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25th Sep 2021

Magazine

The challenge of artificial intelligence

The parliamentary committee for internal market and consumer protection (IMCO) is working on one of the most fundamental principles of the European Union: the single market.

The entire Brexit saga shows once more how difficult it is to leave the single market once you have been a part of it. But also how beneficial it is to be a member of the EU.

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After decades of living in a common internal market, many people seem to have forgotten how important it is, and how easy.

But when you travel to for example the United States, and you forget your adapter, you can't even charge your mobile phone - a problem that never occurs when you travel on the European continent.

The internal market is not only about the free movement of goods and services. It's also about standards, for products but also for consumer protection. That's why worldwide people talk about "European standards", as a label of global quality.

It is the task of the IMCO committee to make sure these European standards are upheld in every single space in Europe.

According to Petra De Sutter (Greens/EFA, Belgium), president of IMCO, "developing a long term strategy for better enforcement of Single Market rules" will be key for the committee's agenda for the next five years.

Therefore, she says, it is "necessary to continue strengthening the internal market, in particular in a cross-border context, removing unjustified barriers and ensuring that the existing rules are properly and timely implemented and enforced."

Next to the announced revision of the E-Commerce Directive or new Digital Services Act, the committee will need to have a lot of attention to what De Sutter calls "a single market fit for the digital age".

"Since emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, are becoming key drivers for economic development and enhance the value of goods and services, we will be following with the utmost attention any developments in this area", she said, adding that this is important for both business and consumers.

As a fourth major point for IMCO over the next five years, De Sutter mentions a "sustainable Single Market". More concretely, she points out that "addressing the needs of a growing circular economy and the integration of environmental concerns into consumer policy will be a key priority."

A politically-sensitive point that might interfere with the IMCO agenda is the free movement of people.

De Sutter fears that "member states may take disproportionate measures and apply administrative controls and procedures which make free movement more difficult and costly for SMEs going cross-border."

But all in all, De Sutter thinks that the speedy growth of artificial intelligence will become the biggest challenge, needing "legislation linked to transparency, liability, safety and ethical rules for digital platforms, services and products".

On the one hand, European companies need access to data for developing AI. On the other hand "consumer protection rules have to ensure that consumers have clear information on how to use AI-enabled products and services, that they have control over data generated by such products and services, and how that data is used", she said.

IMCO coordinators are: Andreas Schwab (EPP, Germany), Christel Schaldemose (S&D, Denmark), Dita Charanzova (Renew, Czech Republic), Marcel Kolaja (Greens/EFA, Czech Republic), Virginie Joron (ID, France), Adam Bielan (ECR, Poland), Katerina Konecna (GUE/NGL, Czech Republic).

This article first appeared in EUobserver's latest magazine, Who's Who in European Parliament Committees, which you can now read in full online.

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