“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.” With these words, on 13 September 2022, European Commission President Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen, announced the Defence of Democracy Package EC’s initiative, aimed at strengthening democratic resilience, at promoting, supporting and protecting democracy worldwide following the guidelines emerged by the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The Defence of Democracy Package initiative was welcomed by 47 organisations, among which ALDA, based in Europe and active in the fields of democracy, human rights and rule of law, which decided to gather contributions and recommendations on how to defend their political systems and contribute to strengthening democracy worldwide.
The Joint Civil Society and Democracy Organisations’ Priorities for the Defence of Democracy Package aims at strengthening democratic resilience, at promoting, supporting and protecting democracy worldwide
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.
Due to this, it is extremely important for the European Commission to ensure that the initiatives contained in the Defense of Democracy Package reinforce fundamental rights and go beyond reiterating existing policy initiatives.
This contribution contains recommendations in several areas namely, civil society, civic space and active citizenship; European elections; disinformation; the online public sphere; independent media and journalism; and foreign interference. As also stated by Mr. Toma Sutic, Member of the Cabinet of the Vice President for Democracy and Demography, Commissioner Dubravka Šuica during the last ALDATalk: “Democracy can only thrive if citizens contribute and participate. Democracy is what happens between elections, not at the ballot box” – said Mr. Sutic. “The European Commission supports and empowers civil society organisations because they safeguard social cohesion and democracy itself” – continued Mr. Sutic, highlighting how an effective action in all of the above-mentioned 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.