Energy & Environment

The future of EU depends on digital and energy innovations

May 2024
By Editorial Staff

AI Act and Electricity Market Reform at the table of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council of May 21st, which Petra De Sutter, Belgian deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration, Public Enterprises, Telecommunication, and the Postal Services of Belgium, defined as “one of the most important meeting for the EU Digital future”.

This Council has had a stronger resonance as it approved some vital legislations for pursuing cybersecurity, digital transformation, artificial intelligence and electricity market.

Artificial Intelligence

The Artificial Intelligence Act (AI Act) is a regulation that aims to protect fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law and environmental sustainability from high-risk AI, while boosting innovation and establishing Europe as a leader in the field. The rapporteur of this regulation Brando Benifei (Italy, S&D) defines it as “a huge step forward if we really want to put consumers and people’s rights protection first. The core of the regulation is to mitigate risks, to create a classification of AI systems, providing different rules. Also, EU pillars are behind the AI Act, such as innovation and digitalisation”. The topic of AI was long discussed, as the regulation was presented in 2020 and finally approved just in 2024.

Today’s Council has unanimously approved the AI Act. The current view of the legislation follows a ‘risk-based’ approach, which means the higher the risk to cause harm to society, the stricter the rules. It is the first of its kind in the world and can set a global standard for AI regulation. The new legislation seeks to promote the creation and adoption of reliable and secure AI systems throughout the EU’s single market by both private and public sectors. Concurrently, it aims to uphold the fundamental rights of EU citizens and encourage investment and innovation in artificial intelligence across Europe.

What’s next?

It was the final step for the AI Act to enter into force. After the votes, they also debated on the implementation of the Act for the following steps. “EU needs to collaborate on a coherent approach on this digital rule book. Working together is crucial for this digital innovation”, claims Petra De Sutter at the press conference.

After being signed by the presidents of the European Parliament and of the Council, the legislative act will be published in the EU’s Official Journal in the coming days and enter into force twenty days after this publication. The new regulation will apply two years after its entry into force, with some exceptions for specific provisions. 

What else?

Not only artificial intelligence, but the Council also approved two sets of conclusions on the future of EU digital policy and the future of cybersecurity.

Regarding digital policies, the set of conclusions covers topics such as digital rules and governance, societal effects of digitalisation, digital and cutting-edge technologies, secure and resilient infrastructure across the EU, data strategy, digital skills, green and digital transition, digital government, and the international dimension of EU digital policy.

Ministers also concurred that the path forward should focus on proactive cybersecurity, particularly in relation to the new digital identity initiative, while addressing funding and skills shortages. They emphasized the importance of having a clear delineation of the roles and responsibilities of cybersecurity-related entities. Additionally, ministers highlighted the necessity of an active international policy to enhance the EU’s cooperation with third countries.

Moreover, one of the main approval was about the electricity market reform, an EU long-term response to the energy crisis experienced in 2022. Because of Russia’s invasion, citizens from EU had to face a deficiency in electricity resources. Therefore, the EU institutions responded with a reform for the high and volatile energy prices in 2022. As of today, the Council approved the EU’s electricity market design regulation and directive. Consumers will now have more stable and predictable energy prices while ensuring efficient market functioning and avoiding distortions of the internal market.

“Today marks an EU milestone towards a carbon-free and greener future for all. With the adoption of the electricity market reform, we are empowering consumers, ensuring security of supply, and paving the way for a more stable, predictable, and sustainable energy market”, claims Tinne Van der Straeten, Belgian Minister for Energy during the press conference.