EU Urges Risk Assessments On Critical Technology

Image credit: European Commission

Amid rising tensions with certain nations, EU officials urge member states to immediately conduct risk assessments of most sensitive tech

The European Union has issued a call for member states to assess their critical industries, most notably tech, in light of growing tensions with China and Russia.

The European Commission on Tuesday recommended that member states should be “carrying out risk assessments on four critical technology areas: advanced semiconductors, artificial intelligence, quantum, biotechnologies.”

It comes after the European Union in the summer had outlined a European Economic Security Strategy that seeks to “de-risk the European economy” in the face of growing global tensions.

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Risk assessment

In June as part of the European Economic Security Strategy, the EC had presented its own economic security plan consisting of stronger controls on exports and outflows of technologies that could be put to military use by countries such as China.

Now the European Commission is issuing a “recommendation” that relates to the assessment of one of four types of risks for nation states, namely technology risk and technology leakage.

“The risk assessment will be objective in character, and neither its results nor any follow-up measures can be anticipated at this stage,” the Commission stated.

The Commission named ten critical technology areas based on the following criteria:

  • Enabling and transformative nature of the technology: the technologies’ potential and relevance for driving significant increases of performance and efficiency and/or radical changes for sectors, capabilities, etc.;
  • The risk of civil and military fusion: the technologies’ relevance for both the civil and military sectors and its potential to advance both domains, as well as risk of uses of certain technologies to undermine peace and security;
  • The risk the technology could be used in violation of human rights: the technologies’ potential misuse in violation of human rights, including restricting fundamental freedoms.

Ten critical technologies

Out of the ten critical technology areas, the Commission identified four technology areas that are considered highly likely to present the most sensitive and immediate risks related to technology security and technology leakage:

  • Advanced Semiconductors technologies (microelectronics, photonics, high frequency chips, semiconductor manufacturing equipment);
  • Artificial Intelligence technologies (high performance computing, cloud and edge computing, data analytics, computer vision, language processing, object recognition);
  • Quantum technologies (quantum computing, quantum cryptography, quantum communications, quantum sensing and radar);
  • Biotechnologies (techniques of genetic modification, new genomic techniques, gene-drive, synthetic biology).

The Commission recommends that Member States, together with the Commission, initially conduct collective risk assessments of these four areas by the end of this year.

The Commission may present further initiatives in this respect by Spring 2024, in light of dialogue with member states, and of the first experience with the initial collective risk assessments, as well as of further inputs that may be received on the listed technology areas.

“Today, we are launching collective risk assessments, together with our Member States, in four technology areas critical for our economic security,” said vice-president Věra Jourová. “Technology is currently at the heart of geopolitical competition and the EU wants to be a player, and not a playground.”

European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova.
Image credit European Commission

“And to be a player, we need a united EU position, based on a common assessment of the risks,” Jourová added. “With this approach we will remain an open and predictable global partner, but one who nurtures its technological edge and addresses its dependencies. Our single market will only get stronger as a result in all its parts.”

“Today, we are delivering on our pledge to de-risk the European economy by identifying ten areas of technologies that are critical for our economic security, especially due to their risk of civil-military fusion,” added Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market.

Thierry Breton. Image credit: European Parliament
Thierry Breton. Image credit: European Parliament

“This is an important step for our resilience,” said Breton. “We need to continuously monitor our critical technologies, assess our risk exposure and – as and when necessary – take measures to preserve our strategic interests and our security. Europe is adapting to the new geopolitical realities, putting an end to the era of naivety and acting as a real geopolitical power.”