The "Reinforcing democracy and integrity of elections" package was issued by the European Commission in November 2021. The EESC was asked to address two of the three legislative components of the package: the revision of the Regulation on the statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundations, and a proposal for a Regulation transparency and targeting of political advertising. In this Opinion, the EESC welcomes the aims and motivation of the package but also suggests specific recommendations to make the text of the Regulations more ambitious. One of the main objectives of the Opinion is to promote conscious political participation by citizens and a role for civil society in ensuring transparent, accessible and honest political activities.
Guidance / Code of practice on disinformation - Related Opinions
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 Communication stresses the EU's commitment to safeguarding an online environment providing the highest possible freedom and security, for the benefit of its citizens.
The EESC welcomes this package of new initiatives in a wide range of areas and advocates a European path to digitalisation by seizing the opportunities for the economy together with the protection of our data to ensure privacy and self-determination.
The EESC takes careful note of the initiative's definition of disinformation as verifiably false or misleading information that is a threat to democracy and does public harm. Spreading disinformation has become a part of a hybrid war with a clear political aim. However, it also emphasises that, in addition to false information, highly selective information, defamation, scare-mongering and inciting hatred attack citizens' fundamental rights (freedoms) and minority rights.
Multiple actions from all stakeholders are needed to provide quality information and raise awareness. To this end, the EESC welcomes the initiative for coordinated action to protect the EU, its institutions and its citizens against disinformation. The EESC emphasises the urgency of such measures but is also concerned, however, that the impact of this action plan might be limited given that the May 2019 European elections are not far off.
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.