For too long, the European Union has ignored many potential opportunities and threats created by artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies. By contrast, Russia and China have spent decades investing in technology development and production. The spread of disinformation, the dark web, cyberattacks, mass hacking and autonomous weapons systems has given Russian President Vladimir Putin and other authoritarians a new arsenal of weapons that they often use in a sole purpose: to destabilize the West.
As Russia escalates its war against Ukraine and escalates its aggression against the West, the potential vulnerabilities of Europeans to technological threats are laid bare. History teaches that the race to replace key technologies – swords with guns, cannons with machine guns, horses with chariots – can be decisive. If the Axis powers had developed nuclear weapons before the Allies, World War II would have ended very differently.
In the modern era, warning signs of Europeans’ technological vulnerabilities have long since emerged. Automakers delayed and stopped production due to a lack of computer chips. Countries that export vital raw materials for the production of advanced technologies are under the strong influence of Chinese and Russian investments. Government institutions in Europe have been repeatedly hacked and disabled. And too many voters now believe in the planted, promoted and manipulated half-truths they read on social media. While digital progress has brought unimaginable achievements and opportunities, it has also brought the potential of darkness.
If the EU and the United States lose the race to obtain the economic, security and social benefits of AI and other advanced technologies, there will be a fundamental change in the world order. Quantum computers would overtake the greatest minds, semiconductor supply chains would collapse, cyberattacks would cripple states and control enemy satellites – it would be a brave new world. However, with sufficient political support for European innovators, it will not be too late to avoid this fate.
To this end, Europeans should immediately take the following steps. First, they should become world leaders not only on issues such as data protection, but also on those such as digital security and digital innovation. Europe’s digital agenda should transcend individual laws and agreements to extend to all policy areas. Europeans need to speak frankly about digital sovereignty and its importance. Digital sovereignty was never meant to be about building a wall around European digital services or creating a Europe Wide Web. Instead, it is about Europeans taking their digital destiny into their own hands. Global cooperation does not necessarily mean global dependence. Semiconductors and cloud computing must not become the new Russian oil.
Second, the EU needs an AI law that reflects its digital ambitions and values. In my draft report on AI law, I emphasize the need to balance innovation and effort to win the most important technological battle in history with the protection of values and beliefs. Europeans. It would be counterproductive for the EU to stifle Europeans’ ability to innovate through excessive regulation. If the Syndicate allows AI development to run wild, it could create an uncontrollable monster.
Europe must support the technological innovation of start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises. And it should find better ways to include them in the development of the AI industry – for example, through their contribution to the creation of an AI code of conduct or the development of standards. The inclusion of regulatory sandboxes in this act is welcome, but the EU needs to adopt a more ambitious and coherent approach to AI that has clear and practical benefits for start-ups.
The AI law should set strong but realistic standards for high-risk activities, encourage the adoption of AI systems, and be future-proof through improved links to developments in technology, industry, and technology. the power of technology. The EU should seek to align its definition of AI with that of institutions such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and should rely on platforms such as the Trade and Technology Council to s Engage in deeper cooperation with its democratic allies. Such an approach would boost confidence in the sector, attract foreign investment and enable the union to catch up with its rivals.
Finally, the Europeans must carefully examine what is already on the negotiating table. This means the rapid adoption of the second European directive on the security of networks and information systems, which will replace its poorly implemented predecessor. Europeans should strengthen and increase the resources made available to the EU Agency for Cybersecurity and to Europol’s Cybercrime Centre. They should develop the founding principles of the Council of Europe’s Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. And the European Commission must comprehensively map all proposals for the EU’s digital agenda. Rather than adopting a piecemeal approach to implementation, the EU must provide strong support to ensure businesses and public administrations fully understand how to track and optimize these regulatory requirements.
Russia’s all-out war on Ukraine has brought about some of the most sweeping changes in decades in the policies of the EU and its member states. The process must extend to the digital sphere. This political moment should not generate a fleeting act of unity during a crisis, but a mission statement and a long-term vision for Europe. Europeans can only secure their own future if they help to protect the future of others. The EU must not become a regulatory digital fortress. Instead, he should become a global technology leader among democratic powers – a leader who protects the future security and prosperity of Europeans.
Eva Maydell is a member of the European Parliament; rapporteur for the IA law in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy; vice-president of the delegation for relations with Japan and a member of the ECFR Council.
The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take a collective position. ECFR publications represent the views of its individual authors only.