Europe’s Digital Decade – Artificial Intelligence & Digital Transformation in notarial matters


Notes from the 34th Conference of European Civil Law Notaries hosted in Salzburg on 19 April 2024 by the Austrian Chamber of Civil-Law Notaries.

Despite chilly temperatures and overcast skies in Salzburg, the 34th Conference of European Civil Law Notaries warmly welcomed the attendees from 27 different countries to a highly convivial and interesting series of presentations and discussions on artificial intelligence (AI) and digital transformation in the European Union.

The Keynote presentations given by Renate Nikolay (Deputy Director-General of the European Commission) and Tim Walree (Assistant Professor at Radboud University, Netherlands), spanned the regulatory approach of AI to be taken up by the EU and the potential impacts this new technology will have on the notarial profession across Member States.

Of particular interest was the way in which the soon to be implemented EU AI Act (“the Act”) will adopt a risk-based approach to the regulation of AI across Europe. Rather than attempting to devise a complete regulation of all aspects of AI, the Act will introduce rules only where these are deemed necessary to protect fundamental rights (e.g. those of non-discrimination, fair trial, and privacy). This approach seeks to balance the need to protect the public with the wish to actively promote an AI ecosystem within the EU that can harness the power of the technology for the wider good of its citizens. The EU is desirous of creating an environment that is regulated but which sees resources such as computing power and data sets being more easily accessible to start-ups and smaller homegrown enterprises so that they may innovate in the field and compete with the larger global players.

As ever, a key challenge to the success of the Act will lie in how effectively it is adopted across the Member States. In order for the sector to operate at its best, it is hoped that a seamless single market in AI will be established across the Union. To facilitate this implementation, the Commission has established the European AI Office, to be composed of experts in multiple disciplines who will, between them, be ideally suited to understand and address legal, regulatory and technical issues as these arise across Member States. The overall aim is to turn Europe into a global hub for trustworthy AI, with harmonised rules governing the development, marketing and use of AI in the EU.

As to how AI will impact the notarial profession, the speakers and panellists identified many interesting aspects of this question. The main points can be summarised as follows:

  • Accept that AI has arrived and is here to stay; notaries should, therefore, make sensible use of it;
  • Check all content created by AI as the notary will remain liable for it if incorporated into notarial acts or advice provided to clients; and
  • Transparency – notaries must be transparent with their clients wherever AI is used.

Running through many of the discussions, at the conference, a central theme emerged; that of “trust”.

The EU sees it as vital that AI is used in such a way as to be sustainable and trustworthy. The risks to democratic institutions from fake news and deep fakes were particularly noted given the upcoming European Parliament elections in June.

Similarly, it was emphasised that notaries must be able to trust the AI they employ, so that the faith placed in them by the wider public is not compromised by the use of these new technologies. For AI systems to be seen as legitimate, a consensus formed that humans must remain in control, and able to understand and explain the AI that is used.

With the Act being the first comprehensive regulation in the world of AI, the conference was acutely conscious that not only the eyes of European notaries are upon the EU, but those of the world at large. With questions and variables all around, one thing is certain: we will all follow the passage and implementation of the Act and the evolution of AI with great interest.

Luis Hyde-Vaamonde

19 April 2024