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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is advancing so quickly that experts around the world are warning against the risks of unregulated deployment. Meanwhile, the European Commission (Commission) is trying to catch up by accelerating its plans to regulate AI. After publishing its first draft of an AI Act Proposal in April 2021, the Council adopted its common position (General Approach) on 6 December 2022. Since then, the Proposal has made great strides: the committee work in the European Parliament was completed on 11 May 2023, and the Proposal was adopted already a month later with a clear majority: 499 votes in favor, 28 against and 93 abstentions. Next up will be trialogue negotiations between the European Parliament, European Commission and the Council. If this pace is maintained, the AI Act could be passed before the end of the year, which would make it the world’s first comprehensive AI law.

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Sustainability and competition law has been one of the hottest topics among competition authorities and regulators in recent years. The German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) has always stressed that it is open to give informal guidance on sustainability initiatives. Yesterday, it has proven that it takes this approach seriously and does not stand in the way of sustainability initiatives. It has published a press release that it currently sees no reason for a more detailed examination of the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa “Forum Nachhaltiger Kakao e.V.” (Kakaoforum). According to the FCO, there have been no indications that the initiative would incur a clear risk of a restraint of competition. The Kakaoforum is a joint initiative made up of representatives of the public sector, companies in the cocoa and chocolate industry, a large part of the German food retail trade and international NGOs.

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On 1 June 2023, the European Commission finally adopted its revised Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations on Research and Development (R&D) and Specialisation agreements, which are accompanied by the revised Horizontal Guidelines (2023 Horizontal Guidelines).

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Finding the right balance between strengthening cooperation pursuing sustainability goals on the one side and ensuring compliance with competition law on the other has been a major topic of competition authorities and regulators in recent years (see our briefings of 26 January 2022 and 7 February 2021). The competition community is eagerly awaiting the European Commission’s second draft of the horizontal guidelines. Meanwhile, the German FCO announced on Thursday that the animal welfare initiative “Initiative Tierwohl” will abolish the compulsory premium because of competition law concerns.

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Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI), which can be prompted to create wholly novel content, is a hot topic all around, from news and social media to policymakers and businesses. Image-generating AI models that create (digital) paintings inspired by van Gogh or other famous artists in seconds, or text-generating AI models like ChatGPT that pass university exams with ease are fascinating the internet community. Fact is that many generative AI-based applications have been made available to the public in the last months, from machine translations to image recognition and music generation. Yet, this is just the beginning of a ground-breaking technology, which will sooner than later be deployed in a wide spectrum of activities and become a critical infrastructure for many businesses.

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On 18 April, the European Parliament adopted the CBAM, an unprecedented carbon border adjustment charge, which takes into account the greenhouse gas emissions embedded in imported goods of emissions-intensive sectors with a high risk of so-called “carbon leakage”. Carbon leakage takes place when, for reasons of costs related to climate policies in the EU, businesses transfer their production plants to other countries outside the bloc with less costly climate policies (see our briefing from July 2021). The initiative is part of the 2030 Climate and Energy “Fit for 55” legislative package under the European Green Deal, an ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% until 2030 compared to the levels of 1990.

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On 19 April, the European Parliament approved the Regulation on deforestation-free products, which prohibits the placement of a number of agricultural and livestock products originating from deforested or degraded forest areas on the EU market (text will be available here). The Regulation aims to block imports associated with deforestation, particularly cattle (whether live, meat or leather), cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soy, timber and rubber (read our briefing from November 2021).

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At the beginning of February, the European Commission (Commission) presented its Green Deal Industrial Plan, a package of measures designed to help the EU industry to make progress in the transition to climate neutrality and strengthen its position in global competition.

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On 6 February, the European Commission (Commission) published a draft Implementing Regulation on detailed arrangements for the conduct of proceedings pursuant to the Foreign Subsidies Regulation (FSR) including relevant notification forms. Interested parties have the possibility to provide the Commission with feedback on the draft regulation until 6 March 2023 via an online portal.

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When the President of the European Commission (Commission), Ursula von der Leyen, announced the adoption of the European Green Deal – a roadmap to a sustainable economy – in 2019, she called it Europe’s “man on the moon moment”. The achievement of the multidisciplinary objectives gathered under the Green Deal is a priority on the EU agenda and the Commission has taken yet another step on lunar soil yesterday in a steady commitment to firm its grip and gain some traction on this new planet.

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