The EU must stand up for democracy and press freedom

The EU must stand up for democracy and press freedom

Representatives from PES member parties, MEPs, and civil society held a videoconference to discuss the state of Rule of Law and democracy in Europe, the Charter of Digital Rights, a proposed European Democracy Action Plan, and citizens’ rights in the digital world.

Chair of the PES Democracy Network and leader of the Social Democrats (Slovenia), Tanja Fajon MEP, said: 

“Fundamental European values are under constant threat in Poland, Hungary and elsewhere, lately also in Slovenia. We are witnessing attempts to suppress democracy, press freedom, women’s rights and LGBTI rights. As Socialists and Democrats, we are determined to make sure that the EU is properly equipped to fight this negative trend.

“In Slovenia we will not allow Prime Minister Janez Janša’s aggressive verbal attacks, intimidation and interference to go unchallenged. We will not accept attempts to pressure the Slovenian Press Agency, the national broadcaster RTV Slovenia or other independent institutions. Slovenia is a well-established democracy, with a healthy media landscape, and that must be respected. We continue to keep a close eye on developments as we approach the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU in July.

“As we have seen in Hungary and Poland, the EU can and must step in to defend European values if and when they are threatened. No Member State should think they can get away with strangling independent media to avoid scrutiny.”

Socialists and democrats have consistently warned about the backsliding of rule of law and threats to democracy and fundamental rights in Europe, and we shall continue to do so. 

Under the last European Commission, then Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans was a vocal and effective defender of democracy. The current Commission must build on his work through an equally tough stance. 

Portuguese Minister of State for Economic Affairs and the Digital Transition, Pedro Siza Vierira, updated the meeting on the progress made on the Charter of Digital Rights by the Portuguese Presidency. The Network welcomed the Charter as a vital tool to reinforce digital rights, supporting a fair digital transition and stronger European democracy. Building on this welcome effort, the Portuguese Presidency will host a Digital Assembly in June.

The Network exchanged on the European Democracy Action Plan. This is another important proposal being progressed by the Portuguese Presidency. Progressives stand firmly behind the Plan and its focus on tackling disinformation and defending media freedom and pluralism. This is particularly relevant as we work to meet the challenge of COVID-19.

The meeting also exchanged on a future PES policy paper addressing citizens’ digital rights.