Mistral AI’s partnership with Microsoft makes Brussels smile

A French start-up and an American giant? The strategic partnership announced on Monday February 26 between Mistral AI and Microsoft sparked some annoyed reactions in Brussels. The young artificial intelligence (AI) company is suspected of calling into question its independence by allying itself with the American digital heavyweight.

Read the interview | Article reserved for our subscribers Arthur Mensch, from Mistral AI: “In artificial intelligence, we can compete with Google or OpenAI”

It is criticized for abandoning, in passing, its commitment to open models published as open source, in favor of a more commercial logic. Mistral AI pleads the misunderstanding and assures that it has not changed its strategy, its co-founder Arthur Mensch regretting “creative interpretations” of its announcements.

Ads “surprised a lot of people,” got angry on X Kai Zenner, parliamentary assistant to German MEP Axel Voss (European People’s Party). “Mistral becomes the new OpenAI and joins forces with Microsoft (…). He no longer has the profile of the “truly independent European champion” that we had in mind during the discussions on the AI ​​Act. he wrote, recalling the exasperation of certain parliamentarians in the face of Mistral AI’s lobbying against the provisions of this draft European regulation.

“European regulators have been fooled”

“Recent developments confirm that it was not a good thing to cut back on measures” of the AI ​​Act, Italian Brando Benifei (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament), co-rapporteur of the text, told Reuters.

“The draft regulation almost failed, because some planned to eliminate the rules, in order to create “European champions”. European regulators have been fooled,” added to Reuters the Dutch Kim van Sparrentak, an MEP (Group of Greens-European Free Alliance), who, with three environmentalist colleagues, wrote a letter to the Commission from Brussels asking him to investigate the lobbying of Mistral AI and France, which defended the same positions.

“If you want to change a competitive ecosystem, you don’t want new entrants to depend on Microsoft’s infrastructure and investments,” bid on X Open Markets, an American think tank favorable to competition. The Mozilla Foundation, which defends open software, believes that the Mistral-Microsoft agreement raises ” questions “.

An examination as part of an AI market study

When questioned, the European Commission declared that it would look into the partnership. However, this is not a formal investigation, but an examination within the framework ofa study launched at the beginning of January, in the AI ​​market. This work will analyze all relationships between start-ups and large groups, including Anthropic’s deals with Google and Amazon, as well as the agreements between OpenAI and Microsoft. The criticisms made against Mistral AI are reminiscent of those made against the parent company of the ChatGPT service, in which the American giant has invested more than 11 billion euros, and of which it is the exclusive distributor. The two cases are however different, argues Mistral AI.

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