This Opinion welcomes the European Media Freedom Act and all the related EU initiatives aiming to address the worrying developments in the area of media freedom over the last years. The Opinion entails a number of recommendations concerning editorial and journalists' independence; the need for financial resources to ensure independence of public media; transparency in the allocation of State advertising; transparency of media ownership. The Opinion also calls for measures to ensure the independence of national regulatory bodies, especially in the context of the future European board for media services. It also considers that EU anti-concentration law should be used where national regulators fail to address media market concentration.
Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation" (SLAPPs) are a particular form of harassment used against journalists, rights defenders and others who are involved in protecting the public interest. Typically, they are meritless lawsuits lodged by powerful individuals or entities against a weaker party who expresses a critical position on a matter of public interest. Through this Opinion, the EESC welcomes the European Commission initiative – a proposed Directive and a Recommendation – aiming to tackle this growing phenomenon. The EESC also proposes to go beyond the current scope of the initiative, notably through a stronger focus on national aspects, and recommendations on aspects like preliminary rulings or training.
The EESC believes that any phenomenon of antisemitism is incompatible with European values and norms, as it leads to violations of the law and to exclusion, which is a threat not only to the communities concerned and Jewish life, but also to Europe's heritage and present, and to a democratic European future. The Committee broadly supports the establishment of the Strategy and the fact that it was preceded by a broad consultation process in 2021. It strongly supports that the Strategy is not only about combating antisemitism, but also about fostering Jewish life. It firmly believes that antisemitism is not only a violation of the law affecting European Jews, but is also a test of the European idea, European coexistence, the rule of law, fundamental rights and democracy. The EESC believes that all Member States have a fundamental obligation to ensure that their citizens have the freedom to hold religious beliefs and practice their religions without fear.
The EESC laments the severity of the money laundering phenomenon in the EU. Current European legislation is largely inadequate in the face of coordination failures and national divergences, and therefore strongly supports the Anti Money Laundering legislative package, in particular the creation and design of the new European Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA) with direct supervisory powers.
In this opinion, the EESC underlines that the Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights should be based on concreteness and tangibility, with actions that are measurable and accompanied by monitoring frameworks jointly agreed among relevant stakeholders and encompassing the social, environmental, and economic criteria. The EESC acknowledges the diversity and the common basis of social models across the EU. Competitiveness and higher productivity based on skills and knowledge are a sound recipe for maintaining the well-being of European societies. The EESC further believes that greater efforts can be made at EU and Member State level in the area of combating poverty, in line with the first Sustainable Development Goal under the UN 2030 Agenda.
The EESC welcomes the Communication as an essential and effective step to enable the digitalisation of justice. It is crucial to support Member States at national level in making this change by providing them not only with the necessary funding, but also with tools. With this support, the digitalisation of justice can be expanded at European level to create mechanisms facilitating closer cross-border cooperation between judicial authorities.
The EESC welcomes the proposed regulatory initiative, which will have an indirect positive impact as it simplifies and speeds up cross-border judicial procedures and cooperation, and will also contribute to improving the functioning of the single market. It is worth noting that e-CODEX is not limited to e-justice. In anticipation of the future, the EESC recommends including a provision to open up the possibility of other uses by other public administrations, including for example the transfer of e-health records.