On 13 September 2022, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that: “We need to better shield ourselves from malign interference. This is why we will present a Defence of Democracy package. It will bring covert foreign influence and shady funding to light. We will not allow any autocracy’s Trojan horses to attack our democracies from within.”
Together with 46 organisations based in Europe and active in the fields of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, we gathered contributions and recommendations for an ambitious Defence of Democracy Package, for a wide view of how to defend our political systems.
We welcome the fact that discussions on the Defence of Democracy package have expanded beyond an overwhelming emphasis on foreign interference. Challenges to democracy come from within Europe as well. We collectively insist that any measures made to tackle foreign interference must be made carefully and with due regard for international human rights law, the Charter of Fundamental Values, article 2 of the Treaty on European Union and the European policy-making processes. Without clear assessments and definitions within the measures, there is a risk any proposal can be weaponised against pro-democratic actors by those seeking to undermine democracy. The risk is not theoretical – foreign interference has been used in many countries around the world already to stifle media, journalists, civil society and political opposition.
The European Commission should ensure that the legislative and non-legislative initiatives of the package reinforce fundamental rights and go beyond repeating existing policy initiatives.
This contribution provides sets of recommendations in the following areas: civil society, civic space and active citizenship; European elections; disinformation; the online public sphere; independent media and journalism; and foreign interference.
We believe that effective action in all of these areas will be essential to protect democracy towards the 2024 European Parliament elections and they should therefore be covered by the Defence of Democracy Package.
Read the full paper here.