game of political intrigue – and that professional expertise will take a back seat.

Uncertainty no. 3: Excessive bureaucracy. And the classic at the end. A new set of EU regulations always entails a certain amount of bureaucracy. Smaller AI providers in particular could be overwhelmed by this. At the same time, all requirements should be designed to be practicable. Otherwise, there is a risk of what nobody wants: a disadvantage compared to the big players on the market, above all from the USA and China. Without sufficient room for innovation, the use of local AI applications in business, administration and society will make little progress. At the same time, the implementation of the AI Act must not become a matter of national interpretation, as happened with the GDPR. This would result in a patchwork of individual regulations that would weaken the EU’s position. If Europe wants to have a chance of establishing a lead market for safe AI, it must speak with ONE voice.