Opening remarks

by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the European Parliament’s Special Committee of Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age (AIDA)

  • 04 Mar. 2021 -
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  • Mis à jour le: 05 Mar. 2021 08:54

(As delivered)

Mulțumesc Domnule Președinte Tudorache,

Chere Madame la Présidente,

Merci pour nous inviter aujourd’hui, thank to our guests today, the honourable members of the two Committees for inviting us and myself here today.

I am delighted to join this great panel, from both sides of the Atlantic, and to discuss an issue of such importance to our common security.

New technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data and autonomy, are changing the way we live and work.

And they also change not only the ways wars are waged and won but the very definition of security.

And today’s developments differ from many previous defence innovation periods, in that they are often dual-use and largely driven by the civilian private sector, which is not the case in the past.

So technology and the world, they’re moving fast. And we must move even faster to maintain our edge.

We must identify, understand and adopt new technologies – at speed and at scale.

While mitigating any risks or advantage potential adversaries and competitors might seek.

This is exactly what we do here at NATO.

At the last meeting in December 2019, NATO Leaders adopted a comprehensive roadmap on emerging and disruptive technologies.

And at last month’s Defence Ministerial meeting, Allies agreed a coherent strategy for its implementation.

It sets out ways to work with partners, academia and of course the private sector, to develop new technologies more quickly, strengthen our industrial base, and protect against adversarial technology transfers.

As part of his NATO 2030 initiative to future-proof our Alliance, the Secretary General of NATO has proposed a NATO defence innovation initiative to promote better transatlantic cooperation on critical technologies.

As the only place that brings Europe and North America together every day, NATO is an important transatlantic forum for collaboration and coordination also on emerging technologies, including on standard setting. 

To support our efforts, I have the pleasure of chairing NATO’s Innovation Board, which brings together senior leaders across the NATO Enterprise.

And our Secretary General has appointed an external, extra-ordinary group of advisors, to provide outside expertise and input to the challenges we all face.

Of the new technologies we are looking at, indeed AI is the most pervasive - especially when combined with other technologies like big data, autonomy or biotechnologies or human enhancement – so AI is the priority for our Alliance.

Russia and China are pursuing the development and adoption of AI at pace, with little regard for human rights and data privacy. And we see with deep concern the hostile use of new technologies. NATO calls out such abuses when we see them, for example last summer, when the whole Alliance condemned publicly destabilising and malicious cyber activities directed against those whose, including hospitals, were working to respond to the COVID pandemic.

So we need to find ways to maximise the undisputed opportunities AI offers, while minimising the risks. This also means protecting our technological developments from adversarial licit and illicit technology transfers. Our adversaries  do not hesitate to use these technologies to undermine our security.

AI will revolutionise the way we defend ourselves, including by enhancing our intelligence analysis and situational awareness.

Not only will it increase the amount and accuracy, it will also free up extra time to interpret rather than identify relevant data.

This will depend on our willingness to share data. And international organisations can play a key role in providing the necessary infrastructure to make data-sharing more effective and, yes, more secure.

The effective use of AI will also require full trust between Allies and also from our public’s opinion. So we need a common framework for the responsible use of AI, based on our democratic values and the rule of law.

With these elements we put ourselves in the position of strength, as democracies and open societies provide the best framework to enable and foster innovation.

We have to put to work the power of regulations.

And the US, in the freshly announced interim national security strategic guidance, coins perfectly, the issue at hand. And they say, emerging technologies remain largely ungoverned by law and norms, designed to center rights and democratic values, foster cooperation, establish guardrails against misuse or malign action and reduce uncertainty and manage the risk that competition would lead to conflict.

We also welcome, the recent proposal launched by the European Union for a new transatlantic agenda for global cooperation with the US, including on new technologies. Nevertheless, the regulatory powers on North America and Europe, the case of NATO are gold standards for security and defence, and the huge power of regulatory power. We have to make sure that we are fostering this innovation together, in concert. Because only together, we will be able to defend, shape and enforce a multinational system of world governance, in the field of new technologies.

So this challenge needs to be tackled in close collaboration between NATO and the EU, as well as individual Member States and Allies.

Fostering and protecting AI developments calls upon the two organizations to strengthen our cooperation and I would remind us all that that we – NATO and the EU - already enjoy a Strategic Partnership.

I welcome the fact that both NATO and the EU have stepped up their efforts on the military use of AI in recent months. We also  have witnessed increased engagement between NATO and the EU, with our Secretary General attending, for the first time, the meeting of the College of Commissioners and the Commissioner Vestager visiting NATO Headquarters recently. Next week I will be co-chairing a NAC-PSC, meaning on exactly the topic of new technologies.

To maintain this engagement I very much welcome the engagement with you today. Beyond that I would also encourage you and your Committees and your members, to cooperate also with the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO, that has a specialized technology Committee which is a high class representation from national parliaments of the Alliance.

This is a way in which we can identify best practices, identify potential synergies including on developing appropriate regulatory framework and setting transatlantic as well as global standards for the ethical use of AI.

By bringing together our innovation ecosystems composed of incredible universities, vibrant start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises - on both sides of the Atlantic - we can foster an environment that ensures Europe and North America maintain our technological edge.

We can ensure the security and prosperity for the almost one billion people that NATO is supposed to defend, now and for the future.

And again, thank you so much for inviting me. I am very, very much personally committed to engaging with the European Parliament, with the EU institutions, with member states, in order to keep this Strategic Partnership between EU and NATO vibrant and useful for both our organisations.

Thank you so very much.