European Democracy Action Plan: making EU democracies stronger
The European Commission is presenting today its European Democracy Action Plan to empower citizens and build more resilient democracies across the EU.
Standing up to challenges to our democratic systems from rising extremism and perceived distance between people and politicians, the Action Plan sets out measures to promote free and fair elections, strengthen media freedom and counter disinformation. More concretely, the Commission will propose legal action on political advertising that will address the sponsors of paid content and production and distribution channels, including online platforms, advertisers and political consultancies, clarifying their respective responsibilities. The Commission will also recommend measures to tackle safety of journalist and present an initiative to protect them from strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs). Finally, the Commission will steer efforts to overhaul the existing Code of Practice on Disinformation, strengthening requirements for online platforms and introducing vigorous monitoring and oversight.
The European Democracy Action Plan sets out measures around three main pillars:
- Promote free and fair elections
The Commission will propose legislation on transparency of sponsored political content (“political advertising”). The Commission will also revise the rules on the financing of European political parties. Through the European Cooperation Network on Elections, the Commission will enhance cooperation among Member States and launch a new operational mechanism, which will support efficient and timely exchanges on elections’ integrity related issues such as the cyber-security of elections.
The Commission will organise a high-level event bringing together various authorities to address the challenges related to electoral processes as well as empowering citizens to participate as voters and candidates in the democratic process. A healthy democracy relies on citizen engagement and an active civil society, not only at election times. To that end, the Action Plan promotes the use of EU structural funds and the funding available under the new Creative Europe Programme as well as highlights the importance of active participation among young people, a key element of the EU youth strategy. The EU will also consolidate the capacity of EU elections observation missions in third countries.
- Strengthen media freedom and pluralism
In recent years, the safety of journalists has continued to deteriorate – physical and online threats and attacks on journalists are on the rise in several Member States. This is why the Commission will propose in 2021 a recommendation on the safety of journalists, drawing particular attention to threats against women journalists, and an initiative to curb the abusive use of lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs). The Commission will also work closely with Member States through a structured dialogue and provide a sustainable funding for projects on legal and practical assistance to journalists in the EU and elsewhere. Finally, the Commission will also put forward further measures to support media pluralism and to strengthen transparency of media ownership and state advertising, among others, through the new Media Ownership Monitor.
The European Democracy Action Plan goes hand in hand with the Media and Audiovisual Action Plan, which aims to help the sector recover and make the most of the digital transformation.
- Counter disinformation
The Action Plan proposes improving the existing EU’s toolbox for countering foreign interference, including new instruments that allow imposing costs on perpetrators. The Commission will steer efforts to overhaul the Code of Practice on Disinformation into a co-regulatory framework of obligations and accountability of online platforms, in line with the upcoming Digital Services Act. To that end, the Commission will issue guidance to enhance the Code of Practice in spring 2021 and set up a more robust framework for monitoring its implementation. The Commission and the High Representative will also take further measures that strengthen the resilience of our societies and foster international partnerships.
Source The European Commission