While many AI pundits are keenly paying attention to the ongoing EU trialogue on the EU AI Act, at the end of August 2023 Spain took  a proactive step and established Europe’s first AI regulator. The Spanish Agency for the Supervision of Artificial Intelligence (“AESIA“) was formed by the joint effort of the two government departments: the Secretariat of State for the Civil Service and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation.

It is an early outcome of and tangible result for the country’s Digital Agenda 2026 and, more specifically, the National Strategy for the Artificial Intelligence, which aims at pursuing the “inclusive, sustainable and society-centric development of AI” based on six “axes”:

  1. Promote scientific research, technological development and innovation in AI;
  2. Promote development of digital capacity, enhance national and attract global AI talent;
  3. Develop data platforms and technological infrastructures supporting AI;
  4. Integrate AI into value chains for the economic transformation;
  5. Enhance the use of AI in public administration and strategic national initiatives;
  6. Establish an ethical and regulatory framework that strengthens the protection of individual and collective rights in order to ensure social welfare and inclusion.

The strategy is underpinned by the principles of human supervision, transparency, good data governance and no discrimination.

AESIA will be based in the Spanish region of Galicia and have an independent budget at its disposal and the requisite administrative authority at its disposal. While its overarching focus will be on ensuring compliance with the EU AI Act and supervising its correct interpretation, AESIA will also aim to raise awareness of the social impact of AI, with the objective of instilling confidence in a respectful and protective environment for the use of AI.

Bringing AESIA to life is also a pre-emptive response to the draft EU AI Act’s requirement to “designate a national supervisory authority for the purpose of supervising the application and implementation of the regulation”. In its current form, the draft EU AI Act does not require member states to set up a dedicated AI entity, and the supervisory role may be assumed by an existing regulator (data protection authorities being the most obvious candidates). For now, it looks like Spain is adopting  an approach at the opposite end of the spectrum to the UK which, as we have written about before, does not intend to either codify the core principles underpinning its AI Strategy or set up a dedicated authority. Rather, it will task them with policing the core principles in the industries for which they are responsible. It remains to be seen what approach is taken in other EU Member States.

How AESIA is constituted, as well as its strategy, is scheduled to be announced in the last quarter of 2023.

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