Skip to main content

The politics of Artificial Intelligence regulation and governance reform in the European Union


This paper explores political drivers and policy process of the reform of the framework for Artificial Intelligence regulation and governance in the European Union (EU). Since 2017, the EU has been developing an integrated policy to tighten control and to ensure consumer protection and fundamental rights. This policy reform is theoretically interesting, raising the question of which conceptual approaches better explain it, and it is also empirically relevant, addressing the link between risk regulation and digital market integration in Europe. This paper explores the policy reform mainly by using two case study methods—process tracing and congruence procedure—using a variety of primary and secondary sources. It evaluates the analytical leverage of three theoretical frameworks and a set of derived testable hypotheses concerning the co-evolution of global economic competition, institutional structure, and policy preferences of domestic actors in shaping incremental approach to AI regulation in the EU. It is argued that all three are key drivers shaping the reform and explain the various stages of the policymaking process, namely problem definition, agenda-setting, and decision-making, as well as the main features of the outcome.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. European Commission’s Strategy for data, presented on 19 February 2020 (IP/20/273), which consists of a White Paper on AI (COM(2020) 65 final), Communication on ‘A European Strategy for Data’ (COM(2020) 66 final), Communication on Shaping Europe’s’ Digital Future (COM(2020) 67 final) and Commission Report on Safety and Liability Implications, the Internet of Thing and Robotics (COM(2020) 64).

  2. An incremental approach can be defined as a policy design for change, by which many gradual, small policy changes are enacted over a long period of time, and contains a mix of policy instruments and aims (Rayner & Howlett, 2009).

  3. For a recent case of delegation of authority on trade-environmental problem, see Justo-Hanani & Dayan, 2020).

  4. i.e., Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, the so-called digital front-runners (Mckinsey & Company, 2020).

  5. Report by Rapporteur García del Blanco (Socialists & Democrats).

  6. A similar logic has guided the EU in the case of nanotechnology regulation (Justo-Hanani & Dayan, 2016).


Download references


The author would like to thank Prof. Tim Büthe and the participants of the workshop on ‘Artificial Intelligence Governance’ (February 2020) at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). She also thanks the participants in the 2020 general conference of European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), as well as the anonymous reviewers for their comments.


This work was supported by the Department of Public Policy and the Steinhardt Museum for Natural History, Tel Aviv University.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ronit Justo-Hanani.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Justo-Hanani, R. The politics of Artificial Intelligence regulation and governance reform in the European Union. Policy Sci 55, 137–159 (2022).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Artificial Intelligence regulation
  • Governance
  • European Union
  • Digital market integration
  • Incremental reform