Europe’s week: European Super League backlash and new AI law

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Clive Rose/AP

This week in Brussels was an eventful one, filled with some big stories:

The German Constitutional Court rejected a request by Eurosceptics to block the EU’s pandemic recovery fund from coming into effect.

Negotiators from the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission reached a landmark agreement on the European Climate Law to reduce carbon emissions by 55% by 2030, right before Biden’s climate summit kicked-off.

And the Conference on the Future of Europe finally started, where citizens can now follow and participate in reform debates in real-time.

Richest clubs’ own goal?

But perhaps the biggest story wasn’t on the political field, it was on the football pitch.

Just days after the official announcement of a European Super League, an elite breakaway competition that promised guaranteed entry for its founding clubs and billions of euros in payments, massive protests of fans, players, coaches, even politicians brought it down,

Faced with such strong opposition, most clubs pulled out, and the project was put on “standby“.

“It was like we had launched an atomic bomb”, Real Madrid Florentino Perez said.

And the surrender was widely applauded, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying the correct choice had been made.

“I welcome the decision taken by the six English football teams not to join the European Super League. The announcement was the right result for football fans, for clubs and for communities across the country,” Johnson said.

Artificial intelligence, green taxonomy & vaccine production

But off the pitch, the European Commission had some big announcements to make, starting with proposals for the world’s first regulation for artificial intelligence.

Brussels wants safety standards to go hand in hand with investment and innovation in order to make the EU the “global hub for trustworthy AI”.

“Our proposed legal framework doesn’t look at AI as a technology as itself, instead it looks at what AI is used for and how it is used,” said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president of the European Commission.

The European Commission also announced new measures for its green taxonomy: a classification system designed to help scale up sustainable investment and to further implement the European Green Deal.

But it neither included nor exclude gas or nuclear from the criteria, delaying a decision until later in the year, so as not to rile certain member states.

“There are many countries with coal at the moment that need to make that big jump, and gas plays a role,” Commissioner for Financial Services Mairead McGuinness said. “The taxonomy regulation in itself…is quite restrictive, so what we will do is to look at the role of gas in a wider element of transitions.”

European Commission President von der Leyen was in an optimistic mood Friday too, as she said the EU would now vaccinate 70 per cent of adults in the bloc by July.

The original goal set out by the Commission was to reach the 70 per cent target by the end of the summer, sometime in September.

But an increase in vaccine manufacturing capacity and supply of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines means that this is no longer the case.

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