Reinforcing democracy and integrity of elections package - Related Opinions
This Guidance sets out the Commission’s views on how platforms and other relevant stakeholders should step up their measures to address gaps and shortcomings in the Code and create a more transparent, safe and trustworthy online environment
This opinion is the EESC's contribution to the implementation of the European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP) published by the European Commission in December 2020. The EESC welcomes the document, which it views as both positive and necessary, and recommends that the European Commission add to it a specific pillar for the involvement of civil society and social partners and the promotion of labour democracy. Indeed, the EESC regrets that the EDAP has failed to address the important role of the social contract, social dialogue and collective bargaining in reducing inequalities and encouraging Europeans to embrace democratic ideals. The EESC also believes that greater emphasis should be placed on civil dialogue, and it therefore reiterates its call for the creation of an annual Civil Society Forum on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law (SOC/627).
The landscape of digital services is significantly different today from 20 years ago, when the eCommerce Directive was adopted. Online intermediaries have become vital players in the digital transformation. Online platforms in particular have created significant benefits for consumers and innovation, but at the same time, they can be used as a vehicle for disseminating illegal content, or selling illegal goods or services online.
The aim of this own - initiative opinion is to put forward recommendations to overcome existing obstacles that prevent persons with disabilities from voting in EP elections in the EU. Indeed, in each of the 27 EU countries, there are rules or organisational arrangements that deprive some voters with disabilities of their right to vote. The EESC considers this unacceptable and contrary to the fundamental values of the EU, to the provisions of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and to many international legal and political acts. Therefore, the EESC calls on the EP, the European Council and Member States to urgently amend the 1976 Electoral Act by clarifying the principles of universality, directness and secrecy of elections, so as to allow the implementation of common standards granting the right to vote to all EU citizens.
The EESC welcomes the Commission's proposal for a Data Strategy that sets cross-sectoral data sharing as a priority and to improve the use, sharing, access and governance of data with legislative, sector-specific action. An ambitious Data Strategy can address the critical need to enhance EU data capabilities.
The EESC supports the objectives of the Commission proposal and agrees that democracy is one of the fundamental values on which the EU is founded. The EESC recognises that the procedures for the elections of the EP are Member State governed within the EU framework. Enabling the Authority for European political parties and European political foundations (the 'Authority') to impose sanctions is one way of ensuring personal data is protected and not misused for political gain. The EESC supports the additional staffing of the Authority with a view that this staff will be better positioned to work with the national DPAs to ensure that data protection infringements are properly investigated and where found sanctions applied.
A variety of tools and methods are currently used to undermine European values and external actions of the EU, as well as to develop and provoke separatist and nationalistic attitudes, manipulate the public and conduct direct interference in the domestic policy of sovereign countries and the EU as a whole. Moreover, the growing influence of cyber offensive capabilities and increased weaponization of technologies to achieve political goals is observed. The impact of such actions is often underestimated.
The EESC agrees with the Commission's call for more responsibility on the part of social media platforms. However, despite the existence of several studies and policy papers produced by European specialists in the last few years, the Commission's communication lacks any practical mandatory steps to ensure this.
Illegal online content is a complex and cross-cutting issue that needs to be tackled from a range of perspectives, both in terms of assessing its impact and harmonising the way it is dealt with in the legal framework of the Member States.