European Democracy Action Plan

In “A New Push for European Democracy”

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Article 2 TEU states that 'The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities'. Prior to the coronavirus crisis, the European Union had already identified cases of a decline in democracy in some Member States. The  erosion of democracy included more people being likely to tolerate authoritarian regimes, and to trust governments and media less. These trends have been accentuated by the crisis, which also creates new risks towards democracy. As a response, the Commission is continuously monitoring the application of emergency measures in all Member States and under its priority area "New push for European Democracy", it created the European Democracy Action Plan. It aims to improve the resilience of democracies and address the threats of external interference in European elections. From July to September 2020, the European Commission run a public consultation focusing on the key aspects of the Plan.

On 3 December 2020, the European Commission presented its Democracy Action Plan to empower citizens and build more resilient democracies across the EU. It is a non-legislative initiative announcing further steps, including legislative ones. Protecting and strengthening European democracy and in particular European elections and the threat of disinformation raise challenges that cannot be addressed by national or local action alone. The Plan is centered around the individual rights and freedoms, transparency and accountability. It includes the following priorities:

(I) Protect the integrity of elections and promote democratic participation by:

  • Introducing new rules on transparency in political advertising in 2021
  • Revising existing rules on the financing of European political parties in 2021
  • Setting up a new EU operational mechanism for electoral resilience, rooted in structured cooperation of Member States to counter threats to electoral process
  • Promoting respect in the public debate and fight against online hate speech

EU structural funds are recommended to be used to fund civil society and build capacity and institutional/administrative infrastructure for civic engagement and political participation; as well as to foster access to democratic participation and trust in democracy. 

(II) Strengthen media freedom and media pluralism by:

  • Proposing a recommendation on safety of journalists in 2021
  • Presenting an initiative to protect journalists and civil society against abusive litigation (SLAPP) in 2021
  • Providing sustainable funding for projects on legal and practical assistance to journalists inside and outside the EU
  • Supporting cooperation, journalistic partnerships and standards
  • Strengthening media diversity and transparency (including transparency of media ownership with a new Media Ownership Monitor, transparency of state advertising)

(III) Counter disinformation, foreign interference and information influence operations by:

  • Developing the EU’s toolbox for countering foreign interference in our information space.
  • Issuing guidance for a reinforced Code of Practice on Disinformation in Spring 2021 and setting a permanent monitoring framework
  • Boosting media literacy, raising awareness and support for civil society

The Commission plans to gradually implement the European Democracy Action plan with the active engagement of the European Parliament and the Council as well as with the wide circle of national actors, public and private, beyond government authorities. It envisages to have completed its application until 2023 - a year ahead of the elections to the European Parliament, and to assess the progress made and whether further steps are needed.

On 7 December, the Plan was referred internally to parliamentary committees and is currently in preparatory phase in the European Parliament. Responsible committee is the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. Opinions will be expected from the following committees: Foreign AffairsDevelopment, Industry, Research and Energy, Internal Market and Consumer Protection, Culture and Education, Constitutional Affairs, Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, and Petitions. 

References:

Author: Kristina Grošek, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

Related legislative trains: 

As of 23/06/2022.
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