Artificial Intelligence Act: EU Parliament Approves Landmark AI Law

Understanding the New European Union AI Law

European Union Parliament on Wednesday officially approved world’s first major set of regulatory ground rules for AI

The European Union Parliament on Wednesday officially approved the Artificial Intelligence Act, to govern the use of AI in the years ahead.

The EU Parliament announced the approval on Wednesday, and the Artificial Intelligence Act was endorsed by MEPs with 523 votes in favour, 46 against and 49 abstentions.

The EU Parliament said the new law “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 regulation establishes obligations for AI based on its potential risks and level of impact.”

european parliament
Image credit: European Parliament

Artificial Intelligence Act

The passing of the new EU AI Act gives developers and customers just 6 months to conform to new legislation that bans prohibited practices, such as AI applications that threaten citizens’ rights, including biometric categorisation systems based on sensitive characteristics and untargeted scraping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage.

This is because the EU AI Act divides AI into categories of risk, ranging from “unacceptable” – which would see the technology banned – to high, medium and low hazard.

“Artificial intelligence is already very much part of our daily lives. Now, it will be part of our legislation too,” tweeted the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, on X (formerly Twitter).

“Europe is NOW a global standard-setter in AI,” Thierry Breton, the European commissioner for internal market, wrote on X.

EU Timeline

The European push to develop a code of practice for AI comes amid regulatory and industry concern about the uptake of AI systems.

The European Union first started formulating its proposed AI laws back in 2021, and by June 2023 the European Union Parliament had agreed changes to draft artificial intelligence rules, that would include a ban on the use of AI in biometric surveillance and for generative AI systems to disclose any AI-generated content.

In December 2023 the European Union agreed the world’s first comprehensive laws to regulate AI after marathon negotiations of more than 36 hours between the European Parliament and member states.

In January 2024 Germany said it was prepared to approve EU’s AI Act after the German coalition’s Free Democratic Party dropped its objections over red tape.

France, Germany and Italy had reportedly campaigned for foundation models to be left to self-regulate, in order to ensure EU companies would not be competitively hampered by excessive red tape, while the European Parliament had argued the technology was too important to be governed by companies on their own initiative.