European Democracy Action Plan
On 3 December 2020, the Commission presented its Action Plan for Democracy, which complements the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024 of March 2020 (--> eucrim 1/2020, 6-7). The Action Plan proposes measures to:
- Promote free and fair elections;
- Strengthen media freedom;
- Counter disinformation.
In concrete terms, the Action Plan provides for the establishment of a joint, operational mechanism for the protection of elections against threats such as cyber-attacks, in order to be able to ensure free and fair elections, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hate crime and incitement, including online incitement, should also be included in the list of “EU criminal offences” in Art. 83(1) TFEU. In addition, the establishment of an expert group and the presentation of an initiative to protect journalists and civil society through so-called SLAPP lawsuits (i.e., to avoid lawsuit abuse in strategic lawsuits against public participation) is planned for 2021. The fight against disinformation, especially in the digital sphere, is to be further intensified with guidelines for an improved code of conduct to combat disinformation in the spring of this year.
A public consultation of citizens, civil society, and stakeholders conducted by the Commission between July and September 2020 revealed support for further EU action in all three areas. A review of progress and possible further steps will take place in 2023. The tabled European Democracy Action Plan is considered one element of a broader endeavour at EU level to strengthen democracy, equality, and respect for human rights.