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Speech made at an International Conference co-organised by the Hungarian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers and the Council of Europe on the subject of "Current and Future Challenges of Coordinated Policies on AI Regulation" - 26 October

Dear Secretary General, Dear Marija

Dear Ministers,

Dear Experts and Colleagues,

I am grateful for the opportunity to address this important conference organised by the Hungarian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The topic, this conference aims to address, is of course very relevant for the daily lives of Europeans, but it is also very important for ensuring co-ordinated Council of Europe action, both from intergovernmental and parliamentary sides.

'Artificial Intelligence' (AI) is now an integral part of our everyday life. We rely on artificial intelligence in an increasing number of mundane daily activities, for example when we are reading news on our smartphone apps, when we do online shopping, or when we drive a car.

Artificial Intelligence has clearly become a determining factor for the future of humanity as it continues to substantially transform individual lives and to impact human communities and does it in both positive and negative ways.

On the positive side, technology stimulates and promotes progress and innovation, helps address various emerging challenges, find cures for deadly diseases or simply facilitates our communication.

But AI-based systems also bear risks, including respect for our fundamental rights and freedoms. For example, AI can be used to control and filter information flows or to exercise automated censorship of content published on social media. In the criminal justice field, predictive policing and algorithms may increase discrimination and bias. Also, the lack of transparency in data collection and its use by algorithms reduces the ability of human users to take fully informed decisions.

Clearly, Artificial Intelligence brings both opportunities and challenges. It is therefore of utmost importance to strike the right balance between mitigating the risks and making full use of the advantages that Artificial Intelligence can offer in promoting a better life for all. The work of the Parliamentary Assembly goes exactly in this direction. The issue of regulating – in a human-rights-compliant manner - the use of AI has emerged as one of the priorities of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In November 2020, in a thematic debate, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted a series of 7 reports dealing with different aspects of the use of AI.

We examined a variety of issues, such as

  • The need for democratic governance of artificial intelligence;
  • Preventing discrimination caused by the use of artificial intelligence;
  • The role of artificial intelligence in policing and criminal justice systems;
  • Medical, legal and ethical challenges posed by the use of AI;
  • Artificial intelligence and labour markets;
  • Legal aspects of ‘autonomous’ vehicles;
  • The brain-computer interface: new rights or new threats to fundamental freedoms.

In the course of these debates, the Assembly endorsed universally accepted and applicable core ethical principles upon which AI regulations should be based:

  • transparency, including accessibility and explicability;
  • justice and fairness, including non-discrimination;
  • human responsibility for decisions, including liability and the availability of remedies;
  • safety and security;
  • privacy and data protection.

The Assembly also agreed that there is a clear need to raise awareness of people of what the AI actually is and build trust of citizens in it. This can be achieved by setting a transparent and clearly defined legal and ethical framework that must be respected by all. A common European legal framework for artificial intelligence is also needed with a view to increasing transparency which is in turn essential to build up knowledge, predictability and legal certainty.

The CoE standards are internationally recognised benchmarks when it comes to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The European Convention on Human Rights provides a common and uniform legal framework for the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Naturally, the CoE should lead the way in addressing the "new generation of rights" that we see emerging. The CoE has the opportunity and the potential of becoming a regional leader in developing a comprehensive and human-rights-compliant legal framework which could serve as a model for developing global regulations.

This is why the Parliamentary Assembly has called upon the Committee of Ministers to elaborate a "legally binding instrument governing artificial intelligence [that is] based on a comprehensive approach, deals with the whole life cycle of AI-based systems, is addressed to all stakeholders, and includes mechanisms to ensure the implementation of this instrument".

Of course, we are not functioning in a legal vacuum. Many international legal instruments, including CoE treaties such as the European Convention on Human Rights, the CoE Convention on Data Protection (Convention 108), or the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, are already applicable to AI systems. This is not sufficient however – a consolidated and coherent legal framework is needed.

We believe that this is right way forward. Of course, we are not there yet, and many factors and facts are yet to be carefully examined, but the Parliamentary Assembly is ready and willing to support this process and to provide tangible input. Such parliamentary input at all stages is particularly important given the very important role of Parliaments in adopting and ratifying the relevant legislation, translating normative standards and guidelines into laws within our domestic jurisdictions and ensuring accountability for their effective implementation.

It is our strong belief that we should focus on solutions rather than on problems and I wish to reassure you once again that the Assembly is fully committed to engage with the Committee of Ministers in addressing complex matters related to Artificial Intelligence and other core business of our organisation.

Thank you