Digital Transformation

5 min

Harnessing Artificial Intelligence in the Legislative Archives of the EU Parliament: An In-depth Examination

Cámara de Diputados de la Nación

Strategic Partners



The transformative influence of artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly being felt across multiple sectors, and the legislative domain is no exception. The European Union (EU) Parliament has started to harness the power of AI to maintain and enhance the accessibility of its legislative archives. This essay delves into the integration and application of AI within the EU Parliament’s legislative archives, based on the transcription provided.


The Advent of AI in Document Summarisation:


The deployment of artificial intelligence in the legislative archives of the EU Parliament represents a significant advancement, particularly in the realm of document summarisation. The process of document summarisation, in essence, entails the condensation of information in documents to a manageable and digestible size while retaining key messages and themes. The use of AI has revolutionised this process, making it not only faster but also more accurate and consistent.


A particular area where this AI-driven approach has been effective is in the summarisation of oral interventions. These are essentially spoken contributions by members of the parliament, typically made during parliamentary debates, and they form an important subset of the legislative archives. Starting from the year 1959, AI has been used to summarise these oral interventions to make them more accessible and understandable to users. This approach is applicable to oral interventions owing to their unique characteristics—they represent a single person’s speech flow, which makes them well-suited for consistent summarisation.


The technology involved in this AI-driven approach is both sophisticated and robust. It begins with the extraction of content from the documents, a task performed by an optical character recognition (OCR) tool named Tesseract. Once the content has been extracted, it is then summarised using an AI tool. This AI tool is based on a specific algorithm developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Summer NLP. These institutions are renowned for their contributions to the field of natural language processing (NLP), a subfield of AI that focuses on the interaction between computers and human language.


The AI tool developed by MIT and Summer NLP is exceptional in its capacity to condense information. It reduces the size of the original document by a staggering 80%, without sacrificing key content. This feature ensures that the essence of the document is retained, allowing users to quickly glean the primary themes and arguments without having to navigate through dense, lengthy documents. In essence, the application of AI in document summarisation in the legislative archives of the EU Parliament represents a significant stride towards more accessible, understandable, and user-friendly legislative resources.


AI for Topic Modelling and Document Classification:


Topic modelling and document classification form another crucial area where artificial intelligence is playing a transformative role within the legislative archives of the EU Parliament. This application of AI is particularly significant, given the enormous volume of documents that the Parliament generates and archives. The challenge lies in efficiently categorising these documents into relevant topics and ensuring that they can be easily retrieved for future reference.


In addressing this challenge, the EU Parliament has constructed a normalised corpus of parliamentary questions. The choice of parliamentary questions as the basis for this exercise is strategic. These documents are quite uniform in their structure and content over time, thereby offering a coherent set of documents for AI-driven analysis. This consistency provides a solid foundation for the algorithms to identify patterns, themes, and similarities, thus improving the accuracy of topic modelling and document classification.


The process of topic modelling and document classification utilises several sophisticated tools and algorithms. The initial stage involves content extraction from the PDF documents, which is facilitated by Tesseract, an optical character recognition tool. Post this extraction, the content undergoes a series of post-processing actions facilitated by Spacy, a powerful Python library for natural language processing. These actions include tokenisation, part-of-speech tagging, and dependency parsing, amongst others, which help in creating word vectors that effectively represent the documents.


The creation of word vectors is a critical step in this process, as these vectors carry semantic meanings of the words and can capture various degrees of similarity among them. In essence, these vectors encapsulate the context and semantic relationships between words, thereby enabling the AI to understand and interpret the document content.


For similarity detection between the documents, the AI tool uses the Margin-Similarity algorithm. This algorithm aids in identifying documents that share similar themes or topics, thereby enabling more efficient document classification. The tool further employs the TF-IDF (Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency) algorithm for topic modelling. This algorithm assigns weight to words based on their frequency in a document and their inverse frequency across the entire corpus of documents. The result is a series of weights that can be used to identify the most relevant and distinguishing words in each document, providing a basis for topic modelling.


By leveraging AI for topic modelling and document classification, the EU Parliament is not only improving the organisation of its vast document archives but also enhancing the accessibility and usability of these important resources. The combination of these advanced AI tools and techniques represents a significant leap in the management and utilisation of legislative archives.


Public Accessibility and User Interface:


The application of AI in the legislative archives of the EU Parliament is not confined to the internal operations of the institution. Rather, it extends its benefits to the wider public, marking a significant step towards enhancing public accessibility to legislative documents and fostering an informed citizenry.


The AI tools and facilities developed by the Parliament are accessible to the public via the Parliament’s archival website. This platform provides an interface for users to engage with the vast array of legislative documents stored in the archives. But the platform goes beyond simply providing access to these documents. By integrating AI into the user interface, the platform transforms the way users interact with and comprehend the legislative content.


One of the key features of the platform is the AI-driven document summarisation tool. Users can input any document—whether a docx, PDF, or txt file— and receive an AI-generated summary of the document. This tool, leveraging the algorithm developed by MIT and Summer NLP, has the potential to significantly reduce the time and effort required for users to understand the essence of lengthy and complex legislative documents. By condensing the content into a succinct summary, the tool enhances the readability and comprehensibility of the documents, making legislative content more accessible to a broader audience.


However, it is important to note that these AI tools are not universally applicable to all types of documents. Instead, their development and application have been thoughtfully calibrated based on the specific characteristics and requirements of different document types. For example, the document summarisation tool is particularly useful for oral interventions, which are single-person speech flows, but may not be as effective for reports or studies that already contain summaries. Similarly, the topic modelling and document classification tool have been designed around parliamentary questions, which offer a consistent structure across time.


The thoughtful application of AI in this context shows a commitment to tailor AI tools to specific use cases, ensuring that they deliver genuine value to users. It underscores the importance of understanding the unique characteristics of different document types and the specific needs of users, and designing AI tools accordingly. By doing so, the EU Parliament is not only harnessing the power of AI to enhance the efficiency of its operations, but also fostering greater public engagement with legislative content.


Lessons Learned and Future Directions:


As with any innovative endeavour, the integration of AI into the legislative archives of the EU Parliament has yielded valuable lessons and insights, providing a roadmap for future developments and enhancements.


One of the most crucial takeaways is the absolute importance of data quality. Given that AI and machine learning algorithms learn and make predictions based on the data they are trained on, the quality and accuracy of this data directly impact the effectiveness of the AI tools. The team behind the project invested a considerable amount of time and effort in quality control, checking the metadata and accessibility of each document one by one. This meticulous approach revealed a significant number of anomalies – as much as 20% of the documents had issues – underlining the magnitude of the data quality challenge.


This finding not only underscores the necessity of rigorous quality control measures but also points towards the need for automated data cleaning and preprocessing solutions in future AI applications. By investing in such solutions, the EU Parliament could further enhance the reliability and performance of its AI tools.


The use of a cloud platform for public data is another key lesson from the project. The cloud platform offers flexibility and adaptability, enabling the team to test and evolve the AI tools in an agile manner. This approach allows for continuous development and short cycles of facility provision, which in turn facilitates iterative improvements and swift responses to user feedback. The project team could test the AI tools, gather feedback, and then refine the tools based on this feedback, resulting in a user-centric development process.


Looking ahead, the project points towards exciting possibilities for the application of AI in the legislative domain. The potential of AI to enhance document summarisation, topic modelling, and document classification has already been demonstrated. Future directions could include the development of AI tools for automated data cleaning and preprocessing, as well as the exploration of other document types that could benefit from AI-driven analysis. Moreover, there is scope for further enhancing the user interface, perhaps through the use of AI-powered search and recommendation systems, to make it even easier for users to find and access the documents they need.


Above all, the project serves as a reminder that innovation is not confined to any particular age group or demographic. As the project lead, a gentleman close to retirement, demonstrated, innovation is a matter of mindset. This project embodies the principle that everyone, regardless of age or background, can contribute to the advancement of AI and its application in real-world settings. It underlines the importance of fostering a culture of innovation and continuous learning, where everyone is empowered to explore new ideas and push the boundaries of what is possible.


Conclusion: Impact and Implications of AI Integration


The application of AI in the EU Parliament’s legislative archives has brought transformative changes in document summarisation, topic modelling, and document classification. AI’s ability to extract and condense information has made the content more accessible and comprehensible for users.


Additionally, the specific tailoring of AI tools to different document types has emphasised the diversity and adaptability of AI applications. The project further highlights the crucial role of data quality and the potential of cloud platforms for continuous development and quick provision of facilities.


The integration of AI in the legislative archives is a monumental step, marking a new era of enhanced accessibility and understanding of legislative history. The success of this project is a testament to the innovative spirit and unwavering commitment of the Archives Unit of the EU Parliament. The team’s meticulous attention to detail, relentless pursuit of data quality, and agile approach to development have been instrumental in bringing this project to fruition. This initiative showcases how the team has embraced the opportunities offered by AI, using them to transform the way legislative archives are managed and accessed.

Support this library and donate

Supporting and donating to this library is more than a contribution; it is a vote for the importance of freely accessible knowledge and a pledge to our shared intellectual growth. Each donation aids in the curation, preservation, and expansion of our resources, ensuring the continued availability of relevant and timely content. It helps us sustain the quality and breadth of our offerings, enabling us to serve our diverse community better. Your contribution signifies your commitment to fostering a vibrant, informed, and connected community, underpinned by the principle of equitable access to knowledge.