During the last session in Strasbourg the European Parliament adopted two reports to strengthen the Digital Single Market and the European economy. Both reports contain proposals on the future of a European data infrastructure and the regulation of robots; in addition, they are. The Robotics Report is one of the first global attempts to create a legal basis with regard to artificial intelligence and advanced robot technology.


The Robotics Report focusses on the key challenges in robotic innovations, in particular with regard to self-learning, intelligent robots. Those are, on the one hand, aspects of standardisation for a Common Single Market and, on the other, aspects of liability, security and data protection. For instance, the Parliament demands a mandatory insurance scheme and a supplementary fund for self-driving cars, which compensates victims in the event of damage. Another proposal concerned a voluntary ethical code of conduct for researchers and designers to guarantee that human dignity and human interest are at the centre of the development and use of robots.


Labour market policy aspects were not adopted


Rapporteur Mady Delvaux (S&D, Luxembourg) also demanded to address possible negative consequences for the labour market. However, during the vote in Parliament, her proposals for a universal basic income, a robot tax and collective consumer complaints were narrowly defeated and relevant passages were not adopted. Evelyn Regner, the head of the SPÖ delegation in the European Parliament, supported the motion of her party colleague and regretted the rejection. In the meantime a prominent supporter of a robot tax has come to the fore: Bill Gates recently demanded a tax for the use of robots. The final Report was adopted with 396 votes in favour and 123 votes against – admittedly, without labour market policy aspects, but for the first time with an attempt to determine rules for dealing with robots, such as the code of conduct and liability.


Digital networking through Clouds


Far less attention was given to the second Report on the European Cloud Initiative, which was adopted with 444 votes in favour and 93 votes against – maybe because its demands are less controversial. At the centre of the Report is the demand that Europe should be better connected digitally: science, companies, public administrations and also consumers shall benefit from the new technical developments and a European Digital Single Market (see too Priorities of the Commission). Thus, the European Parliament welcomes the efforts by the Commission to create a European Cloud; however, it points out that apart from the science community, at which the most developed proposal on a “Open Science Cloud” is in particular aimed, other stakeholders, such as the economy (here in particular SMEs and start-ups), public administration as well as consumers, also have to be included.


The Report also emphasises that a comprehensive strategy of internet security is required to exclude the loss or misuse of data. The European Fundamental Rights Charter, in particular data protection, privacy, freedom and security, shall also be integrated during the further development of the Cloud Initiative. Apart from that, standards shall ensure the transferability between and the use of different Cloud services. The Report also points out how important digital education is for dealing with and the development of digital innovations and robots.


Digital change for the benefit of all?


The demand for digital education is also included in the AK Vision Paper “Digital Change - Fair and Just”. The Chamber of Labour has for some time dealt with digital change, above all with regard to securing employees' rights, but also in respect of data protection issues. The new developments must not be allowed to become an excuse to legitimise the weakening of existing standards. On the contrary: digital change can only be called a success if it improves the living and working environment of broad levels of the population.


Further information

Video of the European Parliament on robotics

Press release of the European Parliaments on robotics

Press release of the Commission on the Cloud Initiative

AK Vision Paper: Digital Change - Fair and Just