White Paper on Artificial Intelligence: a European approach to excellence and trust



European Commission

As digital technology becomes an ever more central part of every aspect of people’s lives, people should be able to trust it. Trustworthiness is also a prerequisite for its uptake. This is a chance for Europe, given its strong attachment to values and the rule of law as well as its proven capacity to build safe, reliable and sophisticated products and services from aeronautics to energy, automotive and medical equipment.

Europe’s current and future sustainable economic growth and societal wellbeing increasingly draws on value created by data. AI is one of the most important applications of the data economy. Today most data are related to consumers and are stored and processed on central cloud-based infrastructure. By contrast a large share of tomorrow’s far more abundant data will come from industry, business and the public sector, and will be stored on a variety of systems, notably on computing devices working at the edge of the network.

This opens up new opportunities for Europe, which has a strong position in digitised industry and business-to-business applications, but a relatively weak position in consumer platforms. Simply put, AI is a collection of technologies that combine data, algorithms and computing power. Advances in computing and the increasing availability of data are therefore key drivers of the current upsurge of AI.

Europe can combine its technological and industrial strengths with a high-quality digital infrastructure and a regulatory framework based on its fundamental values to become a global leader in innovation in the data economy and its applications as set out in the European data strategy. On that basis, it can develop an AI ecosystem that brings the benefits of the technology to the whole of European society and economy:

  • for citizens to reap new benefits for example improved health care, fewer breakdowns of household machinery, safer and cleaner transport systems, better public services;

  • for business development, for example a new generation of products and services in areas where Europe is particularly strong (machinery, transport, cybersecurity, farming, the green and circular economy, healthcare and high-value added sectors like fashion and tourism); and

  • for services of public interest, for example by reducing the costs of providing services (transport, education, energy and waste management), by improving the sustainability of products and by equipping law enforcement authorities with appropriate tools to ensure the security of citizens, with proper safeguards to respect their rights and freedoms.

Given the major impact that AI can have on our society and the need to build trust, it is vital that European AI is grounded in our values and fundamental rights such as human dignity and privacy protection. Furthermore, the impact of AI systems should be considered not only from an individual perspective, but also from the perspective of society as a whole.

The use of AI systems can have a significant role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and in supporting the democratic process and social rights. With its recent proposals on the European Green Deal, Europe is leading the way in tackling climate and environmental-related challenges. Digital technologies such as AI are a critical enabler for attaining the goals of the Green Deal.

Given the increasing importance of AI, the environmental impact of AI systems needs to be duly considered throughout their lifecycle and across the entire supply chain, e.g. as regards resource usage for the training of algorithms and the storage of data. A common European approach to AI is necessary to reach sufficient scale and avoid the fragmentation of the single market.

The introduction of national initiatives risks to endanger legal certainty, to weaken citizens’ trust and to prevent the emergence of a dynamic European industry. This White Paper presents policy options to enable a trustworthy and secure development of AI in Europe, in full respect of the values and rights of EU citizens. The main building blocks of this White Paper are:

  • The policy framework setting out measures to align efforts at European, national and regional level. In partnership between the private and the public sector, the aim of the framework is to mobilise resources to achieve an ‘ecosystem of excellence’ along the entire value chain, starting in research and innovation, and to create the right incentives to accelerate the adoption of solutions based on AI, including by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

  • The key elements of a future regulatory framework for AI in Europe that will create a unique ‘ecosystem of trust’. To do so, it must ensure compliance with EU rules, including the rules protecting fundamental rights and consumers’ rights, in particular for AI systems operated in the EU that pose a high risk.

    • Building an ecosystem of trust is a policy objective in itself, and should give citizens the confidence to take up AI applications and give companies and public organisations the legal certainty to innovate using AI.

    • The Commission strongly supports a human-centric approach based on the Communication on Building Trust in Human-Centric AI and will also take into account the input obtained during the piloting phase of the Ethics Guidelines prepared by the High-Level Expert Group on AI.

The European strategy for data, which accompanies this White Paper, aims to enable Europe to become the most attractive, secure and dynamic data-agile economy in the world – empowering Europe with data to improve decisions and better the lives of all its citizens.

The strategy sets out a number of policy measures, including mobilising private and public investments, needed to achieve this goal. Finally, the implications of AI, Internet of Things and other digital technologies for safety and liability legislation are analysed in the Commission Report accompanying this White Paper.


To view the full report, click here.