THE PLATFORM

The world’s first plans for the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) have been disclosed by the European Union. AI regulation is interwoven with another primary EU technology regulation that anyone who accesses the Internet has interacted with: the General Data Protection Regulation.

Technology regulation may sound like a topic that is supposed to just concern legal experts. Apparently, technology has entered geopolitical battlegrounds. All through history, technology has not only transformed societies and economies but has also been an influential redistributor of power among states and has shaped and reshaped relations internationally. New technologies can massively boost a country’s economy and even its global influence, and they can enhance capabilities that allow a country to gain military innovation and even superiority.

Consequently, the EU does not seem to have grasped the significance of geopolitical technology. For instance, technological competition between the U.S. and China is increasingly intense. The U.S. has imposed export controls on semiconductors, in an attempt to cut off China’s supply lines.

There have been some inspiring actions in Europe recently. The EU has commenced speaking more authoritatively about “digital and technological sovereignty.” Also, the European Commission has proposed a strategic vision. The European External Action Service gives more attention to technology, connectivity, and data flows, as a key dimension of the EU’s external relations and partnership agreements; and a few member states’ foreign ministries have begun churning out strategies on the geopolitical dimension of technology.

In fact, the U.S. and the EU are looking into forming a tech alliance, most notably in the form of technology and trade councils. Meanwhile, Brussels remains focused on the economic, social, and labor implications of technology.

Technological domination might become an existential outlook when the international market is commandeered by state actors. European countries and partners are at the risk of becoming prisoners to technological competition between great powers. Countries can become economically dependent on others for key technologies, leaving them unable to effect principles in a way that conforms with their integrity and even subject to direct foreign interference. From the geopolitical angle, technology is not neutral.

The Europeans are faced with two major issues.

Firstly, all EU action and inaction on tech have implications that extend far beyond the Union. The EU is known for ignoring, and being shocked by the external consequences of its actions. Generally, they pay little or no attention to impacts on other players.

Secondly, the EU gives little thought to how its internal actions, or lack thereof, affect its geopolitical influence, as this is a key factor that hardly comes up in any European discussions. The EU, and most Europeans, do not regard this angle and this partly relates to matters of competency, and how the EU perceives itself.

In retrospect, the European Council on Foreign Relations pays close attention to the external and geopolitical phases of the development, adoption, and monitoring of technologies in Europe. To put it plainly, the EU and European professionals are giving great consideration to these challenges. The things they overlook are the geopolitical consequences of technology, which are obvious on many battlegrounds, and establishing distinct vulnerabilities like foreign interference, 5G dependency, and military and defense gaps.

Isaac Silvermann is one of Europe's young and respected analysts of international affairs. He hails from Sweden where he studied political science and graduated with a Master's degree from Mittuniversitetet in 2006. Isaac worked as a foreign policy advisor for two MPs and nowadays is a lobbyist and author. He is also the author of 'Let Me Explain 1948 - 2021'. Isaac possesses an abiding interest in the art and craft of foreign policy and international relations.