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Furt'Her

New EU Parliament & Digital Innovation

As the new European Parliament takes the helm, it faces a myriad of complex issues. Among these, one stands out as particularly daunting: How can Europe rekindle its technological prowess and become a leader in productivity and innovation, rather than just regulation?

This article delves into the manifestos of the main political groups that constitute the new Parliament, focusing on their stance on innovation, research, and emerging technologies. The Identity & Democracy (ID) Group is notably absent from this analysis, as they have not published any program on these matters.

While there is a semblance of alignment on strategic goals with regard to innovative topics, the actual fragmentation and politicization within the Parliament could pose significant challenges to consensus-building.

EPP

The EPP places innovation and research at the forefront of their agenda, proposing to double the EU research budget and set a 4% GDP spending target for R&D by 2030. Their vision is of a liberal, entrepreneurial, and competitive Europe. The EPP is keen on establishing a “Made in Europe 2030” strategic plan, inspired by the US model.

They advocate for the expansion of a European digital network for 5G and 6G and aspire for the EU to be a leading force in AI, “not just by containing it or hindering via over-regulation”. They believe AI can be leveraged to create quality jobs and improve citizens’ lives, while ensuring ethical standards and fundamental rights, such as privacy.

Other ideas include creating pilot line infrastructure for semiconductor (essential for electronic devices) innovations, better connecting scientific expertise and creating scientific centres of excellence such as a CERN for AI and an EU research-computing centre to simplify the exchange of data across Europe.

Worthwhile to note that EPP also suggests launching funding program to increase the number of women-led startups working on innovations like AI.

Socialists & Democrats (S&D)

The S&D group proposes an investment plan for a green and digital transition, aiming to foster innovation and job creation. They support the “Made in Europe” strategy and advocate for joint financing for projects of common interest in the EU, as well as Europe-wide digital connectivity with high-performance gigabit networks.

They emphasize digital skills and education, proposing new STEM programs in every school.

As for AI, S&D is more protective, prioritising clear liability rules governing AI and Machine Learning and giving possibility for people to seek redress in case their privacy rights are harmed. S&D is also very concrete about urging the European Commission to prepare a Directive to regulate the use of AI at the workplace to include safeguards against algorithmic management violating the rights and safety of employees. They also urge to promote equal participation of all genders in the debate on rules and ethics around AI tech.

Renew

Renew also puts a strong emphasis on boosting the business environment and Europe’s competitiveness. They suggests prioritizing public investments and cross-country cooperation in digital technologies.

In the area of AI, Renew thinks we should embrace its potential, but at the same time it should reflect “European-specific vision” as a “human-centric innovation” that prevents authoritarian practices and ensures fundamental rights are protected.

Renew also puts a lot of emphasis on the need to allocate funds to promote digital skills and enhance connectivity, especially in rural and remote areas, which could be done via public-private partnerships.

European Conservatives & Reformists (ECR)

ECR is specific about boosting investment in new technologies such as AI, 5G and 6G, quantum computing, etc. They realize the need for public spending for research and innovation, promoting and advocating for Horizon Europe and widening R&D actions. Among other things, ECR is concerned that “Europe risks falling behind in the global technology race”, including on AI.

Greens

The Greens predictably advocate for the legislation encouraging the reuse and recycling of digital devices and decreasing energy consumption related to data processing and cryptocurrencies.

They take quite a cautious stance on AI highlighting its dangers of mass surveillance and disinformation. They stand firm that “humans must remain in control of AI systems and that these systems respect human autonomy, dignity, and decision-making authority”. It would mean enforcing strict limits, like banning biometric mass surveillance, AI systems that recognize emotions, gender or sexual orientation, and AI-based predictive policing. It also needs to include strengthening non-discrimination and data protection laws to guarantee that AI systems do not discriminate against racialized communities. Cybersecurity efforts must be increased to prevent AI-based hacking attacks, with a special emphasis on protecting critical infrastructure.

Greens also advocate for transparency of AI systems and clear labeling for deepfakes and chatbots. Copyright legislation should be properly enforced in the context of AI models to fully protect content creators. They stand for “data dignity”, which means that data generated by human actions cannot be harvested for free by commercial AI developers. In the workplace, workers should always be able to disconnect from AI systems.

Left

The Left recognise the need for investment in innovation by suggesting to allocate 7 % of EU GDP for research, innovation and education.

As for AI, they suggest tackling challenges in a “socially just manner”. In their view, AI Act is insufficient as it focuses on market-based regulation and misses the essential issue: the need for transparency and accountability (democratic and societal control) of technological innovation with regard to its social and environmental impacts.

In conclusion, while there are some shared goals among the different political groups, the path to achieving them may be fraught with challenges due to the diverse views and political dynamics within the Parliament. It remains to be seen how these will play out in the coming years.

Written by Lorena Billi

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