New Publication Artificial divide: How Europe and America could clash over AI

  • Artificial intelligence is a rapidly advancing field that policymakers everywhere are struggling to keep up with. 
  • Calls for international, and particularly transatlantic cooperation are growing.
  • In Europe, interest in strengthening “ethical” AI policy is particularly strong – including as a way of making Europe more attractive than other jurisdictions around the world.  
  • Close cooperation between Europe and the US is not a given: Europe sees the US as its main competitor in AI; the US wants to join forces against China on AI, but European interest in such a front is weak. 
  • The non-combat military realm may be a good area for transatlantic AI cooperation. 

There is growing interest among policymakers and experts in looking beyond when it comes to supporting domestic AI research. The next phase of European policy development in artificial intelligence could be a period of international, and specifically transatlantic, cooperation. 

In ECFR’s new policy brief, Artificial divide: How Europe and America could clash over AI, Ulrike Franke closely examines the motives for cooperation between the EU and the US on AI technology. She identifies potential areas of conflict that may prevent the allies from fully engaging in transatlantic AI cooperation, demonstrating that, while both sides are interested in working together, their rationales for doing so are fundamentally different.  

Ulrike Franke, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations states: 

“Both sides of the Atlantic are already motivated to cooperate with each other on AI. But, despite these shared interests, transatlantic cooperation on AI may not be straightforward. Four trends in particular could pose problems: transatlantic estrangement; European digital autonomy efforts; differing views on China; and, potentially, Brexit.” 

The author argues that transatlantic cooperation in the area of military AI could be a good first step, enabling the establishment of joint procedures in AI and stronger protections against its misuse: 

“The defence realm might be a promising area for transatlantic cooperation, given the close military ties between the US and Europe through NATO. Military experts are raising concerns over how the introduction of AI onto the battlefield may hinder interoperability between allied forces, and so the area of defence could be a good field in which to strengthen cooperation.”  

The paper also features an at-a-glance display of the different forums recently created or proposed to ramp up transatlantic and broader Western cooperation on AI.  

About the author:

Dr. Ulrike Franke is a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Her areas of focus include German and European security and defence, the future of warfare, and the impact of new technologies such as drones and artificial intelligence. 

She co-hosts the Sicherheitshalber Podcast, a German-language podcast on security and defence. 

She holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Oxford – in her PhD thesis, she studied the use of drones by western armed forces. She also holds a BA from Sciences Po Paris and a double summa cum laude MA degree from Sciences Po Paris (Affaires internationales/Sécurité internationale) and the University of St. Gallen (International Affairs and Governance). 

Franke is a policy affiliate at the Governance of AI project at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute. She was also part of UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism Ben Emmerson’s research team, examining drone use in counterterrorism contexts. Prior to this she worked as a part-time research assistant at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) in London. 

Über European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) is a pan-European think-tank that aims to conduct cutting-edge independent research in pursuit of a coherent, effective, and values-based European foreign policy. With a network of offices in seven European capitals, over 60 staff from more than 25 different countries and a team of associated researchers in the EU 27 member states, ECFR is uniquely placed to provide pan-European perspectives on the biggest strategic challenges and choices confronting Europeans today. ECFR is an independent charity and funded from a variety of sources. For more details, please visit:   

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This report, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its author.

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