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ECF statement: MEPs vote to ensure AI Act better protects fundamental rights and civic space

Written by Kerttu Willamo, published on the European Civic Forum on 11/05.

Today, the LIBE and IMCO Committees of the European Parliament voted on the EU Artificial Intelligence Act, making several amendments to ensure fundamental rights, the rule of law and civic space are better protected.

The Act, proposed by the European Commission, is a significant step toward regulating AI systems based on their potential to cause harm and ensuring that the use of the systems is safe, transparent and accountable. The aim of the legislation is to enhance the “trustworthy use of AI” based on EU values and fundamental rights.

The European Civic Forum welcomes this pioneering legislation. The use of AI systems has the potential to massively impact how democracy, the rule of law, open civic space, and fundamental freedoms are actualised in the EU.

The outcome of today’s vote in the LIBE and IMCO committees sends out a positive signal and shows that many of the committee members are committed to ensuring the new legislation to be trustworthy, rights-driven and coherent with the common principles and values of the EU. We are particularly pleased to see that a very large majority of the MEPs voted to ban both real-time and post-use of remote biometric identification systems and to include fundamental rights impact assessment and rights and redress mechanisms to people affected by AI systems. These amendments strengthen the fundamental rights basis of the legislation.

However, the most harmful AI systems used in migration contexts are still not prohibited. In the upcoming plenary vote in June, MEPs should uphold and build on the ambition in today’s committee vote, by ensuring that refugees’ and migrants’ rights are protected.

“The European Civic Forum and other civil society actors are happy to see that so many MEPs are as determined as we are to ensure that the use of AI systems does not negatively impact fundamental freedoms, open civic space and democratic participation.

In the upcoming plenary vote, we urge all MEPs to vote for a truly rights-based law that comprehensively prohibits the use of all AI systems that pose a threat to fundamental rights, democratic participation, and open civic space.

The use of these technologies and the legislation must correspond to people’s needs and promote the common good, without exemptions”, ECF vice president Jan Robert Suesser says.