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News blog15 December 2023Directorate-General for Communication

Democracy has its enemies and needs protection.

By Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Values and Transparency and Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President for Democracy and Demography

The Commission’s adoption of the Defence of Democracy package on 12 December signifies a critical step in safeguarding the foundational values of our Union: democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental rights. Russian interference, cyber-attacks, intrusive spyware and pressure on media and civil society are just examples of attacks on elements of our democracies.

Over 400 million Europeans have the right to vote next year in the European elections. The European Union has created a rich, unprecedented democratic space. It crosses languages, borders, cultures, and histories.

Our citizens enjoy the freedom to express diverse views, participate in democratic life, have their say in policy making, and elect their representatives. This precious freedom is our pride and our responsibility, particularly in the face of external threats that seek to undermine these democratic processes. We have the moral and political duty and responsibility to nurture, protect and secure what we have constructed.

The Defence of Democracy package responds to a critical need in today’s European Union. A recent survey indicates that 81% of EU citizens recognise foreign interference in our democratic systems as a serious issue that demands action. Our response is threefold: enhancing transparency, ensuring the integrity of our electoral processes, and fostering an enabling civic space.

Firstly, we propose a new law that will shed light on covert foreign influence by introducing transparency obligations. People have the right to know if a foreign government is funding activities in the EU trying to influence public opinion and the democratic debate. Of course, we remain proud of the EU’s openness and free speech, also by foreign governments and this will not stop. We simply want to identify influence on our policymaking and reduce the scope for covert funding on behalf of hostile third country governments.

Secondly, we are bolstering our electoral processes. The opportunities to use online platforms to spread disinformation or attempts to manipulate the public have never been greater. The package aims at promoting free and fair elections, safeguarding them against cyberattacks and manipulation efforts. Digital revolution brought politics closer to voters, but also created risks. We need better exchange of information between authorities, more efforts from information platforms, improved digital literacy and assurances that surveillance tools are not used to interfere with the democratic debate or deployed to target political actors and journalists.

Finally, the package promotes and protects an active civic space. Democracy’s best allies are the citizens, so it is vital that we build democratic resilience – to both internal and external threats - and across all generations, including the youngest. This package empowers citizens and civil society organisations to engage more effectively in public policy-making processes, thereby reinforcing democratic resilience from within. This initiative builds upon the investments already made and the avenues for citizen participation and engagement opened by the Conference on the Future of Europe and continued by the European Citizen Panels.

Our new initiatives aim at ensuring that citizen can have confidence and trust in the electoral process and in the results! A functional democratic system is not a given. It needs nurturing by all of us, every day. Today’s package is a testament to the EU's proactive approach to defending the democratic process, ensuring that the European Union remains a source of inspiration for democracy, transparency, and citizen engagement.
 

Details

Publication date
15 December 2023
Author
Directorate-General for Communication