On February 2, 2024, a committee of ambassadors from all countries of the European Union (EU) approved the latest draft of the EU Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA or the Act). Following weeks of speculation that there could be a blocking minority of EU countries who had concerns about the final text, this vote confirms that the AIA has substantial support within the Council of the EU (Council). This means that the AIA has a good chance to become law within the coming months. For more information about the scope and requirements in the AIA, please see our client alert on last December’s political agreement on the AI Act, available here.

A Big Step Forward

Before the AIA can become law, it must be formally approved by both EU co-legislators, namely the European Parliament (EP) and the Council. Since the co-legislators reached a political agreement on the AIA in December 2023, the drafters have been ironing out the technical details of the draft text. It was reported that the negotiators from France, Germany, and Italy raised concerns about some of the provisions in the AIA. These countries considered voting against the Act, which could have disrupted its progress towards becoming law. Today’s ambassadorial green light is significant because it signals that these concerns are now resolved. The Council still needs to formally sign off on the Act, but this is merely an administrative formality.

A Few More Steps Left

The other co-legislator, the EP, will likely vote on the final text in April. While some political groups at the EP also expressed concerns about the final text of the Act, they are not expected to impede the Act’s formal adoption by the EP. Once the AIA is formally adopted and enters into force, there will be a grace period for companies to bring their activities into compliance. The relevant grace period will depend on the category of requirements. For instance, rules prohibiting certain types of AI systems will be enforceable after six months (likely before the end of this year), requirements for general purpose AI models will be enforceable after 12 months (likely around Q2 2025), while most rules for high-risk AI systems will be enforceable after 24 months (likely around Q2 2026).

For more information, or if you have any questions regarding the AIA, please contact Laura De BoelCédric BurtonYann Padova, or Nikolaos Theodorakis from Wilson Sonsini’s privacy and cybersecurity practice.

Wilson Sonsini’s AI Working Group assists clients with AI-related matters. Please contact Laura De BoelManeesha MithalManja Sachet, or Scott McKinney for more information.

Rossana FolRoberto Yunquera Sehwani, and Hattie Watson contributed to the preparation of this post.