By Supantha Mukherjee, Martin Coulter and Elvira Pollina
STOCKHOLM/LONDON/MILAN (Reuters) – European Union lawmakers agreed on a critical part of new rules on artificial intelligence in a meeting late on Tuesday, as they inched closer to a broader agreement on the landmark AI Act, according to five people familiar with the matter.
After two years of negotiations, the bill was approved by the European parliament in May. The draft AI rules now need to be agreed through meetings between the parliament and EU states to thrash out the final versions of laws in a process known as the trilogue.
At Tuesday’s meeting which lasted until midnight, lawmakers agreed on most parts of Article 6 of the draft AI Act, one of the stumbling blocks in talks, the sources said, declining to give further details on what was agreed. They declined to be identified because the talks are confidential.
Article 6 outlines the types of AI systems that will be designated “high risk”, and therefore subject to greater regulatory scrutiny, the sources said.
The debate on high-risk applications has recently centred around whether to make exemptions for some high-risk AI models, such as those performing “purely accessory” tasks, sources said.
An AI system may be considered purely accessory when it is used to perform a relatively minor task secondary to any human decision-making, such as arranging documents or translating text from one language to another.
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Reuters reported citing sources that European lawmakers were yet to agree on several issues leaving any deal off the table until December.
Dragos Tudorache and Brando Benifei, members of the European Parliament and co-rapporteurs of the EU AI Act, told Reuters on Wednesday that they were confident an agreement can be reached at a fifth trilogue due to be held in early December.
“We made significant progress,” Benifei said. “If the council will show a constructive approach, we could approve (at trilogue level) by year-end,” he said.
Failure to reach a deal could push negotiations to early next year, increasing the risk that discussions are further derailed by European parliament elections in June.
(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm, Martin Coulter in London and Elvira Pollina in Milan; Editing by Josephine Mason, Kirsten Donovan)