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'No one will leave' the EU market because of new AI rules, says Thierry Breton

In an interview with Euronews, Thierry Breton said "no one can afford" to leave the European single market.
In an interview with Euronews, Thierry Breton said "no one can afford" to leave the European single market. Copyright European Union, 2023.
Copyright European Union, 2023.
By Méabh Mc MahonJorge Liboreiro
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"Don't worry. No one will leave. No one," Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the internal market, told Euronews on Tuesday.

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"No one, of course, because it's the biggest digital market in the world. So no one can afford it," he went on.

"It's (a market) that is bigger than the one in the US (so) no one could afford not to be. And we welcome everybody."

Breton's comments come in the midst of negotiations for the AI Act, an ambitious law that aims to rein in the excesses of artificial intelligence and ensure the rapidly evolving technology respects the European Union's fundamental values.

The draft legislation is considered a world-first attempt to regulate AI through a human-centric, risk-based approach; and its potential success – or failure – could influence rules in other countries around the world.

"We don't only regulate AI. We have decided to organise our digital space," Breton said in his interview with Euronews.

But the AI Act, which has been subject to thousands of amendments and intense lobbying, has been met with certain scepticism from the industry it tries to govern. 

Last month, Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, the company behind the revolutionary ChatGPT, caused a stir when he suggested the firm might consider leaving the European market if it could not comply with the proposed rules.

Altman later walked back from the remarks, which attracted considerable media attention, and said he had "no plans" to exit.

Breton had a chance to discuss this issue withAltman in a recent trip to San Francisco during which he also met with several directors of big tech companies, including META's Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter's Linda Yaccarino.

"He (Altman) told me that it was misinterpreted. So he changed his tweet, and he said: 'I love the regulation, we will follow it.' By the way, including on watermarking," Breton said, referring to the digital technique that allows AI-generated content to be identified as such.

"The rules are rules," Breton went on, speaking of himself as "the enforcer."

"Politicians are here to make the rules to secure when we believe it's important the way our fellow citizens are living in this space or that space, and companies are here to follow the rules. And they will."

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