REPORT on the situation of Fundamental Rights in the European Union – Annual Report for the years 2018 – 2019 – A9-0226/2020

Source: European Parliament

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on the situation of Fundamental Rights in the European Union – Annual Report for the years 2018 – 2019

 

(2019/2199(INI))

The European Parliament,

 having regard to the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

 having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

 having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

 having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD),

 having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),

 having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),

 having regard to the UN Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),

 having regard to the references made in previous reports to the state of fundamental rights in the European Union,

 having regard to Article 20 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which states that everyone is equal before the law,

 having regard to Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which prohibits all forms of discrimination,

 having regard to the obligation for the EU to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights under Article 6(2) TEU,

 having regard to Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin,

 having regard to Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation,

 having regard to Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law,

 having regard to Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law,

 having regard to Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 September 2006 on the application of the provisions of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters to Community institutions and bodies,

 having regard to its plenary session debate in Strasbourg on the urgent action needed to address homelessness in Europe, that  took place  on 13 January 2020,

 having regard to Principle 19 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which states that ‘access to social housing or housing assistance of good quality shall be provided for those in need’,

 having regard to Article 31 of the Revised European Social Charter on the Right to Housing,

 

 having regard to Article 34(3) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’), which affirms the right to social and housing assistance in order to combat social exclusion and poverty,

 having regard to the Commission report of 2019 on in-work poverty[1]

 having regard to the FRA report entitled ‘Combating child poverty: an issue of fundamental rights‘,

 

 having regard to Resolution 2280 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the situation of migrants and refugees on the Greek island, of 11 April 2019[2],

 having regard to its legislative resolution of 4 April 2019 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+)[3],

 having regard to Article 2 of the Revised European Social Charter on the right to just conditions of work,

 having regard to Article 31 of the Charter on fair and just working conditions,

 having regard to the Council recommendation of 9 April 2019 on the economic policy in  the euro area (2019/C 136/01),

 having regard to its resolution of 10 October 2019 on employment and social policies of the euro area[4],

 having regard to the EU Youth Strategy for 2019-2027, based on the Council resolution of 26 November 2018,

 having regard to Directive (EU) 2019/1152 of the European Parliament and  the Council of 20 June 2019 on transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union,

 having regard to Directive (EU) 2019/1158 of the European Parliament and  the Council of 20 June 2019 on work-life balance for parents and carers and repealing Council Directive 2010/18/EU,

 having regard to the Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA,

 having regard to the report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council entitled “Second report on the progress made in the fight against trafficking in human beings (2018) as required under Article 20 of Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims” (COM(2018)0777),

 having regard to the 8th General Report on GRETA’s Activities[5] and GRETA reports concerning the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by all the member states[6],

 having regard to the Communication of 28 November 2018 from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the European Investment Bank on ‘A Clean Planet for all: A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate-neutral economy’ (COM(2018)0773)[7],

 having regard to Principle 16 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which stresses the right to timely access to affordable, preventive and curative health care of good quality,

 having regard to its resolution of 12 April 2016 on the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration[8],

 having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2018 on guidelines for Member States to prevent humanitarian assistance from being criminalised[9],

 having regard to its resolution of 3 May 2018 on the protection of children in migration[10],

 having regard to the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of October 2014 on the alternatives to immigration detention of children (RES 2020),

 having regard to the recommendation of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights of June 2019 entitled ‘Lives saved. Rights protected. Bridging the protection gap for refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean’[11],

 having regard to the 2019 Fundamental Rights Report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and the update of June 2019 of the FRA note entitled ‘NGO ships involved in search and rescue in the Mediterranean and criminal investigations’[12],

 having regard to its resolution of 5 October 2017 on prison systems and conditions[13],

 having regard to its resolution of 1 June 2017 on combating anti-semitism[14],

 having regard to its resolution of 15 April 2015 on the occasion of International Roma Day – anti-Gypsyism in Europe and EU recognition of the memorial day of the Roma genocide during World War II[15],

 having regard to its resolution of 11 October 2017 on fundamental rights aspects in Roma integration in the EU: fighting anti-Gypsyism[16],

 having regard to its resolution of 12 February 2019 on the need for a strengthened post–2020 Strategic EU Framework for National Roma Inclusion Strategies and stepping up the fight against anti-Gypsyism[17],

 having regard to its resolution of 17 September 2020 on the implementation of National Roma Integration Strategies: combating negative attitudes towards people with Romani background in Europe[18]

 having regard to the FRA report entitled ‘Roma women in nine EU countries’,

 having regard to its resolution of 3 May 2018 on media pluralism and media freedom in the European Union[19],

 having regard to its resolution of 7 February 2018 on protection and non-discrimination with regard to minorities in the EU Member States[20],

 having regard to its resolution of 7 July 2016 on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with special regard to the Concluding Observations of the UN CRPD Committee[21],

 having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2018 on the use of Facebook users’ data by Cambridge Analytica and the impact on data protection[22],

 having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2018 on the rise of neo-fascist violence in Europe[23],

 having regard to its resolution of 7 October 2020 on the establishment of an EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights[24],

 having regard to its legislative resolution of 17 January 2019 on the Protection of the Union’s budget in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States[25],

 having regard to the Commission’s Communication on strengthening the rule of law within the Union – a blueprint for action (COM(2019)0343),

 having regard to the Commission communication of 30 September 2020 entitled ‘2020 Rule of Law Report – The rule of law situation in the European Union’ (COM(2020)0580) and its 27 accompanying country chapters on the rule of law in the Member States (SWD(2020)0300-0326), which address the impact of the COVID-19 measures taken by the Member States on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights,

 having regard to its resolution of 8 February 2019 on the rights of intersex people[26],

 having regard to its resolution of 14 February 2019 on the right to peaceful protest and the proportionate use of force[27],

 having regard to its resolution of 26 March 2019 on fundamental rights of people of African descent in Europe[28],

 having regard to its resolution of 14 November 2019 on the criminalisation of sexual education in Poland[29],

 having regard to its resolution of 26 November 2019 on children’s rights on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child[30],

 having regard to its resolution of 13 February 2019 on experiencing backlash in women’s rights and gender equality in the EU[31],

 having regard to Commission Recommendation (EU) 2018/951 on standards for equality bodies,

 having regard to the 2018 Commission Annual Report on the List of actions to advance LGBTI equality,

 having regard to its resolution of 18 December 2019 on public discrimination and hate speech against LGBTI people, including LGBTI free zones[32],

 having regard to its resolution of 30 May 2018 on the implementation of Directive 2012/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime[33],

 having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2020 on ongoing hearings under Article 7(1) of the TEU regarding Poland and Hungary[34],

 having regard to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) of 19 December 2017 in Case A.R. and L.R. v Switzerland (22338/15), which affirmed that comprehensive sexuality education pursues  the legitimate aims of protecting public health,  protecting children from sexual violence, and preparing them for social realities; therefore did not recognise an obligation on the part of Member States to allow  parents to withdraw  their children from such  education,

 having regard to the  ECtHR case  Sh.D. and others v Greece, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Northern Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia[35] , which affirms that the child’s extreme vulnerability should prevail over irregular status with necessary measures adopted to protect them and that authorities violated Article 5 by automatically applying the protective custody regime without considering any alternatives to detention or the requirement under EU law to avoid the detention of children[36],

 having regard to the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the  Council of Europe of 3 October 2019 on  obstetrical and gynaecological violence (RES 2306) and the related report of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination of the Council of Europe of 12 September 2019, in which the Assembly calls on the Council of Europe member States to combat gynaecological and obstetrical violence and provides recommendation on how to do so,

 having regard to the Issue Paper entitled “Women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in Europe” (2017) by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights,

 having regard to  the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Report  following her visit to Hungary from 4 to 8 February 2019[37] ,

  having regard to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe resolution 2299 (2019) on Pushback policies and practice in the Council of Europe members[38],

 having regard to the reports by national, European and international NGOs, as well as the reports by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights,

 having regard to the work carried out by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission,

 having regard to the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and of the ECtHR,

 having regard to the  Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence which opened for signature in Istanbul on 11 May 2011 (‘Istanbul Convention’),

­-  having regard to its resolution of 28 November 2019 on the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention and other measures to combat gender-based violence[39],

 having regard to the work of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality and the Committee on Petitions,

 having regard to the 2018 annual report of the Commission on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights[40],

 

 having regard to the  Fundamental Rights Reports of 2018 and 2019 of FRA[41],

 having regard to the FRA paper “Civil society space: views of organisations” as well as the FRA report “Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU”,

 having regard to Rule 54 of its Rules of Procedure,

 having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the Committee on Petitions,

 having regard to the position in the form of amendments of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality,

 having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A9-0226/2020),

A. whereas the EU is not merely a monetary union, but also a social one, as enshrined in  the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the European Pillar of Social Rights; whereas Article 151 TFEU refers to fundamental social rights such as those set out in the European Social Charter; whereas the EU is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, as set out in Article 2 TEU and as reflected in the Charter and embedded in international human rights treaties; whereas the Charter is part of EU primary law; whereas the Union has still not acceded to the ECHR, in spite of its obligation to do so under Article 6(2) TEU;

 

B. whereas these values are shared by all the Member States and should be upheld and actively promoted by the EU and each Member State individually in all their policies, both internally and externally in a consistent way; whereas respect for the rule of law is a prerequisite for the protection of fundamental rights and whereas Member States have the ultimate responsibility for safeguarding the human rights of all people;

 

C. whereas Article 17 of the TEU states that the Commission must ensure the application of the Treaties; whereas a refusal by a Member State to fully uphold EU law, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and the predictability of state actions is undermining the credibility of the EU; whereas an independent judiciary, freedom of expression and information and media pluralism are crucial components of the rule of law;

 

D. whereas in the years 2018 and 2019, the EU has faced serious and multifaceted challenges in relation to the protection of fundamental rights, the rule of law and democracy, which are all intrinsically connected; whereas the European Commission Special Eurobarometer of March 2019 shows that awareness of the Charter remains low; whereas according to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, in 2018 not only human rights violations were found across the EU, but also the rejection of human rights protection systems as a whole[42];

 

E. whereas better promotion of the Charter is needed, for example by means of campaigns promoting awareness, in order to render its provisions more effective and promote it as positive source of interpretation; whereas greater exchange of information on experiences and approaches to the use of the Charter between judges, lawyers’ associations and public administrations within the Member States, as well as beyond national borders, including through the use, where appropriate, of existing funding instruments, such as those provided for in the Justice Programme, as well as targeted training programmes for legal practitioners, could be beneficial;

 

F. whereas corruption constitutes a serious threat to democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights and harms all Member States and the EU as a whole; whereas the implementation of the anti-corruption legal framework remains uneven among Member States;

 

G. whereas the increase in precarious employment, as well as youth unemployment is deeply concerning and may lead to long lasting negative impacts on the rights enshrined in Article 31 of the Charter;

 

H. whereas children’s rights are enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; whereas the best interests of the child should be a crucial consideration in all EU action and the principle of the best interest of the child should be fully respected in all legislation, court and government decision at all levels; whereas Member States should ensure the right to education for all children in the EU and protect them from any discrimination;

 

I. whereas gender based violence in all its forms, including harassment and violence in the workplace, at home and online, is a violation of fundamental rights which affects all levels of society, regardless of age, education, income, social position and country of origin or residence, and represents a major barrier to equality between women and men; whereas as many as 11 Member States do not provide data on women victims of intentional homicide by an intimate partner or family member[43];

 

J. whereas the ECtHR has established that various types of environmental degradation can result in violations of human rights, such as the right to life, to private and family life, the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment, and the peaceful enjoyment of the home[44]; whereas environmental injustices are regularly related to health risks and negative consequences for wellbeing, and certain communities and groups, including socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, as well as black people and people of colour and ethnic minorities, are disproportionately affected by environmental burdens;

 

K. whereas access to justice is a fundamental right and impunity represents a significant obstacle for the recovery and protection of victims;

 

 

L. whereas there has been an organised backlash against women’s and girl’s rights in recent years, where some Member States have sought to roll back on sexual and reproductive health and rights, such as existing legal protections for women’s access to abortion care, including the introduction of regressive pre-conditions before abortions can take place, such as mandatory biased counselling or waiting periods, not ensuring that barriers that impede access to abortion in practice are eradicated, as well as attempts to fully ban abortion or remove existing legal grounds for abortion; Whereas in some Member States there have been attempts limit or ban sex education and gender studies and to promote campaigns against the Istanbul Convention which deny the existence of gender-based violence; whereas the backlash against women’s rights and gender equality is often linked to a broader deterioration in the situation of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights;

 

M. whereas cases of gynaecological and obstetrical violence have been increasingly denounced in several Member States[45] ; whereas the rights of women in all their diversity are protected under the Treaty, including Roma women, black women and women of colour, LGBT women and women with disabilities; whereas Roma women are particularly affected as regards women’s rights and often face exacerbated forms of verbal, physical, psychological and racial harassment in reproductive health care settings; whereas Roma have also experienced ethnic segregation in maternal health care facilities, and are placed in segregated rooms with segregated bathrooms and eating facilities; whereas in some Member States Roma have been subjected to systematic practices of forced and coercive sterilisation and have been unable to obtain adequate reparations, including compensation, for the resulting violations of their human rights;

 

N. Whereas the EU has witnessed spread of racism, intolerance, extremism, xenophobia, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Roma sentiments which have become normalised in certain Member States and are embraced by opinion leaders and politicians across the EU, fostering a social climate that provides fertile ground for racism, discrimination and hate crimes; whereas Muslims, including Muslim women, continue to experience widespread hostility and intolerance in many EU countries[46];  whereas the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights pointed out in its 2019 report that discriminatory institutional practices, policies and laws exist in many countries; whereas the fight against terrorism and counter-terrorism policies should not lead to general discrimination  against  certain communities; whereas the FRA created in December 2018 the first dedicated data-base on anti-Muslim hatred; whereas Anti-Semitism appears to be on the rise, as demonstrated by the report of 4 July 2019 by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency,  with several Member States reporting increases in crimes motivated by anti-Semitism; whereas  ethnic and religious minorities often face verbal, physical, psychological and racial harassment; whereas the development of education and training to foster critical thinking, to give tools to identify all forms of discrimination and intolerance and promote digital literacy, is crucial;

 

O. whereas the increased resort of states to new technology, such as predictive policing and the use of facial recognition, presents a number of risks, in particular for racial minorities in Europe;

 

P. whereas there is a serious backlash of LGBTI-rights, even to the extent that “LGBTI-free zones” have been introduced[47] in one Member State;

 

Q. whereas the EU and the Member States have shared competencies in the area of housing; whereas both a national and an EU level strategy is needed; whereas homelessness is a situation that deprives individuals of human rights, and is itself a violation of human rights; whereas there is atrend of rising evictions and homelessness across the EU[48];(AM 131)

 

R. whereas affordable housing is in short supply in Europe today, in spite of increasing demand; whereas annual overviews published by the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) found evidence of rising homelessness in almost all the EU/EEA; the 2018 FEANTSA report noted that children are becoming the largest group of people in emergency shelters as a result of a deterioration in the living conditions of extremely vulnerable families[49];

 

 

S. whereas freedom of expression and freedom and pluralism of the media are enshrined in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR); whereas an independent judiciary, freedom of expression and information and media pluralism are crucial components of the rule of law and are vital to the democratic functioning of the EU and its Member States;

 

T. whereas the number of threats and attacks against journalists has increased across the EU[50]; whereas the OSCE reports that impunity prevails as, for example, fewer than 15 % of murders of journalists in the OSCE region are solved (Media freedom report); whereas this is a clear deterioration regarding the protection of journalists, which undermines media freedom and freedom of expression, putting democracy at risk;

 

U. whereas Parliament’s resolution on media pluralism and media freedom in the EU stressed that Member States and the Commission should refrain from adopting unnecessary or disproportionate measures that limit access to the internet and the exercise of fundamental human rights, or that entail seizing control of public communications through the arbitrary imposition of a state of emergency or on other grounds; whereas these laws sometimes use vague and imprecise wording, thus giving a wide margin of discretion to law enforcement authorities when it comes to implementation, and increasing the risks of arbitrary restrictions to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly;

 

 

V. whereas in 2018 and 2019 it has been proven that some major social media companies, in violation of existing data protection law, have granted third-party applications access to users personal data, and that personal data has been increasingly abused for behavioural prediction and manipulation, including for electoral campaigning purposes; whereas in light of the constant development of technology, interferences with fundamental rights  can be seriously high; whereas various information systems can have impacts on fundamental rights, such as data protection and breaches of privacy;

 

 

W. whereas whistle-blowers play an essential role in any open and transparent democracy; whereas whistle-blowers are instrumental in promoting transparency, democracy and the rule of law, by reporting unlawful or improper conduct that undermine the public interest such as acts of corruption, criminal offences or conflicts of interest, which represent threats against citizens’ rights and freedoms;

 

X. whereas Article 11 of the ECHR and Article 12 of the Charter state that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of their interests; whereas in democratic societies, freedom of assembly is one of the instruments by which people can participate in the public debate and bring about social change;

 

Y. whereas acting police officers must always be identifiable in order to enable the investigations of possible excesses of use of force and national authorities must determine the associated responsibilities; whereas Member States have different thresholds for the use of force and weapons by law enforcement authorities for maintaining public order; whereas several Member States[51], have adopted laws that could lead to disproportionate restrictions of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly;

 

Z. whereas the space for civil society is shrinking in certain Member States; whereas Member States are responsible for ensuring that the rights of civil society organisations and human rights defenders are not restricted, and that a conducive legislative and regulatory environment is in place, as reinforced in the recently adopted Council conclusions on the Charter of Fundamental Rights after 10 Years: State of Play and Future Work; whereas Member States should also support the work of civil society organisations through sufficient funding and ensure that there are mechanisms for fruitful cooperation with them;

 

AA. whereas State and non-state sponsored campaigns to discredit human rights defenders and civil society organisations aim through their strategies to overturn existing laws on basic fundamental rights; whereas these campaigns have often been echoed by traditional media and social networks, while those who defend migrants and asylum seekers, the LGBTI+ community, survivors of gender-based violence, people of faith and religionand other marginalised groups continue to be criminalised and stigmatised;

 

 

AB. whereas, according to the IOM, 1885 persons in 2019 and 2299 persons in 2018 are believed to have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea on their way to Europe  ; whereas the route from Libya to Europe is still the migration route with the highest death toll in the world (646 deaths so far in 2019) and was five times deadlier in 2018 than in 2015 notably due to a reduction in search and rescue (SAR) activities off the Libyan coast[52]; whereas saving lives is an act of solidarity with those at risk, but first and foremost a legal obligation under both international law, as Article 98 of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – ratified by all Member States and the Union itself – requires States to render assistance to any person in distress at sea, and Union law[53];

 

AC. whereas the criminalisation of solidarity continued to be used as a tool to disrupt the work of NGOs trying to save lives in the Mediterranean Sea; whereas individuals faced charges related to assistance they provided to migrants and asylum seekers in several EU countries, , demonstrating the worrying trend of criminalizing humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum seekers;

 

AD. whereas the EU has an obligation under EU and international law to receive and process the applications of those who come to the EU seeking asylum; whereas pushbacks constitute a violation of EU and international law and prevent asylum seekers from benefiting from the legal guarantees firmly laid down in such law; whereas the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights expressed grave concern about consistent reports of violent pushbacks;

 

 

AE. whereas migration is part of the EU’s past, present and future and one of the biggest challenges of our times that has clear implications on fundamental rights; whereas applicants for asylum have the right and possibility to submit their asylum applications at official border crossings when entering the EU; whereas there have been allegations of violation of fundamental rights of migrants and asylum seekers; whereas border officials need to provide adequate services to refugees, taking into account the special circumstances of vulnerable people, such as children, traumatised people and pregnant women;

 

 

AF. whereas according to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, in 2018 women accounted for 18 % of all irregular entries across the external EU border and nearly one in five migrants were registered as children, with some 3,750 being unaccompanied; whereas these women and children are particularly vulnerable to abuses of their fundamental rights, such human trafficking; whereas there is a need for Member States to build and strengthen child protection systems to prevent and respond to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of children;

 

AG. whereas Member States should ensure that migrant and refugee children are granted access education swiftly after their arrival in the European Union territory;

 

AH. whereas acts of terrorism constitute one of the most serious violations of fundamental rights and freedoms; whereas during 2018 and 2019, acts of glorification of terrorism and homages to the terrorists took place within the European Union; whereas this kind of acts legitimizes terrorism, threatens our democracy and humiliates the victims;

 

Economic and social rights

1. Recognises that the EU plays an important role in preventing poverty and social exclusion in the Member States; stresses the importance for the EU and its Member States to work out specific programmes aimed at ending child poverty, as special consideration must be given to the particular detrimental impact of poverty on the social, psychological and physical development of children; and the health implications for future adult generations; stresses that children are at a disproportionate risk of social and economic exclusion and experience the violation of their fundamental rights due to abuse, violence, exploitation, poverty, and all forms of social exclusion; stresses that poverty is by itself a form of social injustice, which is grounded in gender inequalities, discrimination and unequal chances to access goods and services; calls on the Commission and the Council to consider fundamental rights while making economic policy proposals and to ensure that human rights impact assessments are conducted in conjunction with any decisions on their adoption, in order to assess any potential adverse impacts on human rights; calls on the Member States to guarantee access to health care, quality education and housing on an equal footing for all;

2. Stresses that major reductions of government spending on public services have had serious effects on inequalities, which  have deeply impacted the social fabric of the EU in many Member States and that this continues today-  exacerbating already widening inequalities and breaching fundamental rights – and affects in particular women, people with disabilities, the elderly, children, migrants, Roma, Travellers, LGBTI+ people, and people in other disadvantaged groups; reiterates that macroeconomic policies must be guided not only by economic growth but also by social standards, in order to ensure that the most vulnerable in society can fully enjoy their social, political and economic rights; stresses that equal access and opportunities for quality education and employment have a critical role in helping to alleviate inequality and lifting people out of poverty; acknowledges the importance of workers’ rights, such as maternity and paternity leave, which help provide a healthy, stable environment for children; calls on Member States to adopt laws to safeguard and strengthen such rights, that contribute to families’ social and economic stability; calls on the Member States to ensure appropriate working conditions and protection against economic exploitation and discrimination,  especially for those groups who are most vulnerable to experiencing such inequalities, such as young people; calls on the Member States to strengthen implementation of the Youth Guarantee; ensuring that all young people have access to high quality employment, educational, and training opportunities, and that such offers are evenly distributed among Member States and regions; calls on Member States to fully implement the Employment Equality Directive, in order to ensure equal access to employment opportunities, regardless of religious belief, age, disability and sexual orientation;;

3. Stresses that housing is not merely a commodity, but a necessity, as citizens who are deprived of it cannot participate fully in society or access all their fundamental rights; is concerned by the fact that young people in particular are being priced out of housing and deplores cases of discrimination by landlords and policies which cut housing benefits for young people; is alarmed that up to one third of all homeless people in most EU Member States are aged 18-29; calls on the Commission and the Member States to integrate the recommendations made by the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner in her comment of 23 January 2020 entitled ‘The right to affordable housing: Europe’s neglected duty’, particularly the recommendation that all Member States should promptly accept to be bound by  Article 31 of the revised European Social Charter on the right to housing; calls on Member States to place the right to adequate housing for citizens among their priorities of social policies and step up investment in social and affordable housing to combat the housing cost overburden, particularly to protect disadvantaged and vulnerable groups; calls on the Commission to duly investigate discrimination in access to housing as prohibited under the Racial Equality Directive and launch infringement proceedings in case of violations;

4. Highlights Article 37 of the Charter, which affirms that measures towards achieving a high level of environmental protection and the improvement of the quality of the environment must be integrated into the policies of the Union; emphasises the urgent need of including relevant environmental concerns into the decision-making process of all policies and initiatives and believes that sustainability must be the guiding principle for all macroeconomic policies to ensure the just transition to an environmentally sustainable economy, while protecting and creating sustainable employment; and in order to deal with one of the most significant threats facing humanity; calls for the EU wide implementation of the Aarhus Convention that links environmental rights and human rights; highlights that environmental impairment and the failure of some public authorities to provide information about serious environmental risks to which individuals are exposed, may have severe harmful consequences for individuals;;

 

Right to equal treatment

5. Reiterates that women and girls must have control over their bodies and sexualities; calls on all the Member States to guarantee comprehensive sexuality education, ready access for women and girls to family planning, and the full range of sexual and  reproductive  health services, including modern contraceptive methods and safe and legal abortion;

6. Condemns the present visible and organised backlash at global and European level against gender equality and women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights; strongly affirms that the denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights services is a form of violence against women and girls and stresses that the ECtHR has ruled on different occasions that restrictive abortion laws and preventing access to legal abortion violates the human rights of women; reiterates that the refusal by medical professionals to provide the full range of reproductive and sexual health services on personal grounds must not infringe on the right of women or girls to access reproductive care; calls on the Commission to include the need to uphold sexual and reproductive health and rights in its Fundamental Rights Strategy;

7. Strongly condemns the alarming number of femicides in the EU, which is the most extreme form of violence against women; regrets the lack of available data in some Member States which reflects the lack of recognition of the problem; calls on the Council to urgently conclude the EU ratification of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, on the basis of a broad accession, without any limitation; urges the Council and those Member States who have not done so yet to conclude the ratification of the Istanbul Convention;

 

8. Strongly condemns all forms of sexual, gynaecological and obstetrical violence against women, such as inappropriate or non-consensual acts, painful interventions without anaesthetic, female genital mutilations, forced abortion, forced sterilisation and forced surrogacy;

9. Strongly condemns the ethnic segregation of Roma women in maternal health care facilities; calls on the Member States to immediately prohibit all forms of ethnic segregation in health facilities, including maternal health care settings; calls on the Member States to ensure effective and timely remedies for all survivors of forced and coercive sterilisation, including through the establishment of effective compensation schemes;

10.  Condemns hate crime and hate speech, as well as discrimination based on any grounds such as race, colour, ethnic or social origin, language, religion or belief, political opinion, minority status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sexual characteristics sexual characteristics; reiterates the concern that online hate speech remains a prevalent and pressing issue; warns against the increasing levels and normalisation of hate speech and different forms of racism, such as islamophobia, antigypsyism, antisemitism and against black people and people of colour in many Member States, boosted by the rise of extremist movements and their rhetoric, and by government representatives or political leaders in certain Member States, who use hateful discourse, by spreading racist, xenophobic, anti-LGBTI rhetoric; expresses its concern at the lack of reporting of hate crimes by victims owing to inadequate safeguards and to the failure of authorities to investigate properly and obtain convictions for hate crimes in the Member States; emphasises the need to encourage and facilitate victims to report hate crimes or discrimination, and to give them full protection and support; recalls that Member States should ensure that hate crime and hate speech is effectively recorded, investigated, prosecuted and tried; calls on the Commission and the FRA to continue their work on monitoring hate crime and hate speech in the Member States, and to report regularly on cases and tendencies;

 

11. Recalls the obligation for the EU institutions and agencies to fully uphold, with regard to all citizens, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, including philosophical beliefs, in public and in private; calls on the Member States to protect freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief and to effectively implement the EU Guidelines on its promotion and protection;

 

12. Calls on the Member States to ensure the full implementation of the Race Equality Directive (2000/43/EC) in order to combat persisting racism against black people and people of colour, transphobia, antigypsyism, antisemitism and islamophobia; condemns the fact that racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities face structural racism, discrimination, hate-crime and hate-speech, a lack of access to justice, and sustained socio-economic inequalities in areas such as housing, healthcare, employment and education, which need to be acknowledged as major barriers to full enjoyment of fundamental rights and key barriers to inclusion and equality;

 

13. Calls for the quick adoption of the proposed 2008 Equal Treatment Directive, which is still awaiting approval by the Council, in order to close the current protection gap in the EU legal framework concerning non-discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, religion or belief, or sexual orientation in key areas of life, such as social protection, education and access to goods and services; calls on the Commission to actively fight segregation and discrimination, including by initiating infringement procedures to foster the effective application of the Framework Decision on combating certain forms of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law; recalls that these measures should be accompanied by proper national integration strategies;

 

14. Recalls that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) aims to ensure equal opportunities regarding accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education and training, social protection, health, and EU external action; underlines that persons with disabilities are still disadvantaged and discriminated against regarding employment, education and social inclusion; stresses in this regard the importance of accessibility in public spaces, a minimum percentage for employment of persons with disabilities, guarantees of inclusive education, including access to initiatives such as Erasmus +, with particular attention to children with disabilities;

 

Freedoms

15. Calls on Member States to protect and develop a vibrant, independent, pluralist and free media sector; condemns in this respect any measures aimed at silencing critical media and undermining media freedom and pluralism, including in sophisticated ways that do not typically lead to an alert being submitted to the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists; expresses concern about the creation of government-controlled bodies which manage large parts of a country’s media landscape and the hijacking of public service media outlets to serve partisan interests; recalls that where media ownership remains highly concentrated, whether in government or private hands, it constitutes a significant risk to the diversity of information and viewpoints represented in media content; recalls that freedom of expression and information, including the freedom of artistic expression, and media freedom are fundamental to democracy and the rule of law and urges Member States to guarantee the independence of their media authorities; recalls that the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media, is a component of the freedom of artistic expression[54];;

 

16. Recalls the fundamental role of investigative journalism in acting as a watchdog in a democratic society, strengthening public oversight of political actors, including in the domain of corruption; condemns the persistence and increase in many Member States of violence, threats and intimidation against journalists, including in relation to the disclosure of information about breaches of fundamental rights, which often leads to self-censorship and undermines citizens’ right to information; requests the Commission to put forward a proposal for strong and comprehensive mechanisms to protect and strengthen freedom of speech, media freedom and enhance the protection of journalists, including by guaranteeing the transparency of media-ownership, adopting an EU-wide anti-SLAPP directive, creating a permanent EU fund for independent media and investigative journalists and establishing a rapid reaction mechanism for journalists in danger; calls on the Member States to prevent and penalise attacks on investigative journalists in the exercise of their work;

 

 

17. Emphasises the particularly important role of whistle-blowers in safeguarding the public interest and in promoting a culture of public accountability and integrity in both public and private institutions; Calls on Member States to fully transpose into national law the provisions of Directive (EU) 2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law as a matter of urgency so as to maximise its effects as soon as it enters into force; encourages Member States to complement such measures to also protect whistle-blowers in cases when they report breaches outside the scope of EU law;

 

18. Expresses its concern about the threat that different forms of propaganda and misinformation pose to freedom of speech and expression and to the independence of the media, and the negative effects they might have on the quality of political debate and on the participation of citizens in democratic societies; calls on the Commission to promote and invest in the strengthening of media literacy, actively support quality journalism and foster data protection and create a more transparent online ecosystem while safeguarding media freedom and pluralism;

19. Stresses that political profiling, disinformation and manipulation of information represent a threat to the EU’s democratic values; calls on the Commission and the Member States to contribute to the development of education and training in critical thinking that citizens can form their own opinion to face these risks;

 

20.  Stresses that law enforcement officials must respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons while performing their duty; stresses that the foremost task of police forces is to ensure the safety of citizens, and to ensure protests are conducted in peaceful manner; Condemns the use of violent and disproportionate interventions by law enforcement authorities during peaceful demonstrations; calls on the Member States to ensure that any use of force by law enforcement authorities is always lawful, proportionate, necessary and the last resort, and that it preserves human life and physical integrity; calls on the relevant national authorities, in cases when the use of disproportionate force is suspected or has been alleged, to ensure a transparent, impartial, independent and effective investigation, and avoid impunity; recalls that law enforcement agencies are fully accountable for the fulfilment of their duties and their compliance with the relevant legal and operational frameworks;

21. Strongly condemns the increasing restrictions on freedom of assembly, including during election periods; calls on Member States to refrain from adopting restrictive laws concerning freedom of assembly and encourages the EU and its Member States to take further steps to safeguard and protect freedom of assembly, as a fundamental right and as basic principles of democratic processes; calls on the Commission to take an active role in promoting these rights in line with international human rights standards;

 

22. Recalls the essential role at local, regional, national, EU and international levels that civil society plays in representing the interest of citizens; in strengthening the voices of those minorities which are not properly represented; and in defending and promoting the principles enshrined in Article 2 TEU; stresses the need to ensure an enabling environment for civil society organisations, where they can operate free from attacks and without unnecessary or arbitrary restriction.

 

23.  Is deeply concerned about the increasingly shrinking space for independent civil society in some Member States, in particular for women’s rights organisations, LGBTI organisations and human rights defenders, including unreasonable administrative burdens, decreasing financial support for conducting advocacy, as well as restrictions on freedom of assembly and organisation; condemns the restrictions in access to funding of civil society organisations which, in some Member States, has a more systemic aspect in the form of legal and policy changes and are severely affecting their work and legal standing; calls upon the European Commission and the Council to increase EU support for civil society organisations defending the values of Article 2 TUE in the European Union through the Rights and Values Programme, the funding of which should be significant, as asked by the European Parliament;

24. Insists that regular and comprehensive monitoring and analysis are crucial to understand the challenges faced by civil society across Europe; calls on the European Commission to include relevant indicators related to civic space, freedom of expression and freedom of association in future annual rule of law reports, to propose a plan of action to protect and promote civil society, including the adoption of Guidelines for the protection of freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly as well as the protection of human rights defenders at risk and to establish an emergency fund for their protection; welcomes the proposal for a revision of Council Regulation (EC) No 168/2007 of 15 February 2007 establishing a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and stresses the need to strengthen and enlarge its mandate following a thorough impact assessment; encourages the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament to systematically use the data produced by FRA in policy making;

25. Recognises the serious issues that can arise within prevalent Eurosceptic communities, particularly those which are paired with violent political views, and urges the EU and the Member States to encourage the active participation of EU citizens in EU matters, particularly amongst young people, so that their opinions can be voiced through democratic channels;

26. Emphasises the important roles which civic education and intercultural dialogue play in improving EU citizens´ understanding of their political participation; encourages the education of EU citizens of their rights;

27. Notes that new techniques for the collection and processing of personal data for the purposes of behavioural prediction and manipulation have an increasing impact on the fundamental rights of billions of people in the EU and around the globe, particularly the rights to privacy, data protection, information, and media freedom and pluralism; in that regard, urges private actors and competent authorities to ensure the full application of EU data protection law and privacy law, and to ensure that individuals understand when and how their personal data is processed and for what purposes, and how they can object to data processing and file complaints, in order to protect their right to personal data protection and privacy;

 

28. Calls on the European Commission to launch infringement procedures against Member States whose laws implementing the invalidated Data Retention Directive have not been repealed to bring them into line with the CJEU case law[55];

 

 

29. Highlights the potential dangers to fundamental freedoms and security with regards to the use of new technologies, especially artificial intelligence (AI) systems, including the risks related to the right to protection of personal data and privacy, bioethical concerns related to the use of AI in health care, possible direct and indirect discrimination and biases, potentially exacerbating prejudice and marginalisation and spreading of disinformation; points out that biases in datasets, and in the design and operation of these systems, may lead to biased outputs, particularly when used by law enforcement authorities, which may lead to these systems reproducing existing societal, personal and other biases, and may result in discrimination based on social, economic, ethnic, racial, sexual orientation, gender, disability status or other factors; emphasises that further safeguards are needed to ensure privacy and data protection in light of the development of new technologies, and that any implications for fundamental rights must be considered; calls on the EU institutions and the Member States to address the emerging “digital gap”, particularly in the areas of public administration and services; stresses that elderly people, together with those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged are some of the most affected groups by the “digital gap”; stresses that the approach to AI should be “human-centred” and ensure that human values are central to the way in which AI systems are developed, deployed, used and monitored, by ensuring respect for fundamental rights set out in the Treaties and the Charter; calls on the Commission to put forward legislative proposals for a coordinated European approach to AI, drawing on Ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI prepared by the Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on AI (AI HLEG);

30. Welcomes initiatives and actions which aim at strengthening security cooperation between Member States and to set out an effective EU response to terrorism and security threats in the European Union; urges the Member States to fully cooperate with each other, and to improve the exchange of information among each other and with EU Justice and Home Affairs agencies; highlights the importance of respecting fundamental rights in the fight against terrorism; stresses the importance that oversight mechanisms in the field of intelligence services should be in line with the Charter and the ECHR; calls on the institutions concerned to provide safeguards to prevent any subsequent victimisation derived from humiliation and attacks on the image of the victims coming from social sectors related to the attacker;

Fundamental rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees

31. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to implement the Recommendation of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights of June 2019 entitled ‘Lives saved. Rights protected. Bridging the protection gap for refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean’; reiterates that safe and legal pathways for migration are the best way of avoiding loss of life; urges Member States to intensify resettlement measures, put in place humanitarian corridors to the EU, and introduce the possibility to apply for  humanitarian visas for asylum-seekers;

32. Expresses grave concern about consistent reports of violent pushbacks by law enforcement officials in some Member States; calls on the Commission and the Member States to investigate the matter and take effective measures to ensure that such policies and practices are scrapped, including by ensuring the independent monitoring of border control activities by existing national human rights institutions (Ombudsman institutions, NHRIs, NPMs),  supported by EU and  international bodies (Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, CPT, ECRI, FRA) and ensuring that EU funding is not being used to perpetrate fundamental rights violations; calls on the Commission and the Member States to respect international and EU law, as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union to provide a broad framework to enable orderly migration and avoid forcing migrants to use irregular migration channels;

33. Condemns the fact that some Member States have adopted laws, policies and practices that undermine the effective protection of the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, on land and at sea; calls on the European Commission and Member States to put the human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, as well as the principle of responsibility sharing, at the centre of its migration and asylum policies; Expresses grave concern over the humanitarian situation in hotspots; Calls on the Commission to propose an urgent solution to resolve the flagrant human rights violations in reception centres for refugees and migrants on European soil;

 

34. Stresses that the saving of lives is a legal obligation under international law and EU law; condemns the intimidation, arrests and criminal proceedings initiated in some Member States against civil society organisations and individuals for providing humanitarian assistance to migrants, whose lives are at risk; calls on Member States to ensure that acts of humanitarian assistance are not criminalised in line with the UN Smuggling Protocol;

 

 

35. Stresses that undocumented migrants should be able to fully enjoy their basic fundamental rights, no matter what their legal or administrative status is; recalls that women and children may find themselves forced into sexual activities in order to seek protection or basic support to survive, and that this is often due to gaps in assistance, failures of registration systems and of compliance with the principle of the best interests of the child, family separation or the absence of safe and legal means of entry into the EU;

 

36. Highlights that almost a third of asylum seekers are children and are therefore particularly vulnerable; calls on the EU and its Member States to step up their efforts to prevent unaccompanied minors from becoming victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation;

 

 

37. Reiterates that immigration detention of children is never in the child’s best interest in line with the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants; calls on the EU and the Member States to step up action to end the detention of children, particularly in the context of migration across the EU, and to work out community-based alternatives to detention, as well as prioritising integration, education and psychological support; stresses that an unaccompanied child is above all a child who is potentially in danger and that child protection, rather than migration policies, must be the leading principle for Member States and the European Union when dealing with them, thus respecting the core principle of the child’s best interests.

 

Rule of law and fight against corruption

38. Reiterates that corruption is a serious threat to democracy, the rule of law and fair treatment for all citizens; highlights the link between corruption and fundamental rights violations in a number of areas such as the independence of the judiciary, media freedom and freedom of expression of journalists and whistle-blowers, detention facilities, access to social rights, or trafficking of human beings[56];

 

39. Calls on the EU institutions and the Member States to resolutely fight corruption, and to devise effective instruments for preventing, combating and sanctioning corruption, and fighting fraud, as well as regularly monitoring the use of public funds; calls on the Commission to immediately resume its annual anti-corruption monitoring and reporting, with reference to the EU institutions and the Member States; calls on all the Member States to comply with the GRECO recommendations;

40. Stresses that organised crime is primarily enabled by corruption; strongly condemns the increase in the trafficking of human beings and urges the Member States and the EU institutions to increase cooperation and step up their fight against organised crime;

 

41. Reaffirms Parliament’s support for the rapid establishment of an efficient, independent and fully operational European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in order to strengthen the fight against fraud in the European Union;

 

42. Underlines that the rule of law is a cornerstone of democracy, maintains the separation of powers, ensures accountability, contributes to trust in public institutions and guarantees the principles of legality, legal certainty, prohibition of arbitrariness of the executive powers, judicial independence, impartiality, and equality before the law; stresses that the rule of law and judicial independence in particular are critical for citizens’ ability to enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms; points out that under Article 47 of the Charter, the fundamental right to an effective remedy requires access to an ‘independent’ tribunal; highlights that political influence or control of the judiciary and similar barriers to the independence of individual judges have often resulted in the judiciary being unable to fulfil its role as an independent check on the arbitrary use of power by the executive and legislative branches of government; condemns the use of the judicial system for political purposes, which seek to damage, delegitimize and silence political dissent;

 

 

43. Recalls the intrinsic link that exists between the rule of law and fundamental rights and the need to increase awareness of the values enshrined in Article 2 TEU and the Charter by providing information about citizens’ rights;

 

44. Strongly condemns the efforts of the governments of some Member States to weaken the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary; expresses its deep concern, in particular, about decisions which call into question the primacy of European law and calls on the Commission to use all available means to take action against these attacks;

 

 

45. Calls on the Commission to address in a timely manner all Article 2 TEU violations, in particular those affecting fundamental rights, in the framework of its announced rule of law review cycle; reiterates the critical need for an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights as proposed by Parliament, including an annual independent, evidence-based and non-discriminatory review assessing all Member States’ compliance with Article 2 TEU; highlights that Article 2 TEU violations undermine mutual trust among the Member States and make cross-border judicial cooperation untenable;

 

46. Regrets the lack of progress in the ongoing Article 7 proceedings in the Council despite reports and statements by the Commission, the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe indicating that the situation in the Member States concerned has deteriorated; calls on the Council to take into consideration the situation of fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law in its hearings on Article 7.1 procedure; reminds that the European Parliament cannot be set aside from these ongoing hearings;

 

 

47. Calls on the Commission and the Council to make full use of all the tools at their disposal to address risks of serious breaches of the rule of law and to move forward with the on-going Article 7 procedures; points out that the ineffectiveness of the EU’s action to protect fundamental rights endangers the entirety of EU law and citizens’ rights based thereon and weakens the EU’s credibility;

 

Prison conditions

 

48. Is alarmed by substandard prison conditions in certainMember States; calls on the Member States to comply with the rules on detention derived from the instruments of international law and Council of Europe standards; recalls that pre-trial detention is intended to be an exceptional measure, to be used only in cases where it is strictly necessary, proportionate, and for the shortest possible period of time and regrets the continued overuse of pre-trial detention instead of alternative measures which do not involve the deprivation of liberty; recalls that vulnerable groups of prisoners such as women, juveniles, ethnic minorities, LGBTI prisoners, prisoners with mental healthcare needs or seriously ill prisoners have particular needs, which must be taken into account; calls on the Commission to adopt common EU standards on prison conditions in order to protect the rights of prisoners and promote detention standards in the EU;

 

EU accession to the ECHR

 

49. Recalls the obligation laid down in article 6 TEU to accede to the ECHR; calls the Commission to take the necessary steps to eliminate the legal barriers that prevent the conclusion of the accession process, and to present a new draft agreement for the accession of the EU to the ECHR; considers that its completion would introduce further safeguards protecting the fundamental rights of EU citizens and residents and provide an additional mechanism for enforcing human rights, namely the possibility of lodging a complaint with the ECtHR in relation to a violation of human rights derived from an act by an EU institution or a Member State implementing EU law, falling within the remit of the ECHR;

 

50. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.

 

 

OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON PETITIONS (7.9.2020)

for the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union – annual report for the years 2018-2019

(2019/2199(INI))

Rapporteur for opinion: Yana Toom

 

 

 

 

PA_NonLeg

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Petitions calls on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

1. Stresses the importance of the use of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’), an act of primary EU law[64], by Member States at a national level by national courts and through inclusion in legislative procedures when implementing EU law, and regrets the uneven application by Member States of its provisions, in particular Article 51, which could weaken the European project and undermine the quality of democracy in the European Union; urges the Commission to ensure that the Charter is upheld and adhered to, using all legal instruments provided for; recalls that the expectations of EU citizens regarding the protection of their fundamental rights, as demonstrated by petitions, go beyond the field of application of the Charter; considers that a better promotion of the Charter is needed, for example by means of targeted campaigns both in the Member States and on the international scene, in order to render its provisions more effective and promote it as positive source of interpretation even in cases that do not fall within the scope of EU law; encourages national parliaments, in the same spirit, to ensure the highest standards of protection of fundamental rights in their legislative drafting; considers that the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) can provide valuable support to Member States in this regard, if consulted;

2. Underlines the need for possible treaty changes with a view to further strengthening the protection of fundamental rights provided for in the EU Treaties for EU citizens;

3. Reminds the Commission of its institutional duty to analyse complaints from citizens about possible violations of fundamental rights within the Member States;

4. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that EU citizens and residents are informed about their right to submit petitions to the European Parliament and their right of recourse to the Ombudsman as a means of upholding their rights and reporting violations, as laid down in Article 44 of the Charter and Article 227 of the TFEU;

5. Highlights the need to improve the role of petitions through a dialogue and interaction with EU citizens concerning cases of maladministration by European Union institutions, bodies, offices or agencies; recalls that petitions are usually the earliest indicators of violations of fundamental rights in the Member States;

6. Believes that the EU’s fight against racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance should begin with clear communication and official exchanges of correct information; considers that hate speech and xenophobia should have no place in social life, including in sports events, and is concerned in particular for persons belonging to vulnerable groups, as they are often the targets; calls on the Commission to systematically collect data in this area to allow for effective, evidence-based legal and policy responses; notes with concern that a number of Member States have not fully or correctly implemented the Council Framework Decision of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law[65] and its minimum standards on offences of denying, condoning and grossly trivialising certain crimes; calls on the Member States to ensure that any alleged hate speech and hate crime is effectively identified and dealt with in accordance with national and EU law;

7. Calls on the Commission to propose an urgent solution to resolve flagrant cases of violations of the human rights of refugees and migrants in reception centres on European soil;

8. Emphasises that an independent judiciary, access to justice, freedom of expression, freedom to access, receive and impart information, and media pluralism are crucial components of the rule of law; calls on the Commission to enforce these core EU values when infringed by Member States; points out the fundamental role played by education in developing people’s ability to analyse the messages of the media, and highlights in general the urgent need to take effective steps to combat misinformation and ‘‘fake news’ in order to ensure the proper performance of the media in a democratic society; expresses its major concern about the shortcomings in access to justice, the right of defence and the lack of independence of the judiciary in some Member States, which are resulting in a weakening of the rule of law, leading to impunity and injustice; calls on the Commission to further develop a thorough mechanism for an impartial and regular assessment of the situation with regard to the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights in all the Member States; proposes that the Commission set up an EU body to monitor compliance with the rule of law in the Member States;

9. Calls on the EU institutions and the Member States to improve the effectiveness of the EU’s judicial cooperation instruments, in particular the European Arrest Warrant, and to ensure that all victims of crime are aware of their rights and have access to appropriate support services, pursuant to the Victims’ Rights Directive[66];

10. Calls for the EU institutions and the Member States to set up legal mechanisms to criminalise the glorification of specific acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity, as they humiliate the victims and cause secondary victimisation by damaging the victims’ dignity and recovery;

11. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to further implement the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which is considered to be the cornerstone of the efforts to improve the Union for its citizens and residents, including via legislative measures, where appropriate, to ensure social rights at EU and national level, such as universal access to high-quality and inclusive education, lifelong learning, social and occupational integration, including of persons with disabilities, better working conditions and social services, as defined by the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights; urges the Commission and the Member States to boost their involvement in and the transparency of monitoring mechanisms focussing on social inclusion measures for persons with disabilities, as laid down in Article 26 of the Charter; recalls the importance of continuing to develop all the necessary dimensions of the EU Framework for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); underlines the importance of adequate community-based support for persons with disabilities, and therefore insists that corresponding EU funds exclusively target such initiatives, avoiding an institutionalised approach;

12. Calls on all EU Member States that have not yet become party to the Optional Protocol to the CRPD to fully ratify the Protocol in order to allow communications from or on behalf of individuals; calls on the Council to take the necessary steps to ensure the accession of the Union to the Optional Protocol;

13. Calls on the Member States to ensure the right to education for all children in the EU and the respect of the best interests of the child, and to protect them from any discrimination; points out that education systems with language immersion schemes may compromise learning, especially for children with disabilities involving language development problems, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD);

14. Points to the many petitions denouncing abuses of fixed-term contracts, also in the public sector; deeply regrets these existing practices and considers them to be contrary to Articles 30 and 31 of the Charter, on protection against dismissal and fair working conditions respectively;

15. Considers that particular attention should be paid to the fundamental right to health care, which is enshrined in Article 35 of the Charter, and the particular implications for persons affected by myalgic encephalomielitys/chronic fatigue syndrome; underlines that sufficient research funding at the EU level is crucial to better understanding the causes and triggers of myalgic encephalomielitys/chronic fatigue syndrome and rare diseases;

16. Recalls the need to provide access to the environmental justice pillar of the Aarhus Convention at the EU level, in order to provide for an adequate framework and effective mechanisms for civil society to further engage in its duty of environmental protection, in accordance with the spirit of Article 37 of the Charter;

17. Highlights that modern safeguards to ensure privacy and data protection are needed in light of the development of new technologies; notes that, aside from ethical implications from emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, the fundamental rights of users need to be considered; welcomes the Commission’s efforts to provide an adequate legal framework for AI-based technologies; urges the Commission, within the context of the establishment of 5G networks and the respective infrastructure, to ensure the highest protection of citizens’ rights, in accordance with EU data protection law; calls on the Commission to provide guidelines, including ethical standards and common rules on transparency, and to set common requirements for fundamental rights impact assessments;

18. Emphasises the need for enhanced legislation at EU level to protect the public against offences relating to new technologies that could infringe their fundamental rights;
calls for the effective involvement of qualified civil society entities in the monitoring of data protection rules, by enabling them to lodge complaints regarding data protection violations with national data protection authorities; notes that, along with the relevant legal framework, it is necessary to educate the public on new digital developments to ensure the effective protection of their privacy rights; highlights in particular the need for targeted and innovative initiatives and specific guidance documents for professionals, including health professionals;

19. Recalls that the current EU legal framework provides protection against discrimination on grounds of gender or racial or ethnic origin, while other forms of discrimination are only covered if they are related to the area of employment and occupation; highlights the overwhelming evidence of discrimination on different grounds in areas such as education, social protection and access to goods and services, including housing, and deplores the stalemate in the adoption of the Equal Treatment Directive;

20. Calls on the FRA to commit to the provision of equality of opportunity and make the EU Code of Ethics a statement of abiding principles that address changing technology and development practices;

21. Highlights the fact that gender-based violence remains a serious and unacceptable violation; calls on the Council to urgently conclude the EU ratification of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, on the basis of a broad accession, without any limitations; also calls on the remaining Member States to ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention; encourages the Member States that have not implemented the Istanbul Convention to do so; welcomes in particular the work done by the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO), to monitor the implementation of the Istanbul Convention; calls on the Commission to review the implementing legislation, taking into consideration the side effects of gender-based violence, and to make sure that EU-wide statistical data on violence against women are available to inform policymakers at EU and national level;

22. Is concerned by the number of petitions highlighting discrimination against those who exercise their fundamental rights, particularly in the field of non-discrimination, linguistic rights, minority rights and the right to property; recalls that respect of diversity is one of the founding principles of the EU and also recalls the obligation to respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, as enshrined in Article 22 of the Charter; stresses that in order to preserve this diversity, supportive actions should be promoted at both Member State and EU level; believes that a strengthened promotion of the use of regional and minority languages is one way that language discrimination can be tackled; stresses, in particular, the importance of the right to education in minority languages; notes with concern that, despite their genuine link to the EU, some long-term residents have restricted access to free movement and are not protected by anti-discrimination-related rights; welcomes in this regard the European Citizens’ Initiative on the Minority SafePack; calls on the Commission to propose legal instruments to implement the suggestions of the Minority SafePack;

23. Stresses that the provisions of Article 24 of the Charter on the fundamental rights of the child must be duly observed, particularly the notion that the best interest of the child must be paramount in any action taken by public authorities, including for instance in decisions related to cross-border custody disputes; also recalls in this regard the fundamental right of the child to be heard as well as the right in principle to keep contact with both parents, unless it is manifestly contrary to the best interests of the child, and in their own language so as to safeguard the child’s diverse cultural heritage;

24. Calls for concerted EU action in the field of European and international child protection; stresses the need to intensify cross-border cooperation between Member States and EU institutions to find adequate and prompt solutions in child abduction cases; believes that the EU has a role to play in the promotion of the rights of the child, including at international level;

25. Insists on updating the powers of the European Ombudsman, as suggested in the European Parliament’s recent legislative proposal for a revision of the Statute of the European Ombudsman[67], so as to upgrade the fundamental rights conferred by Articles 42 and 43 of the Charter on access to documents and on referring cases to the Ombudsman, respectively; recalls that this new regulation on the general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman’s duties as adopted by the Parliament is still pending the Council’s consent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POSITION IN THE FORM OF AMENDMENTS OF THE COMMITTEE ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS AND GENDER EQUALITY (4.3.2020)

for the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

on the situation of Fundamental Rights in the European Union – Annual Report for the years 2018-2019

(2019/2199(INI))

On behalf of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality: Samira Rafaela (rapporteur)

 

AMENDMENTS

The Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality presents the following amendments to the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, as the committee responsible:

Amendment  1

Motion for a resolution

Citation 5 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

 having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD),

Amendment  2

Motion for a resolution

Citation 5 b (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

 having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),

Amendment  3

Motion for a resolution

Citation 5 c (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

 having regard to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),

Amendment  4

Motion for a resolution

Citation 5 d (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

 having regard to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD),

Amendment  5

Motion for a resolution

Citation 5 e (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

 having regard to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),

Amendment  6

Motion for a resolution

Citation 6 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

 having regard to the UN’s Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),

Amendment  7

Motion for a resolution

Citation 6 b (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

 having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

Amendment  8

Motion for a resolution

Citation 8 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

 having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights,

Amendment  9

Motion for a resolution

Citation 21 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

 having regard to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) Gender Equality Index for 2018 and 2019, as well as its report ‘Beijing +25 – The 5th Review of the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in the EU Member States’,

Amendment  10

Motion for a resolution

Citation 27 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

 having regard to its resolution of 13 February 2019 on experiencing backlash in women’s rights and gender equality in the EU1,

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1 Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0111.

Amendment  11

Motion for a resolution

Citation 34 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

 having regard to Commission Recommendation (EU) 2018/951 on standards for equality bodies,

Amendment  12

Motion for a resolution

Citation 34 b (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

 having regard to the 2018 Commission Annual Report on the List of actions to advance LGBTI equality,

Amendment  13

Motion for a resolution

Citation 38 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

 having regard to Issue Paper on Women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in Europe (2017) by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights,

Amendment  14

Motion for a resolution

Recital A a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Aa. whereas women’s rights are human rights and as such are universal, and must be respected and promoted in all Member States;

Amendment  15

Motion for a resolution

Recital A b (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Ab. whereas the backlash against women’s rights and gender equality is often linked to a broader deterioration in the situation of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights; whereas women’s rights should therefore be included in the rule of law mechanism in the next multiannual financial framework; whereas men and women should be allies in countering this backlash and supporting progress in gender equality and advancing women’s rights;

Amendment  16

Motion for a resolution

Recital A c (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Ac. whereas not enough progress has been made on fundamental rights, including women’s rights, and in particular in key areas of institutional and policy frameworks for gender equality; whereas there has been an organised and worrying backlash against women’s and LGBTI+ rights in some Member States in recent years, with anti-gender movements trying to limit sexual and reproductive health and rights, including through the denial of access to modern forms of contraception and the introduction of regressive preconditions on abortion, attempts to fully ban abortion, to limit equality for LGBTI+ persons, to ban sex education and gender studies, and to promote campaigns against the Istanbul Convention which deny the existence of gender-based violence;

Amendment  17

Motion for a resolution

Recital A d (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Ad. whereas gender based violence in all its forms (including harassment and violence in the workplace, at home and online) is a violation of fundamental rights which affects all levels of society, regardless of age, education, income, social position and country of origin or residence, and represents a major barrier to equality between women and men;

Amendment  18

Motion for a resolution

Recital A e (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Ae. whereas women, particularly women with disabilities, migrant and ethnic minority women, women of colour, Roma women, older women, women with lower education levels, women with health problems, as well as LGBTI+ women, are more often subject to multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination;

Amendment  19

Motion for a resolution

Recital A f (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Af. whereas as many as 11 Member States do not provide data on women victims of intentional homicide by an intimate partner or family member; whereas according to the data from the remaining 17 EU Member States, 788 women were killed by an intimate partner or family member in 20162;

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2 https://eige.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/20190390_mh0419039enn_pdf.pdf

Amendment  20

Motion for a resolution

Recital A g (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Ag. whereas Article 8 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union lays down the principle of gender mainstreaming by stating that in all its activities the Union must aim to eliminate inequalities and to promote equality between men and women;

Amendment  21

Motion for a resolution

Recital A h (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Ah. whereas equality between men and women is a fundamental value of the EU; whereas the right to equal treatment and non-discrimination is a fundamental right enshrined in the Treaties which should be applied in legislation, practice, case law and everyday life;

Amendment  22

Motion for a resolution

Recital A i (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Ai. whereas Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty provides the EU with a legal basis to combat discrimination on grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation;

Amendment  23

Motion for a resolution

Recital A j (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Aj. whereas the EU has already implemented a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, which gives it a mandate to combat discrimination based on religion or belief, age, disability and sexual orientation on the labour market; whereas similar anti-discriminatory measures should also be urgently implemented outside the labour market;

Amendment  24

Motion for a resolution

Recital A k (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Ak. whereas women continue to be under-represented and discriminated against on the labour market, especially in leadership positions, while they are over-represented in low-paid industries such as social work, care work and education, and devote more time than men to unpaid housework and care, as 80 % of all care provided across the EU is provided by unpaid informal carers and 75 % of these carers are women; whereas in our societies there is still strong occupational segregation between women’s and men’s roles and jobs, which has negative impacts on gender income equality and societal development; whereas special measures are needed to support women, especially women returning to the job market after a long career break in order to increase their potential on the labour market;

Amendment  25

Motion for a resolution

Recital A l (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Al. whereas, on average, per hour a woman earns 84 cents for every euro a man makes, resulting in a gender pay gap of 16 %; whereas the gender pension gap is 35 %3;

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3 https://eige.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/20190390_mh0419039enn_pdf.pdf

Amendment  26

Motion for a resolution

Recital A m (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Am. whereas digitalisation is an example of an area that is better remunerated and has great societal impact; whereas only 17 % of ICT specialists are women; whereas women are under-represented at many levels in Europe, such as in start-ups, the innovation sector, and as recipients of venture capital;

Amendment  27

Motion for a resolution

Recital A n (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

An. whereas, according to the findings of the Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) in its Fundamental Rights Report 2019, its surveys and various national studies, discrimination and inequalities on different grounds remain realities in everyday life throughout the EU; whereas these findings also consistently show that people who experience discrimination seldom report it; whereas national equality bodies have a key role to play in the promotion of equal treatment and the provision of assistance to victims of discrimination;

Amendment  28

Motion for a resolution

Recital C a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Ca. whereas, according to the Gender Equality Index 2019, in the EU political representation of women at ministerial level is still lagging behind that of men at around one third;

Amendment  29

Motion for a resolution

Recital F a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

Fa. whereas according to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, in 2018 women accounted for 18 % of all irregular entries across the external EU borders, and nearly one in five migrants were registered as children, with some 3 750 being unaccompanied; whereas these women and children are particularly vulnerable to abuses of their fundamental rights, such as human trafficking;

Amendment  30

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 1 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

1a. Urges the Council to urgently unblock the negotiations on the Women on Boards Directive in order to address the considerable imbalance between women and men in economic decision-making at the highest level, thereby creating the conditions for women to be able to enjoy their full social and economic rights; welcomes the Commission President’s commitment in her Political Guidelines to build a majority to unblock this Directive;

Amendment  31

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 2 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

2a. Notes that the Commission’s monitoring of the implementation of Directive 2006/54/EC on the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation on the issue of closing the gender pay gap has not been effective, and calls for the full implementation of the Directive, as well as for its revision, and the inclusion of a compulsory requirement for companies to draw up gender equality plans;

Amendment  32

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 2 b (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

2b. Stresses that gender-based wage inequality in the Member States has an impact on women’s fundamental rights; reiterates the importance of the ‘equal pay for equal work’ principle for all labour market-related policies enshrined in Article 157 TFEU;

Amendment  33

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 2 c (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

2c. Urges the Commission to present to the Council for approval a European carers’ programme, with a view to identifying and recognising the various types of informal care provision in Europe, and guaranteeing financial support for carers, thus reinforcing women’s rights to employment;

Amendment  34

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 2 d (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

2d. Calls on the Member States to support the implementation of the Work-life Balance Directive as it reinforces the equality principle in many areas such as employment and work;

Amendment  35

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 4 d (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

4d. Points out that, according to the Gender Equality Index 2019, gender inequalities are most worrying in the domain of power; notes that, as a general trend, women’s representation has improved in the Member States which have adopted legally prescribed candidate quotas; commits to encouraging women’s participation in the European electoral process by including gender-balanced lists in the next revision of the Act concerning the election of the members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage;

Amendment  36

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 4 e (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

4e. Notes that there are significant differences across the EU in the mandates, competences and resources of the equality bodies established by the Member States in accordance with the directives on equality; calls on the Member States to ensure that they can effectively and independently fulfil the tasks assigned to them in a way that takes due account of the Commission’s recommendation;

Amendment  37

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 4 f (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

4f. Calls on the Council to urgently unblock the proposed Equal Treatment Directive after 10 years of deadlock in order to close the current protection gap in the EU legal framework for non-discrimination on grounds of age, disability, religion or belief, or sexual orientation; calls on the Council to implement, in a gender-sensitive way, the principle of equal treatment between persons in key areas such as social protection, education and access to goods and services, and to ensure that the EU does not implement an artificial hierarchy of grounds;

Amendment  38

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 4 g (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

4g. Stresses that the effects of climate change affect the whole of society, but in particular women and groups in a vulnerable or precarious situation, thereby increasing inequalities and diminishing their ability to exercise their fundamental rights;

Amendment  39

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 4 h (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

4h. Regrets the continued existence of persistent gender pay and pension gaps which still stand at 16 % and 35 % according to the most recent available data; stresses that these figures reflect persisting inequality in the domain of work;

Amendment  40

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 4 i (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

4i. Welcomes the commitment of both the Commission President and the Commissioner for Equality to table measures to introduce binding pay transparency measures in the first 100 days of the Commission’s mandate; considers that the forthcoming directive should include strong enforcement policies and sanctions for those failing to comply, and should apply to both the private and public sectors, as well as to remuneration packages in their entirety; calls on the Commission to introduce concrete measures building on the 2014 recommendation such as (a) clear definition of criteria for assessing the value of work, (b) gender-neutral job evaluation and classification systems, (c) mandatory gender pay audits and reporting to guarantee equal pay (d) workers’ entitlement to request full pay information and the right to redress (e) clear targets for companies’ equality performance;

Amendment  41

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 4 j (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

4j. Regrets that according to the EIGE progress in gender equality is being made at ‘a snail’s pace’, and that the EU score for gender equality has only risen one point since 2017; takes note that in many areas no improvements are being made, and that women’s fundamental rights continue to be breached;

Amendment  42

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 4 k (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

4k. Calls on the Member States and all EU bodies to cooperate with the EIGE and the FRA, in keeping with the shared determination to work together to combat violence and gender discrimination; calls for increased cooperation with relevant international entities such as the United Nations, in particular with UN Women; calls on the Commission and the Member States to collect robust, disaggregated and comparable data to inform evidence-based non-discrimination policies, monitor trends, and assess the implementation of EU equality directives and international human rights standards; welcomes, in this regard, the establishment of the EU High Level Group on Non-discrimination, Diversity and Equality (HLG) Subgroup on Equality Data and its guidelines on improving data collection and use;

Amendment  43

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 4 l

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

4l. Welcomes the commitment of Commissioner Helena Dalli to put forward by 8 March 2020 a new and ambitious Gender Equality Strategy, containing new legislative proposals as well as incisive policy measures, including, inter alia, measures on gender participation, gender stereotypes, disability, the backlash in women’s rights and combating violence against women;

Amendment  44

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 5 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

5a. Condemns the backlash in women’s rights and gender equality in several Member States; expresses concern over restrictions of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and calls on Member States to refrain from adopting any measures that undermine human rights, gender equality and SRHR; reiterates that SRHR are fundamental rights of all women and girls, and must be respected, including the right to bodily and sexual autonomy and to be free from coercion, discrimination and violence; strongly believes that access to SRHR and in particular the choice of contraception and family planning and primary, gynaecological and obstetric healthcare, including safe and legal abortion, should be guaranteed to every woman in the EU; calls on all Member States to decriminalise abortion and abortion-related care; calls on the Commission to include the promotion and improvement of SRHR in the next Health Strategy;

Amendment  45

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 6 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

6a. Stresses that gender-based violence is both the consequence and one of the causes of persisting gender inequalities;

Amendment  46

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 6 b (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

6b. Strongly reaffirms the value of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) as the first holistic international instrument to combat gender-based violence; welcomes the commitment by the Commission President in her Agenda for Europe to unblock the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention; stresses the need to urgently conclude EU accession on the basis of a broad accession without limitations, to advocate its ratification by all the Member States and to ensure proper implementation of the Convention; reminds Member States that proposed EU accession does not exonerate them from ratifying the Convention at national level; welcomes the recent opinion of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission on Armenia as an excellent tool for clarifying and combating all the misconceptions about the Istanbul Convention;

Amendment  47

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 6 c (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

6c.  Welcomes the commitments to equality by the Commission President in her Political Guidelines for the next European Commission (2019-2024), the measures announced in the Commission Work Programme 2020, and in particular proposals on minimum standards on the definition of certain types of violence and strengthening the Victims’ Rights Directive, as well as to table a proposal to add violence against women to the list of EU-recognised crimes defined in the Treaty; considers that the best way forward is to regulate the prevention and elimination of all forms and dimensions of gender-based violence in a single legislative act by adopting a directive on combating violence against women and girls and other forms of gender-based violence;

Amendment  48

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 6 d (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

6d. Expresses its deep concern about the alarming number of femicides in Europe, which is the most extreme form of violence against women; regrets the lack of available data in some Member States, which reflects the fact that this problem is not acknowledged;

Amendment  49

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 6 e (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

6e. Recalls that gender-based and domestic violence is widespread across the EU, and that victims often have limited access to justice and proper protection; urges the Commission and the Member States to respond to this widespread fundamental rights and security challenge appropriately by making it a priority and working with law enforcement authorities to promote better access to justice;

Amendment  50

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 6 f (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

6f. Calls on the Commission and on the Council to activate the ‘passerelle clause’ enshrined in Article 83(1) of the TFEU as soon as possible in order to include violence against women and girls and other forms of gender-based violence in the catalogue of EU-recognised crimes, and to allow the Commission to put forward a proposal for a directive using Article 83 of the TFEU as legal basis;

Amendment  51

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 6 g (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

6g. Regrets the tendency in recent years to cut EU funds for combating all forms of violence against women and girls; reaffirms its request to earmark and increase resources for the Daphne strand in the Rights and Values Programme, as well as for its specific objective relating to the promotion and safeguarding of gender equality and gender mainstreaming;

Amendment  52

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 6 h (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

6h. Points out that too many women continue to be subjected to sexual harassment in public spaces and in the workplace; calls upon the Member States and the EU institutions, bodies and agencies to step up their response to this phenomenon; calls upon the Commission and the Member States to counter online harassment which targets girls and women disproportionately, particularly those in public and political life; welcomes the recently adopted ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work (C190), and calls on all Member States to ratify it without delay; calls on the Member States to implement awareness-raising campaigns in this regard, targeting both the public and private sectors;

Amendment  53

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 6 i (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

6i. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to improve the availability and comparability of quality disaggregated data on gender-based violence through cooperation with Eurostat, the EIGE and the FRA in line with the Istanbul Convention’s obligations on data collection and research; once again calls on the Commission to establish a European observatory on gender-based violence with a view to gathering accurate and comparable data along the lines of the EIGE’s State Observatory on Violence against Women;

Amendment  54

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 6 j (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

6j. Stresses that initiatives mitigating gender inequality in the EU have a central role in promoting and protecting women’s fundamental rights ;calls in this regard for a robust and evidence-based approach that will allow the drafting of adequate and useful impact assessments on gender equality;

Amendment  55

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 6 k (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

6k. Recalls that gender mainstreaming is an indispensable tool for eliminating inequalities, promoting gender equality and combating discrimination; reiterates its call to the Commission to introduce gender mainstreaming in all Union internal and external policies and activities; welcomes the commitment of the new Commissioner for Equality to create a Task Force on Equality with the aim of building an intersectional approach to gender mainstreaming in all EU policies; believes that stronger interinstitutional relations in the field of gender mainstreaming can help develop gender-sensitive EU policies; calls, therefore, for structured cooperation on gender mainstreaming between all institutional partners, such as the Commission, the Council and the EIGE;

Amendment  56

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 7 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

7a. Calls for the new Roma health strategy and the Roma 2020 strategy to address discrimination against Roma women, including the serious reproductive and maternal health rights violations they experience in healthcare facilities;

Amendment  57

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 7 b (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

7b. Notes that in relation to SDG 5, the FRA published in 2014 the first – and to date only – EU-wide survey on violence against women, and that the full data set for the next survey will be collected between 2020 and 2022; encourages the agency to publish the survey more frequently and regularly, and to conduct other surveys concerning gender discrimination;

Amendment  58

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8a. Calls on the Commission to foreground the gender mainstreaming perspective in the European Semester by introducing a gender dimension into the annual growth survey and into the formulation process of the Country Specific-Recommendations (CSRs);

Amendment  59

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 b (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8b. Stresses the need to address gendered barriers to obtaining access justice in the Member States, whether in socio-economic, legal or procedural terms, and urges the Commission and the Member States to take steps to remove them; calls on the Member States to fully implement the Victims’ Rights Directive to ensure rights awareness, and that access to appropriate support services and effective remedies is available to all victims of crime; underlines that access to justice is a key issue for women victims of gender-based violence and that, among victims, undocumented migrant women are in a doubly vulnerable position as they may be reluctant to report violations to the police;

Amendment  60

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 c (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8c. Notes that gender budgeting is one of the key dimensions of a gender mainstreaming strategy; stresses that gender budgeting must become an integral part of the budgetary procedure, including in the next MFF; stresses its call to add a gender budgeting clause in the regulation on the next MFF, and a provision to ensure a gender-responsive mid-term review;

Amendment  61

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 d (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8d. Calls on the Member States to fully comply with their obligations under the ICESCR, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the ICERD;

Amendment  62

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 e (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8e. Calls on the Commission and the Council to provide a realistic budget that would allow discrimination and inequalities on different grounds to be effectively combated, promote equal treatment, as well support victims of discrimination; reiterates that sufficient budget funding should be allocated to future FRA activities;

Amendment  63

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 f (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8f. Calls on the EU and the Member States to fully implement the UN CRPD and its Optional Protocol; recalls that women and girls with disabilities are particularly exposed to multiple forms of discrimination and are thus prevented from enjoying their fundamental rights on an equal basis in full;

Amendment  64

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 g (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8g. Calls on the Member States to ensure that women’s and LGBTI+ rights are protected and recognised as equality principles intrinsic to democracy and the rule of law;

Amendment  65

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 h (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8h. Notes that in May 2019, the Agency re-launched, after seven years, the second EU-wide LGBTI survey, which aims to compile the experiences of discrimination and hate crime of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people across the EU, North Macedonia and Serbia, as well as their views and the challenges they face; urges the FRA to publish the results of the survey in 2020 and to ensure that in the future the survey is conducted more frequently and regularly;

Amendment  66

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 i (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8i. Highlights the need for targeted policies with an intersectional approach to guarantee the fundamental rights of vulnerable women who experience multiple discrimination, such as women refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, women from religious and ethnic minorities, LGBTI+ women, elderly women and women with disabilities;

Amendment  67

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 j (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8j. Is deeply concerned that in recent years, anti-gender equality and anti-LGBTI+ movements have gained ground in a number of Member States; stresses that these movements seek to challenge established fundamental rights pertaining to gender equality, and aim to block and roll back laws and policies protecting women’s rights and defending LGBTI+ people against hate crimes and discrimination;

Amendment  68

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 k (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8k. Reiterates its call on the Commission to adopt an EU LGBTI+ strategy that takes into account Parliament’s previous demands, and ensures continuity and a robust follow-up to the previous Commission’s list of actions to promote LGBTI+ equality;

Amendment  69

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 l (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8l. Notes that the most vulnerable women belong to minority groups, including gender and sexual, ethnic and religious minorities; urges the Commission and the Member States to take effective action to tackle hate speech against such vulnerable groups;

Amendment  70

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 m (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8m. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to communicate and reaffirm the importance and benefits of safeguarding women’s rights and gender equality and eliminating gender stereotypes for society, and to further support the development and dissemination of evidence-based research and information on women’s rights;

Amendment  71

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 8 n (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

8n. Commits to proposing measures to achieve gender balance in the EU institutions in the framework of the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe;

Amendment  72

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 11 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

11a. Notes with concern the increasingly shrinking space for independent civil society in some Member States, in particular women’s rights organisations and human rights defenders; calls on the Commission to strengthen support and protection of civil society organisations and women human rights defenders active at national and local level, who are working to promote gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights in particular, including through the Rights and Values programme; emphasises the importance of participation by civil society organisations in the Conference on the Future of Europe;

Amendment  73

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 12 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

12a. Calls on Member States to comply with their human rights obligations and to fully implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights;

Amendment  74

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 13 a (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

13a. Stresses that undocumented migrant women and children should be able to fully enjoy their basic fundamental rights, regardless of their legal or administrative status; expresses its serious concern at the situation of migrants and asylum seekers who are smuggled into the EU; calls for the opening of legal and safe migration and asylum routes in order to avoid sexual and gender-based violence; further stresses in this regard that all legal and administrative procedures should be conducted expeditiously; recalls that women and children may be compelled to exchange sex for protection or basic support to survive; underlines in this regard that improving assistance and registration systems are matters of the utmost importance, together with the need to address family separation and the lack of safe and legal means of entry into the EU; stresses the need for family reunification procedures to ensure the respect of individual rights for women and girls joining their families in the EU, so that they are not obliged to depend on a family member for access to health, education or work;

Amendment  75

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 13 b (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

13b. Urges the EU to mobilise the necessary means to fight trafficking and sexual exploitation; calls on the Commission and the Member States to adopt measures to prevent and address the use of new technologies as a tool for recruiting women and girls for human trafficking, especially for sexual and labour exploitation;

Amendment  76

Motion for a resolution

Paragraph 4 m (new)

 

Motion for a resolution

Amendment

 

4m. Calls, therefore, for special attention to be paid to the digital gender gap, which has a substantial impact on access to jobs and services, and thus women’s right to employment;

 

REPORT on strengthening media freedom: the protection of journalists in Europe, hate speech, disinformation and the role of platforms – A9-0205/2020

Source: European Parliament

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on strengthening media freedom: the protection of journalists in Europe, hate speech, disinformation and the role of platforms

(2020/2009(INI))

The European Parliament,

 having regard to the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

 having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

 having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR),

 having regard to the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR),

 having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the UN Convention against Corruption and the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and the Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions,

 having regard to the relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council and the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, in particular that of 23 April 2020 entitled ‘Disease pandemics and the freedom of opinion and expression’,

 having regard to the joint declaration of 3 March 2017 by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, entitled ‘Freedom of expression and “Fake News”, Disinformation and Propaganda’,

 having regard to the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity,

 having regard to the UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No 34 on Article 19 of the ICCPR (‘Freedoms of opinion and expression’),

 having regard to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the commitments set out therein, inter alia promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, including by ensuring public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms,

 having regard to the work carried out by the Council of Europe to promote the protection and safety of journalists, including Recommendation CM/Rec(2018)1 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on media pluralism and transparency of media ownership and the declaration by the Committee of Ministers on the financial sustainability of quality journalism in the digital age, Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors, and its 2020 annual report entitled ‘Hands off press freedom: Attacks on media in Europe must not become a new normal’,

 having regard to Resolution 2300 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) of 1 October 2019 on improving the protection of whistle-blowers all over Europe,

 having regard to the joint communication from the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of 10 June 2020 entitled ‘Tackling COVID-19 disinformation – Getting the facts right’ (JOIN(2020)0008),

 having regard to the Commission communication of 29 January 2020 containing the Commission Work Programme 2020 (COM(2020)0027),

 having regard to the Commission communication of 17 July 2019 entitled ‘Strengthening the rule of law within the Union: A blueprint for action’ (COM(2019)0343),

 having regard to the Commission’s Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025,

 having regard to the Commission communication of 26 April 2018 entitled ‘Tackling online disinformation: a European approach’ (COM(2018)0236),

 having regard to the Commission’s Code of Practice to fight online disinformation, agreed on 26 September 2018,

 having regard to the Commission recommendation of 1 March 2018 on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online (C(2018)1177),

 having regard to the Commission’s Action Plan against Disinformation of 5 December 2018,

 having regard to the Commission’s Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online, launched in May 2016 and to its fourth evaluation round, resulting in the document ‘Factsheet – 4th monitoring round of the Code of Conduct’,

 having regard to Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law[1],

 having regard to Directive 2010/13/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 March 2010 on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the provision of audiovisual media services (Audiovisual Media Services Directive or AVMSD)[2], and Directive (EU) 2018/1808 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 amending Directive 2010/13/EU[3],

 having regard to the report of the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services of 2020 entitled ‘Disinformation: Assessment of the implementation of the Code of Practice’,

 having regard to the Council conclusions of 25 May 2020 on media literacy in an ever-changing world,

 having regard to the Council conclusions of 14 November 2018 on the strengthening of European content in the digital economy, which recognise the relevance of content generated by the media ‘as well as other cultural and creative sectors’ as ‘essential pillars of Europe’s social and economic development’,

 having regard to Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law[4],

 having regard to the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline, adopted on 12 May 2014, recognising artistic freedom as an inherent component of freedom of expression alongside media freedom,

 having regard to the Special Report update of the European External Action Service (EEAS)  of 24 April 2020 entitled ‘Short Assessment of Narratives and Disinformation around the COVID-19/Coronavirus Pandemic’,

 having regard to the work carried out by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA),

 having regard to the findings of the World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders, and to those of the Media Pluralism Monitor of the European University Institute’s Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom,

 having regard to its resolution of 17 April 2020 on EU coordinated action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences[5],

 having regard to its resolution of 9 January 2020 on ongoing hearings under Article 7(1) of the TEU regarding Poland and Hungary[6],

 having regard to its resolution of 18 December 2019 on public discrimination and hate speech against LGBTI people, including LGBTI-free zones[7],

 having regard to its resolution of 18 December 2019 on the rule of law in Malta following the recent revelations surrounding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia[8],

 having regard to its resolution of 28 November 2019 on the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention and other measures to combat gender-based violence[9],

 having regard to its resolution of 10 October 2019 on foreign electoral interference and disinformation in national and European democratic processes[10],

 having regard to its resolution of 19 September 2019 on the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe[11],

 having regard to its resolution of 28 March 2019 on the situation of the rule of law and the fight against corruption in the European Union, specifically in Malta and Slovakia[12],

 having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2019 on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union in 2017[13],

 having regard to its resolution of 17 April 2018 on gender equality in the media sector in the EU[14],

 having regard to its resolution of 11 September 2018 on measures to prevent and combat mobbing and sexual harassment at the workplace, in public spaces, and in political life in the EU[15],

 having regard to its resolution of 14 November 2018 on the need for a comprehensive EU mechanism for the protection of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights[16],

 having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2018 on the use of Facebook users’ data by Cambridge Analytica and the impact on data protection[17],

 having regard to its resolution of 3 May 2018 on media pluralism and media freedom in the European Union[18],

 having regard to its resolution of 19 April 2018 on protection of investigative journalists in Europe: the case of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová[19],

 having regard to its resolution of 12 December 2017 on the EU Citizenship Report 2017: Strengthening Citizens’ Rights in a Union of Democratic Change[20],

 having regard to its resolution of 3 October 2017 on the fight against cybercrime[21],

 having regard to its resolution of 15 June 2017 on online platforms and the digital single market[22],

 having regard to its resolution of 14 March 2017 on fundamental rights implications of big data: privacy, data protection, non-discrimination, security and law enforcement[23],

 having regard to its resolution of 15 November 2017 on the rule of law in Malta[24],

 having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2016 with recommendations to the Commission on the establishment of an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights[25],

 having regard to its resolution of 23 October 2013 on organised crime, corruption and money laundering: recommendations on action and initiatives to be taken[26],

 having regard to the study of 28 February 2019 of Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs entitled ‘Disinformation and propaganda – impact on the functioning of the rule of law in the EU and its Member States’,

 having regard to Rule 54 of its Rules of Procedure,

 having regard to the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education,

 having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A9-0205/2020),

A. whereas media freedom, pluralism, independence and the safety of journalists are crucial components of the right of freedom of expression and information, and are essential to the democratic functioning of the EU and its Member States; whereas key democratic tasks of the media include strengthening transparency and democratic accountability; whereas the media play an essential role in democratic society by acting as public watchdogs, while helping to inform and empower citizens by widening their understanding of the current political and social landscape and fostering their conscious participation in democratic life;

B. whereas the crisis has highlighted the essential role played by journalists in providing citizens with reliable and verified information; whereas more effort must therefore be made to ensure safe and suitable working conditions for journalists; whereas investigative journalism should be given particular consideration in the context of fighting corruption and maladministration in the EU;

C. whereas some Member States limit the freedom of the media through economic means, such as distorted public advertising among media outlets that alters competition, and directly control public media in order to influence editorial decisions and thus ensure pro-government loyalty; whereas public authorities should adopt a legal and regulatory framework which fosters the development of free, independent and pluralistic media;

D. whereas all Member States must adhere to the values enshrined in Article 2 of the TEU;

E. whereas media capture, the lack of institutional transparency, hate speech and disinformation are increasingly being exploited for political purposes  as tools to intensify social polarisation; whereas combating these phenomena is not only relevant to the domain of human rights, but is also a fundamental factor in terms of the defence of the rule of law and democracy in the EU;

F. whereas according to the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and amplified many other crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information; whereas the index has revealed significant differences between the individual Member States, some scoring among the top in the world ranking, while others towards the bottom, which has resulted in a gap of more than 100 places between the best- and worst-performing Member States; whereas several Member States have fallen in international press freedom rankings;

G. whereas the freedom of the media has been deteriorating in recent years, and while the COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated this deterioration, it has also brought to the forefront the importance of the media and the right of access to reliable information;

H. whereas according to the 2019 Reuters Institute Digital News Report the average level of trust in the news in general (worldwide) was down 2 percentage points to 42 % compared with 2018 and less than half those surveyed (49 %) said that they trusted the news media they themselves used; whereas trust in the news found via search (33 %) and social media (23 %) remains stable but extremely low;

I. whereas the transparency of media ownership is an absolute precondition for ensuring media pluralism and independent journalism;

J. whereas journalists and other media actors continue to face violence, threats, harassment, pressure, (self-)censorship, public shaming and even assassination in the EU as a result of doing their job to protect the public interest; whereas recent years have shown a growing pattern of intimidation aimed at silencing journalists that requires urgent action to uphold the essential role of the independent media in ensuring the principles of the rule of law; whereas the murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Ján Kuciak are two tragically profound examples of the extent to which investigative journalists are being targeted for exposing corruption and protecting democracy and the rule of law;

K. whereas the threats to media freedom include harassment and attacks aimed at journalists, disregard for their legal protection, and media capture and politically motivated actions in the media sector;

L. whereas women journalists face gender-specific forms of violence, such as sexual and online harassment; whereas more than 70 % of women working in the media have experienced more than one type of harassment, threat or attack online; whereas 52 % of women have experienced these types of offence in the past year alone; whereas online harassment and abuse is often highly sexualised, based not on the content of victims’ work, but on their physical traits, cultural background, or private life; whereas these threats lead women journalists to self-censorship and have a chilling effect on press freedom and freedom of expression; whereas research consistently finds evidence that women are in the minority across media sectors, particularly in creative roles, and are severely underrepresented at senior decision-making levels[27];

M. whereas in several Member States, strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) are a continued practice used to scare journalists into halting investigations into corruption and other matters of public interest;

N. whereas in addition to violence, intimidation and harassment of journalists there is a lack of prosecution of the perpetrators of these crimes, and impunity has a chilling effect; whereas the OSCE reports that impunity prevails as, for example, fewer than 15 % of murders of journalists in the OSCE region are solved;

O. whereas the right of journalists to report and investigate needs to be further enhanced and effectively protected;

P. whereas strengthening media freedom requires credible and detailed information on the scope and nature of the challenges to be faced in the Member States and the EU as a whole, including on cases of violation of the principles of the independent media and infringements of the fundamental rights of journalists;

Q. whereas artistic freedom is an integral part of the fundamental right of freedom of expression and is essential for Europe’s cultural diversity and democratic health; whereas attacks on artistic freedom are proliferating but remain invisible;

R. whereas the global COVID-19 crisis is having a devastating social and economic impact on the media sector; whereas media outlets have been reporting considerable losses in their advertising revenue; whereas thousands of media workers have already lost or are at risk of losing their jobs, either temporarily or permanently; whereas this has had a particularly strong impact on freelance journalists and media workers, whose number is increasing throughout the EU and who already constitute a significant proportion of all journalists and media workers in Europe; whereas this poses a serious risk of further fostering the concentration of information in the hands of a few and preventing the spread of free and independent information; whereas the financial sustainability of jobs and financial independence are a crucial part of press freedom;

S. whereas digital advertising revenue often benefits non-EU actors and European media revenues are in sharp decline, imperilling the future of traditional advertising-financed media companies such as commercial TV channels, newspapers and magazines;

T. whereas in some Member States, State aid for media outlets has not been handled transparently, which puts these outlets’ independence and credibility at serious risk;

U. whereas the business model of social media platforms, based on micro-targeted advertising, plays a role in spreading and amplifying hate speech inciting discrimination and violence, and fostering radicalisation leading to violent extremism, including through the circulation of illegal content; whereas combating all forms of intolerance is an integral part of human rights protection as developed by the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights;

V. whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the stigmatisation, including through the media, of some particularly vulnerable individuals, which has fostered the polarisation of European society and the proliferation of hate speech;

W. whereas the phenomenon of cyber violence (including online hate speech, cyberstalking and online harassment) is becoming more widespread; whereas women who have a public role, among others politicians, journalists and activists fighting for women’s rights and the rights of sexual minorities, are becoming a prime target for cyberbullying and online violence;

X. whereas the AVMSD obliges the authorities in every Member State to ensure that audiovisual media services and video-sharing platforms take measures to protect the general public from programmes, user-generated videos and audiovisual commercial communications containing incitement to violence or hatred against a group of persons or a member of a group based on any of the grounds referred to in Article 21 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; whereas the AVMSD obliges Member States to ensure the independence of media regulators;

Y. whereas the spread of misinformation and disinformation, as well as disproportionate actions to tackle it on digital platforms, poses a threat to freedom of information, to democratic discourse and to the independence of the media, and has increased the need for high-quality traditional media; whereas data analysis and algorithms are having an increasing impact on the information made accessible to citizens;

Z. whereas the spread, on a massive scale, of news from different sources which are difficult to verify, along with the ever-growing role of social media and messaging platforms, is having a negative impact on the fundamental rights of EU citizens; whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the impact of disinformation online, sometimes with serious consequences for public health, and has made even clearer the need to ensure free and independent information in order to protect the fundamental rights of citizens; whereas the lack of a coordinated communication strategy at EU level has facilitated the wave of disinformation concerning the pandemic, especially on social media and messaging platforms;

AA. whereas disinformation and misinformation related to COVID-19 may cause panic and social discontent and need to be addressed; whereas measures to combat disinformation and misinformation cannot be used as a pretext for introducing disproportionate restrictions on press freedom, undermining media pluralism and putting the safety of journalists in jeopardy; whereas reports indicate that coordinated campaigns have been running across the Member States and neighbouring regions, promoting false health information and disinformation about the EU and its partners; whereas the Commission addressed these phenomena in its recent joint communication on tackling COVID-19 disinformation; whereas some governments have taken advantage of emergency legislation, and while some of the restrictions will be temporary, others risk being extended long after the health crisis is over; whereas pluralism of information sources, accountability and institutional transparency are a primary defensive barrier against disinformation;

AB. AB. whereas genuinely independent, adequately funded public service media operating across various platforms are key to a functioning democracy in the EU;

Media freedom, media pluralism and the protection of journalists in Europe

1. Reiterates its continued deep concern about the state of media freedom within the EU in the context of the abuses and attacks still being perpetrated against journalists and media workers in some Member States because of their work, as well as the growing public denigration and general weakening of the profession, weighing particularly heavily on local, investigative and cross-border journalism; stresses that, in accordance with the Council of Europe recommendation of 7 March 2018 on media pluralism and transparency of media ownership, Member States have a positive obligation to foster a favourable environment for freedom of expression, offline and online, in which everyone can exercise their right to freedom of expression, and invites the Member States to fully support and endorse the recommendation;

2. Is deeply shattered by the murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta and Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová in Slovakia due to their investigative work to unveil corruption and other crimes, and reiterates the importance of an independent investigation to bring to justice the perpetrators of and masterminds behind these crimes; calls on national law enforcement authorities to fully cooperate with Europol and other relevant international organisations in this regard;

3. Deplores the fact that journalists and media workers often work in precarious conditions, which compromises their ability to work appropriately and thus hampers media freedom; stresses that adequate working conditions for journalists and media workers are crucial in fostering high-quality journalism; calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote sustainable measures aimed at financing and supporting high-quality and independent journalism;

4. Recalls the essential role played by investigative journalism in fighting organised crime by collecting and connecting relevant information, thereby exposing criminal networks and illicit activities; highlights the fact that these activities put them at increased personal risk;

5. Underlines the crucial role that investigative journalists play in holding power to account and performing their functions as watchdogs for democracy and the rule of law;

6. Strongly reiterates its call on the Commission to treat attempts by Member State governments to damage media freedom and pluralism as constituting a serious and systematic abuse of powers and as going against the fundamental values of the EU as enshrined in Article 2 of the TEU; welcomes, therefore, the Commission’s intention to include a specific chapter on monitoring media freedom and pluralism in its Annual Report on the Situation of the Rule of Law within the EU; suggests, in this context, a bottom-up approach reflecting individuals’ voices and diversity to ensure that the challenges faced by journalists and the media sector are effectively captured; calls, furthermore, for the inclusion in this chapter of country-specific recommendations and effective responses as well as an assessment of the transparency of ownership and the level of government and private interference in the EU Member States; encourages the Commission to actively cooperate with the Council of Europe, exchanging best practices and making sure that the measures undertaken are complementary; urges the Commission and the Member States to develop and maintain a credible framework for the protection of media freedom and media pluralism; calls for the Commission to aim to introduce standards and benchmarks for media freedom at Union level, as well as incentives for higher convergence between Member States; calls on the Commission and the Member States to fully support and strengthen the tools already developed for the promotion and protection of the rights and freedoms enshrined in Article 11 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Article 10 of the ECHR, such as the Media Pluralism Monitor and the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists, and to promptly react to possible threats to and violations of these rights and freedoms; urges the Commission to take into account the impact of the emergency measures taken in 2020 in the context of COVID-19 on press freedom, institutional transparency, accountability, media pluralism and safety of journalists, including through an overview of the attacks against journalists across the EU and the responses provided by Member States in this regard; recalls Parliament’s repeated call for a permanent, independent and comprehensive mechanism covering democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU; considers that the EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights must enshrine media freedom, including artistic freedom, as an essential pillar of a democratic system; calls on the Commission, in this context, to collect information and statistics on media freedom and pluralism in all the Member States;

7. Highlights the irreplaceable role of public service media and stresses that it is essential to ensure and maintain their independence from political interference; highlights, in addition, the need to ensure the financial independence of private market operators and the conditions for the sustainability of their activities so as to avoid media capture; reiterates Parliament’s call for an ambitious EU media action plan in this context; condemns attempts by some Member State governments to silence critical and independent media and undermine media freedom and pluralism; warns of attempts to indirectly subdue such media by means of financial patronage and condemns, in particular, attempts to control public service media; deplores the fact that in some Member States public broadcasting has become an example of pro-government propaganda, which often excludes opposition and minority groups from society or presents them in defamatory contexts, and even in some cases incites violence; underlines that in some Member States, especially in rural areas, access to information is limited to public propaganda and language barriers restrict access to international news; recalls that access to information and high-quality journalism is of paramount importance for democracy; highlights the lack of obligatory content analysis for media outlets in some Member States, which would provide comparable public data regarding the balanced presence of pro-government and opposition voices on television and the radio, especially during election campaigns;

8. Draws attention to the recommendations included in PACE Resolution 2255 of 23 January 2019, which call on the Member States to guarantee editorial independence, as well as sufficient and stable funding, for public service media; highlights that national, regional and local media, and in particular public service media, have an important responsibility to serve the public interest and to adequately reflect the cultural, linguistic, social and political diversity of our societies; stresses that the role of public service media as trusted providers serving the general public interest would be enhanced by appropriate and sustainable funding free from political interference in the Member States; calls on the Member States, therefore, to use financing models in which public service media are financed from sources independent of political decision-making; stresses the crucial need to safeguard independent authorities and ensure strong independent oversight of media against undue state and commercial intervention and attempts to influence editorial policies; calls on the Commission to present a legal framework to supervise the operations of public service media providers, including whether they fulfil the criteria of prudent management and task-based financing and whether their services fulfil expectations for fact-based, fair and ethical journalism;

9. Denounces the lack of balanced political debate among media outlets in certain Member States and the fact that the politically motivated restriction of information exists in practice, for example denying access to data of public interest, using delay tactics, the unjustified narrowing of the scope of information requested, banning journalists from public venues including parliaments, restricting journalists’ opportunities for interviews with politicians and members of the government, and avoiding giving interviews to media outlets not in the government-friendly conglomerate, even those with significant national outreach; stresses that public authorities must ensure transparency with regard to their activities, thereby helping to bolster public confidence, given that the free flow of information helps to protect life and health and facilitates and promotes social, economic and political debate and decision-making; calls on Member States to ensure that journalists and media outlets have meaningful access to parliamentary debates, to members of parliaments and high-ranking government officials, to data of public interest and to public events and press conferences, especially those of governments, as the lack of such access seriously restricts the notion of freedom of the media;

10. Reiterates its concern about the lack of specific legal or policy frameworks protecting journalists and media workers from violence, threats and intimidation at national level within the EU; calls on public figures and authority representatives to refrain from denigrating journalists, as this undermines trust in the media across society; underlines the important role of journalists in reporting on protests and demonstrations and calls for their protection so that they can carry out their role without fear; asks Member States to provide specific training programmes for law enforcement authorities responsible for the protection of journalists; calls on the Member States and the Commission to ensure – in law and in practice – the effective protection and safety of journalists and other media actors as well as of their sources, including in a cross-border context; firmly believes, in this regard, that Member States should prohibit the use of private investigators as a form of intimidation for the purpose of obtaining information about journalists in their professional capacity or about their sources;

11. Is deeply concerned about the increasing political attacks on the media and deplores the lack of protection of journalistic sources; recalls Member States’ obligation to carry out prompt, impartial and effective investigations into attacks such as threats, killings, harassment, intimidation and ill-treatment perpetrated against journalists and urges Member States to step up efforts to end threats and attacks against journalists and media workers, to ensure accountability, and to guarantee that victims and their families have access to the appropriate legal remedies; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that reporting mechanisms are accessible; calls for the implementation of the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline, which stress that the EU will take all appropriate steps to ensure the protection of journalists, both in terms of preventive measures and by urging effective investigations when violations occur; highlights that women journalists are especially vulnerable to harassment and intimidation and should therefore be subject to additional safeguards; expresses deep concerns about the rise in attacks against female journalists and media workers; reiterates its call on Member States to take a gender-sensitive approach when considering measures to address the safety of journalists;

12. Calls on the Member States to fully implement the Council of Europe recommendation on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors, and to transpose Directive (EU) 2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law, which aims to set minimum common standards to ensure a high level of protection for whistle-blowers, into their national legislation as soon as possible; highlights that whistle-blowing is essential for investigative journalism and the freedom of the press;

13. Condemns the use of SLAPP to silence or intimidate investigative journalists and outlets and create a climate of fear around their reporting of certain topics; strongly reiterates its call on the Commission to come forward with a comprehensive proposal for a legislative act aiming to establish minimum standards against SLAPP practices across the EU;

14. Points to the final recommendations of the Special Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering (CRIM) set out in its resolution of 23 October 2013 on organised crime, corruption and money laundering, according to which defamation and libel laws dissuade possible reporting of corruption; reiterates its call for all the Member States to de-penalise defamation and libel laws in their legal systems, at least for cases involving allegations of organised crime, corruption and money laundering in Member States and abroad;

15. Calls on the Commission to set up an EU hotline as a rapid-response mechanism for journalists requesting protection and to ensure that adequate attention is paid to their situation;

16. Stresses that excessive concentration of ownership in the content-producing and content-distributing sectors may threaten citizens’ access to a range of content; underlines that media pluralism, which depends on the existence of a diversity of media ownership and of content as well as independent journalism, is key to challenging the spread of disinformation and ensuring that EU citizens are well-informed; recalls that according to the Media Pluralism Monitor 2020, media ownership concentration remains one of the most significant risks to media pluralism and is seen as creating barriers to the diversity of information; calls on the Member States to adopt and implement media ownership regulatory frameworks in order to avoid horizontal concentration of ownership in the media sector and to guarantee transparency, disclosure and easy accessibility for citizens with regard to information on media ownership, funding sources and management; calls on the Commission to monitor the implementation at Member State level of existing EU instruments against ownership concentration and illegal State aid to increase diversity in the media landscape; condemns any attempt to monopolise media ownership in the Member States or exert political interference in media management; urges the Commission and the Member States to act quickly and resolutely to increase the transparency of media ownership and the financial sources used by media owners; calls on the Commission to strengthen efforts to ensure that the media proactively publish information about their ownership structures, including their beneficial owners, and that clear rules are put in place to prevent potential conflicts of interest arising in media ownership structures, with a special emphasis on avoiding political interference; condemns governments’ excessive interference in media pluralism through public advertising; calls on the Commission to closely monitor the use of EU funds allocated to supporting free and independent media in order to channel the resources to those in need; emphasises, in this respect, that EU money cannot be spent on state-controlled media and media that distribute political propaganda;

17. Deplores the fact that in some Member States media regulatory bodies have come under government influence and operate in a manner biased against media outlets that are critical of the government;

18. Is concerned about attempts to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to punish independent and critical media and introduce restrictions on the media’s access to and scrutiny of government decisions and actions, suppressing or mitigating institutional transparency mechanisms by adopting exceptional measures and hampering proper and informed debate on those actions; stresses the role of journalism and the free flow of information as essential to the EU’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic; points out that journalism also plays a crucial function at a moment of public health emergency; calls on the Commission to monitor such national government practices comprehensively and to include the results in its annual reports on the rule of law;

19. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to urgently introduce EU and national emergency recovery packages to protect the jobs and livelihoods of journalists and media workers, support companies and fund public service media through the COVID-19 economic recovery plan, while fully respecting EU competition rules; highlights that during the COVID-19 crisis certain media outlets, and local media platforms in particular, estimated losses of as much as 80 %[28] of their revenues owing to the decrease in advertising; stresses that in the face of the pandemic European citizens need professional, economically secure and independent journalists; reiterates in this context its call for the creation of a permanent European fund for journalists in the framework of the next MFF (2021‑2027), as redrafted following the COVID-19 crisis, offering direct financial support for independent journalists and media outlets, freelancers and self-employed media workers; underlines that funding should be managed by independent organisations in order to avoid any interference with editorial decision-making and that support should be provided only for those public and commercial media outlets that are truly independent and free from government or any other interference; recalls that special emphasis should also be placed on independent media start-ups, particularly local ones, in Member States where media freedom has worsened in recent years, media ownership concentration has increased significantly and public service media are under threat from political influence;

20. Reiterates, in this context, its call for an ambitious EU media action plan to support the development of a vibrant and pluralistic media landscape;

21. Calls for an ambitious MFF with increased budget allocations for supporting the media and independent journalism, in particular investigative journalism; stresses the importance of innovation in journalism and news media, which could be fostered through EU funding; notes with concern the budgetary cuts envisioned to the Creative Europe and Justice, Rights and Values programmes in the Commission’s revised budget proposal;

22. Strongly welcomes the allocation of EU funds to enable the launch of new projects, such as the Europe-wide rapid response mechanism for violations of press and media freedom and the cross-border investigative journalism fund, in order to strengthen media freedom and pluralism;

23. Underlines that the media have a powerful role to play in promoting gender equality and anti-discrimination; urges the Commission and the Member States to take active steps to promote gender equality in the media sector so that more women can hold creative and decision-making positions, which would enable the media to contribute to the reduction of gender stereotypes;

Hate speech

24. Condemns all types of incidents of hate crime, hate speech and accusations devoid of foundation or formulated in bad faith[29], both offline and online, motivated by discrimination based on any grounds, such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation, that occur  within the EU and elsewhere; expresses concern over the hate crimes and crimes relating to incitement to discrimination or violence which occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the stigmatisation of some particularly vulnerable individuals;

25. Deplores the increasing levels of hate speech used in political communication by governments and political parties across the EU; calls on the Member States to strongly condemn and sanction hate crime, hate speech and scapegoating by politicians and public officials, at all levels and on all types of media, as these phenomena directly normalise and reinforce hatred and violence in society, and to refrain from discriminatory and inciting rhetoric in governmental communication as it is detrimental to society; stresses that sanctions should always be in compliance with the international standards of freedom of expression; calls, furthermore, on the Member States, within the limits of the law, to guarantee and encourage freedom of expression, including artistic freedom, which is essential to vigorous democratic debate; recalls that racist and xenophobic speech are not covered by freedom of expression;

26. Reiterates its call on the Member States to implement and enforce further measures to prevent, condemn and counter hate speech and hate crime, so as to counter the spread of hate speech and violence offline and online, while also ensuring that law enforcement applies effective hate crime recording practices based on the principles endorsed by the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance;

27. Highlights that online hate speech has become increasingly widespread in recent years as individuals and disruptive actors use the power of online platforms to spread hateful information; stresses that this harms the collective public interest as harmful content undermines respectful and honest public discourse, and poses threats to public safety given that online hate speech can incite real-world violence;

28. Points out that the legal framework for tackling hate speech and discrimination should be reinforced; reiterates its call for negotiations on the horizontal anti-discrimination directive to be unblocked to that end;

29. Reiterates its call on the Commission and the Member States to take measures to increase women’s security in public spaces and on the internet, to address emerging forms of gender-based violence such as cyberstalking and online harassment, and to introduce comprehensive mechanisms to assist victims of such violence;

30. Reiterates its call on the Commission and the Council to activate the ‘passerelle clause’ enshrined in Article 83(1) of the TFEU in order to include violence against women and girls and other forms of gender-based violence (including cyber violence) in the catalogue of EU-recognised crimes;

31. Takes note of the Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online, promoted by the Commission, and of its fifth evaluation round, which found that, on average, IT companies remove 71 % of the illegal hate speech notified to them; recalls that journalists and civil society organisations should be included in evaluations and reviews of the Code of Conduct and that the IT companies participating in the Code of Conduct only review requests for removal against their terms and conditions and community guidelines; highlights the wide margin of discretion left to private companies to determine what is illegal; encourages all companies that run social media platforms to participate in the Code of Conduct;

32. Points out that Member States must ensure, by all appropriate means, that the media, including online and social media, as well as advertising, are free from all incitement to violence or hatred directed against any person or group of persons, which can have a direct effect on the participation in civil society of these individuals; reiterates its call on the Commission, the Member States and social media companies to counteract the spread of racism, xenophobia, LGBTI-phobia and religious hatred on the internet, in cooperation with the relevant civil society organisations; calls on Member States and the Commission to collect more reliable data on the extent of hate speech and hate crimes;

33. Expresses its concern about the lack of reporting of hate crimes by victims owing to inadequate safeguards and to the failure of authorities to investigate properly and end impunity for hate crimes in the Member States; calls on the Member States to develop and disseminate tools and mechanisms for reporting hate crimes and hate speech, and to ensure that any case of alleged hate crime or hate speech is effectively investigated, prosecuted and tried;

 

Disinformation and the role of platforms

34. Notes that the new digital technology and social media have been factors in the problem of the spread of disinformation and foreign interference, and have resulted in online platforms playing an influential role in publishing, disseminating and promoting news and other media content; reiterates its concern about the potential threat disinformation poses to freedom of information, freedom of expression, democratic discourse, the independence of the media and public health; highlights that measures combating disinformation should focus on fostering a plurality of opinions through the promotion of high-quality journalism, delivering reliable, fact-based and verified information, and on building media literacy, and that any such measures must provide guarantees for freedom of information and freedom of expression;

35. Calls for greater collaboration between online platforms and law enforcement authorities so as to address effectively the spread of messages that incite hatred or instigate violence; stresses the importance of promptly removing illegal content in order to curb its uncontrolled spread; notes, however, that online platforms cannot and must not become private censors and that any removal of illegal content by online platforms must be subject to safeguards, including review by the courts of the Member States, in order to protect freedom of expression, including artistic freedom, the right to free and independent information and the fundamental rights of citizens in general; recalls that online platforms are part of the online public sphere in which public debate take place; calls on the Commission to ensure safeguards for platforms so that fundamental rights and freedom of speech are respected;

36. Recalls that political profiling, disinformation and manipulation of information are often used by political parties and private or public entities, and reiterates its concern about the fact that evidence of interference is continuously coming to light, with indications of foreign influence, in the run-up to all major national and EU elections, with much of this interference benefiting anti-EU and populist candidates seeking to polarise and nullify ideological pluralism while targeting specific minorities and vulnerable groups; points out that fighting interference by third parties in the future will be a fundamental factor in upholding European values and democracy; underlines, in the context of the COVID-19 emergency, that disinformation and sensationalised media reports relating to the pandemic have also been used by extreme right-wing and populist groups and politicians to target minority groups and contribute to anti-immigration rhetoric, which has led to increased instances of racist and xenophobic hate speech, as well as discrimination;

37. Points out that different forms of misinformation and disinformation, as well as other forms of information manipulation relating, inter alia, to the COVID-19 pandemic, continue to proliferate around the world, are often targeted at the most vulnerable communities, and have potentially harmful consequences for public security, health and effective crisis management; takes the view that these disinformation campaigns seek to undermine the democratic process and citizens’ trust in the democratic institutions of the Member States; welcomes the joint communication of 10 June 2020 on tackling COVID-19 disinformation; recalls that all measures to combat disinformation, including those taken in the context of the COVID-19 emergency, need to be necessary, proportionate, transparent, temporary and subject to regular oversight, avoiding any drift leading to public monopoly or concentration of information sources, and may under no circumstances prevent journalists and media actors from carrying out their work or lead to content being unduly removed or access to such content blocked on the internet; deplores the fact that certain online platforms remove or censor content, including journalistic content, related to the COVID-19 pandemic on the basis of non-transparent terms and conditions which unnecessarily limit freedom of expression; stresses that resorting to such measures may result in access to important public health information being prevented or limited; highlights that any attempts to criminalise information relating to the pandemic may create distrust in institutional information, delay access to reliable information and have a chilling effect on freedom of expression;

38. Condemns conspiracy theories and publicly funded disinformation campaigns aimed at discrediting the EU and misleading the public about its aims and activities; calls on the Commission to openly condemn and debunk the lies and disinformation spread by any state authorities about the EU and to publish and distribute a factual response in order to inform citizens;

39. Welcomes the Commission’s initiative to present a European Democracy Action Plan that aims to counter disinformation and to adapt to evolving threats and manipulations, as well as to support free and independent media; emphasises in this respect that protecting freedom of expression, including free, independent and financially viable media, artistic freedom, fundamental rights content and democratic debate, while combating hate speech and disinformation, is a fundamental factor in terms of the defence of the rule of law and democracy in the EU; notes with concern that according to a Global Disinformation Index (GDI) study, websites spreading disinformation in the EU receive more than EUR 70 million in ad revenue every year; highlights the potentially negative impact of business models based on micro-targeted advertising; confirms that the General Data Protection Regulation[30] provides for the right of individuals not to be subject to pervasive online tracking across sites and applications; calls on the Commission to engage further with digital platforms in this regard and to step up efforts to enforce the prohibition of such practices, combat the strategic, automated amplification of disinformation through the use of bots and fake profiles online, and increase transparency with respect to the financing and distribution of online advertising; calls, furthermore, on all online platforms to ensure that the algorithms that underpin their search functions are not primarily based on advertising; asks for the establishment of a digital and fundamental rights multi-stakeholder expert group encompassing independent media and digital and human rights NGOs in order to assist the Commission and the EU institutions in general;

40. Welcomes the launch of the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) project, which will increase the scientific knowledge available with regard to online disinformation, promote the development of an EU information verification services market and support the creation of a cross-border and multidisciplinary community composed of fact checkers and academic researchers cooperating with stakeholders to identify, analyse and expose potential disinformation threats, with regard to COVID-19 for example;

41. Reminds the Commission and the Member States as well as the private sector, in particular online platforms, and civil society as a whole of the need for joint action when it comes to the fight against disinformation; stresses that online platforms should play a key role in detecting and countering disinformation; acknowledges the promising and necessary yet still insufficient impact of the voluntary actions taken by some service providers and platforms to counter disinformation, illegal content and foreign interference in electoral processes in the EU; highlights, however, that online platforms are currently still failing to take appropriate responsibility for countering those immediate threats;

42. Emphasises that the effectiveness of actions by online platforms to tackle disinformation can only be assessed when conducted in full transparency and by sharing relevant data; urges the Commission, therefore, to assess all possible measures to oblige online platforms to address the spread of disinformation effectively, in a transparent and accountable manner, and to share the relevant data accordingly; calls on the Commission to consider sanctions for online platforms that fail to do so; expects to see this reflected in the European Democracy Action Plan and the Digital Services Act accordingly;

43. Stresses, in this regard, that removing online content in the absence of a judicial order determining its illegal nature has a strong impact on freedom of expression and information; calls for regular impact assessments of the voluntary actions taken by service providers and platforms to counter disinformation; insists on Member States’ obligation to respect, protect and guarantee fundamental rights and requests the assessment of all available options to protect and uphold the right to information and participation; calls on the Commission, in this respect, to propose EU rules on online platforms aimed also at countering government practices that unnecessarily limit freedom of expression; stresses that using automated tools in content moderation may endanger freedom of expression and information and that EU digital policy and strategy must provide for appropriate remedies and safeguards in full compliance with the relevant provisions of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and of the ECHR;

44. Considers that the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation could be strengthened through improved monitoring of existing commitments, the transparent and disaggregated provision of information and data by online platforms, and the expansion of such commitments; considers that a co-regulatory approach that continuously reflects current developments in the digital sphere could be a way forward;

45. Encourages social media companies and online platforms to explore possibilities to make tools available to enable users to report and flag potential disinformation in order to facilitate prompt rectification and allow for review by independent and impartial third-party fact-checking organisations, while preventing misuse of such tools; stresses that online platforms should cooperate with Member States and the EU institutions to facilitate the assessment of disinformation and foreign interference and the identification of perpetrators;

Media literacy

46. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to increase their efforts to strengthen education policies that promote media and information literacy, empower citizens to think critically and help them to identify disinformation; highlights, in this respect, that upholding editorial independence within central and local media outlets and developing media literacy projects are essential elements for building resilience, raising awareness and strengthening education in efficiently fighting propaganda, disinformation and manipulation; considers that continuous media literacy curricula and efforts across all age groups are of significant importance when increasing societal resilience to such threats in the digital space; calls on the Commission, in this regard, to work in close cooperation with the Member States and civil society organisations to develop curricula on information, media and data literacy; stresses that media literacy is an increasingly essential and critical skill for citizens; points out that in order to reach a wider audience and as many age groups as possible, it is important to scale up media literacy initiatives through social media platforms, including effective media literacy strategies for the elderly and the most vulnerable groups; calls on the Commission and the Member States to also promote programmes and policies aimed at fostering media and news literacy for journalists and media actors and at developing a critical and conscious appreciation of the use of ICT, such as, for instance, campaigns raising awareness of rights and possible risks in the digital sphere; stresses the need to develop a comprehensive EU strategy on media literacy and calls on the Commission to step up efforts to this end; underlines the key role of civil society organisations in fostering media literacy and helping to prevent the spread of hate speech; recalls that programmes deemed to be using effective strategies to combat hate crime and hate speech are focused on cooperation, communication, conflict resolution, problem solving, mediation and bias awareness;

47. Urges the Commission to step up efforts to increase EU funding for media literacy programmes and to actively engage in the promotion of reliable, fact-based and fact-checked information by enhancing media distribution channels in order to improve access to such information; calls on Member States to fully implement the provisions of the revised AVMSD, which require them to promote and develop media literacy skills;

48. Encourages the Commission to provide support to complement educational programmes in all Member States, not only within the scope of media literacy, but also in wider civic education, including education in democratic values and human rights for further sensitisation to disinformation and propaganda;

49. Highlights the fact that local and community media organisations are key structures for the promotion, production and dissemination of information and facts related to local and minority artistic and cultural events; considers them to be an important instrument for maintaining media pluralism and a multicultural environment in Europe; considers that community media outlets should also be involved as stakeholders in EU programmes dedicated to promoting journalism and media literacy, and calls on the Member States to provide them with adequate support, ensuring they carry out their educational and cultural roles;

50. Calls for the EU institutions to ensure strengthened and proactive communication in all official languages when major public emergencies, such as the pandemic, occur, in order to ensure that EU citizens have access to accurate, user-friendly and verified information;

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51. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

Freedom of the media has been continuously deteriorating in recent years, even in some of the most influential democracies. Media freedom and pluralism are, however, pillars of modern democracy and represent crucial elements of open and free democratic debate. Together with the freedom of expression, independent journalism and an environment free of hate speech and disinformation, they are therefore essential to the proper democratic functioning of the EU and its Member States. The rapporteur stresses that media capture, hate speech and disinformation are increasingly being used as tools to increase social polarization, which is in turn exploited for political purposes. The ultimate goal is to incite hatred of any group, idea or institution so that it becomes such a highly sensitive issue in society that the emotional responses override any attachment to the rules of a democratic state governed by the rule of law and human rights. It thus becomes possible to gain social support for authoritarian governments. Media capture, hate speech and disinformation are now the basic tools used in process of authoritarianization, i.e. the introduction of authoritarian rule while maintaining the formal appearance of democratic elections. The Rapporteur therefore strongly emphasizes that combating media capture, hate speech and disinformation is not only relevant to the domain of human rights, but is also a fundamental factor in terms of the defence of the rule of law and democracy in the EU.

Media freedom and pluralism

Media freedom and pluralism are rooted in the fundamental right of freedom of expression and information, enshrined in Article 11 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, Article 10 of the ECHR and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Despite those safeguards, journalism is increasingly under threat. While more individuals have access to content than ever before, the combination of political polarization and technological change frequently hampers the ability of journalists to report freely on matters of public interest. As argued in the recent Freedom House report on media freedom ‘while the threats to global media freedom are real and concerning in their own right, their impact on the state of democracy is what makes them truly dangerous.’[31]

While the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing threats to media freedom[32], it has also brought to the forefront the importance of the media and access to verified information. Free and independent media proved to be a key source of credible, lifesaving information and professional journalism proved itself to be a crucial service during a public health emergency.

In this context, the recent statement of the Reporters Without Borders, stipulating that the next decade will be pivotal in ensuring the preservation of media freedom and the future of journalism, is particularly significant.[33] The efforts of the Member States and the EU itself in safeguarding and promoting a pluralist, independent and free media landscape, free of hate speech and disinformation, are therefore nowadays not only fundamental in guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression and information, but in the defence of the democratic states governed by the rule of law.

The rapporteur shares the view that one of the greatest menaces to editorial independence in a growing number of countries across the world is media capture, a form of media control that is achieved through systematic steps by governments and powerful interest groups.[34] In this regard, she strongly welcomes the intention of the COMMISSION to include a specific chapter on monitoring media freedom and pluralism in its Annual Report on the Situation of the Rule of Law within the EU. In the context of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on media freedom, the rapporteur notes that the crisis has further exposed systemic weaknesses in a number of countries, and deplores that several governments have used the situation as an opportunity to implement emergency laws and restrictions that challenge the ability of journalists to inform the public and hold those in power to account.

Political independence of the media

In the context of this ever-growing concern over a lack of independence in public service media management and funding the rapporteur stresses the need for a legal framework to supervise the operation of public service media providers. This should include checks on whether they fulfil the criteria of prudent management and task-based financing, and whether their services fulfil the expectations of fact-based, fair and ethical journalism. The rapporteur deplores the fact that in some Member States, public broadcasting has become an example of single political party propaganda, filled with hate speech and partisan, pro-government discourse, excluding opposition and minority groups from society and even inciting violence. Public service media should be independent from political interference due to its irreplaceable role, and Member State governments should refrain from any attempts to control them.

The protection of journalists

The rapporteur considers the safety of journalists and the fight against impunity for crimes committed against them as essential to guaranteeing the fundamental right to freedom of expression. The work done by journalists and media personnel is increasingly shrouded by a climate of insecurity and fear. The findings of the 2020 Annual report of the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists highlighted a continuous and alarming trend of violence and intimidation against journalists in recent years. It therefore remains essential for the EU and its Member States to prioritise the protection of journalists, and for the Member States to deploy all means to avoid impunity for crimes that are linked to journalism, while OSCE reports that impunity prevails with less than 15% of murders of journalists being solved.

There are still few specific legal or policy frameworks protecting journalists and media workers from violence, threats and intimidation that can be identified at national level in EU Member States. The need for effective protection is therefore more than pressing. In this context, the rapporteur also reiterates the European Parliament’s call on the Commission to present proposals to prevent so-called ‘Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation’ in order to protect the independent media from vexatious lawsuits intended to silence or intimidate them in the EU.

Financial and economic pressure

The rapporteur stresses that the situation of independent journalism, which has been facing financial and economic pressure caused by the economic crisis and ongoing technological disruption, has been further aggravated due to the devastating social and economic impact of COVID-19 on the media sector. One of the main causes for media capture remains financial pressure. Trends show that weakened media independence and declines in professional standards of journalism are inextricably linked to increased economic pressure.[35] Precarious working conditions may also expose journalists and other media actors to undue pressures to depart from accepted journalistic ethics and standards.[36] In this context the rapporteur takes the view that establishing a permanent European fund for independent journalism under the framework of the next MFF (2021-2027), as redrafted following the COVID-19 crisis, is a matter of primary importance.

Hate speech

 

Despite the omnipresence of hate speech in the offline and online environments, and the wide use of the term in legal, policy-making and academic circles, there is still an ongoing debate about its scope and about the way it should be tackled. The rapporteur shares the view that insofar as a regulatory framework is necessary to counter hate speech, that framework should be holistic, as well as strategically differentiated, in order to effectively combat hate speech.[37] The regulatory framework must also be complemented by a framework for non-legal action. The rapporteur strongly reiterates the call on the Member States to condemn and sanction hate crime, hate speech and scapegoating by politicians and public officials at all levels and on all types of media. She also strongly underlines that the climate of impunity that plagues interactions in the digital sphere further magnifies the damaging potential of online attacks and harassment. The rapporteur also stresses the vital importance of considering the role of the media and social media platforms in the dissemination of hate speech. While being aware of the criticism surrounding several legislative initiatives at national level for failing to adequately take freedom of expression into consideration while countering hate speech,[38] the rapporteur stresses that particular attention needs to be paid to the tension between justified freedom of expression and unjustified permissibility of hate speech.

 

Disinformation

 

The exposure of citizens in the digital environment to what some experts describe as a wider ‘information disorder’, in which mis-, mal- and disinformation co-exist,[39] has been identified as a major challenge for Europe, having a detrimental impact on European values, democratic systems and the integrity of elections.[40] Because of the multi-faceted character of online disinformation, efforts to counter it encompass different types of responses, actors and objectives. The rapporteur notes the Commission’s role overseeing the elaboration of a voluntary ‘self-regulatory’ Code of Practice on Disinformation, and welcomes the Commission’s initiative to present a European Democracy Action Plan that, among others, aims to counter disinformation. In this context, the rapporteur recalls that social media platforms are not simply passive platforms, and underlines their increasing role in introducing algorithm-based advertising and content publication, while also expressing the view that this role should be better reflected and defined in the regulatory field. The rapporteur shares the view that countering disinformation initiatives must be fully in compliance with the right to freedom of expression and other rights guaranteed by international and regional human rights law,[41] and also that Member State governments must ensure that measures to combat disinformation are necessary, proportionate and subject to regular oversight,[42] in particular in the context of countering disinformation about COVID-19.

2020/2009(INI)

OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON CULTURE AND EDUCATION (23.9.2020)

for the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

on strengthening media freedom: the protection of journalists in Europe, hate speech, disinformation and the role of platforms

(2020/2009(INI))

Rapporteur for opinion (*): Diana Riba i Giner

(Associated committee – Rule 57 of the Rules of Procedure)

 

 

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Culture and Education calls on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

1. Considers that in order to fight against disinformation and misinformation, reinstate a climate of trust in the media and counter threats to democracy, a comprehensive EU strategy on media and information literacy is needed, developed in cooperation with the Member States and civil society organisations, and aimed at empowering everyone in the EU to identify news sources and critically assess media content, understand the difference between editorial and commercial content, and recognise the difference between opinion and fact; believes that media and civil society organisations are key to fostering media literacy and helping to prevent the spreading of hate speech;

2. Stresses that media freedom has been rapidly deteriorating across Europe over the past decade, facing challenges highlighted in court cases, official enquiries and reports by the EU institutions and non-governmental organisations; believes that while the decline can be attributed to a range of legal, political and economic factors, the EU institutions must respect and protect the fundamental rights of media freedom and pluralism as an essential pillar of democracy enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union;

3. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to step up their efforts to tackle disinformation and misinformation – the aim of which is to undermine trust in European democratic foundations – to identify them as a threat to the European Union and its Member States, and to propose an adequate increase in financial and personnel resources for combating this phenomenon;

4. Welcomes the recent launch of the European Digital Media Observatory, a platform aimed at helping fact checkers and researchers to network and at providing media practitioners, teachers and individuals with information to help them to better understand fake news; is confident that the observatory will help gather best practices and tailor media literacy programmes according to the latest findings; requests that public-safety-related information is presented in a clear and simple manner, including in accessible and usable formats for persons with disabilities;

5. Calls on the Commission to work in close cooperation with the Member States, candidate countries and civil society organisations to develop curricula on information, media and data literacy, and algorithmic awareness, and to reach out to everyone living in those countries through formal, non-formal and informal education, and through lifelong learning; considers that journalists should also have access to adequate training and that this can be achieved through both on-the-job training and training offered by schools of journalism; believes that the updated Digital Education Action Plan can play a role in facilitating these initiatives, as long as it includes media literacy among its priorities;

6. Calls for media literacy to be streamlined and integrated into other EU programmes that support education and media as a tool for inclusion and for people to be encouraged to develop critical thinking;

7. Stresses the importance of ensuring online and offline media pluralism, which is currently under serious threat due to the excessive concentration of media ownership, and points out that this might in turn result in dominant actors in the media sector using information to pursue political, social and commercial objectives and constituting a threat to democratic competition, including at local and regional level; calls for a level playing field and legal clarity to ensure the quality, diversity and reliability of the information available and recognises that public authorities have both the duty to refrain from restricting freedom of expression and the positive obligation to adopt a legal and policy framework which fosters the development of free and pluralistic media; recalls the need for transparent information regarding media ownership and its funding sources and reaffirms that this information should be easily accessible to the general public to foster a climate of trust in the media;

8. Underlines that media professionals and artists often work in precarious conditions with regard to their contracts, salaries and social guarantees, which compromises their ability to work effectively and thus hampers media pluralism and freedom; asks the Commission to work closely with the Member States in order to improve the status and working conditions of artists;

9. Underlines its view that non-discriminatory, comprehensive and balanced media coverage is essential to a free and well-informed society in Europe; calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote a media sphere that is inclusive and respects gender equality, in which members of minority groups, migrants and refugees, as well as members of LGBTI+ communities and people with disabilities, occupy creative and decision-making positions, and to support multilingual and barrier-free media projects, which would in turn contribute to the reduction of stereotypes in the media;

10. Considers that in the fight against disinformation and misinformation, the core principles of access to information and above all freedom of expression, including artistic freedom, should always prevail against a background of accuracy, independence, fairness, confidentiality, humanity, accountability and transparency; is concerned about cases where governments are undermining media freedom, including artistic freedom, under the cover of the fight against disinformation; recognises the right to artistic freedom and the need to highlight this in the context of the broader framework of fundamental freedoms and freedom of expression; underlines the need to include freedom of artistic expression among the specific objectives of Creative Europe 2021-2027;

11. Considers that any future EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights must enshrine media freedom, including artistic freedom, as an essential pillar of democratic systems;

12. Recalls that the backbone of any democracy is an independent, impartial, professional and responsible media, which aims to inform and stimulate debate; highlights that national, regional and local media and in particular public service media, have an important responsibility to serve the public interest and to adequately reflect the cultural, linguistic, social and political diversity of our societies and to inform the public extensively about all topics that are relevant to their everyday lives, including independent and objective information on EU policies and affairs; has noticed that in some Member States this diversity has not been adequately reflected and that the media has not been providing adequate and objective information on the EU’s policies; insists on the need to remedy the situation;

13. Calls on the Commission to develop, in close cooperation with the Member States and civil society organisations, a sector-specific comprehensive strategy that ensures equitable access to trustworthy information sources, and support for the strengthening of independent media and quality journalism, including by reviving local news ecosystems; stresses that this strategy will help to effectively tackle the spread of disinformation and misinformation, including during election campaigns;

14. Highlights that news media is a critical public good that enables individuals to make informed decisions; stresses, therefore, that access to information and quality journalism is of paramount importance for democracy; reiterates the importance of ensuring the protection of journalists and journalistic sources; calls on the Commission to include studies and courses on independent journalism in appropriate EU-funded projects and programmes;

15. Considers that state interventions or commercial pressure on editorial policies undermine free journalism and democratic debate; takes the view that securing media freedom and, under certain conditions, assuming editorial responsibility are also important in terms of providing information on large-scale platforms which publish or broadcast news and programmes directly or via users; stresses the need for better cooperation between the authorities and online platforms to tackle hate speech; recalls that the Audiovisual Media Services Directive drew up rules to address the issue of hate speech, the protection of minors, the independence of national media regulators, transparency, media literacy obligations and the placing of advertisements; recalls that the implementation of and compliance with the directive should be transparent, subject to evaluation and have the aim of ensuring continued media freedom in the long term;

16. Expresses serious concern about the situation in some Member States whereby media laws allowing for greater political interference have been introduced, resulting in public and private media being forced to abandon the principle of impartiality, which is supported by, inter alia, evidence from the Reporters Without Borders 2020 World Press Freedom Index;

17. Calls on the Member States to ensure better protection of the personal safety of journalists and particularly of investigative journalists; stresses that whistleblowing is an essential part of investigative journalism; insists that journalists, when acting in the public interest, need to be subject to legal protection rather than legal prosecution; stresses that intimidating acts of aggression, including cyber-bullying against journalists, endanger freedom of expression; emphasises the particular importance of the protection of journalistic sources; calls on the Member States to ensure that their legal frameworks and law enforcement practices provide support, protection and assistance to journalists and media professionals; reiterates its call on the Commission to propose an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) directive;

18. Calls on the Member States and media organisations to guarantee that journalists can carry out their work to the highest standards by ensuring fair remuneration, good working conditions, the protection of journalistic sources, editorial support for journalistic research, independent editorship, with continuous quality training for both contractual and freelance media professionals as prerequisites for balanced, fact-based reporting;

19. Calls on the Commission to increase its direct and indirect support for quality journalism and independent media organisations by ensuring an arm’s length principle; points out that the media was facing a systemic market failure hampering the sustainability of quality journalism, especially in smaller markets, including local and regional media markets, well before the COVID-19 crisis; believes that additional support offered during the COVID-19 crisis should be directed to the media sector as access to information is an essential part of the fight against the pandemic;

20. Considers that creating the right environment and a level playing field is vital in order to mitigate the disruptive effects of the business model of dominant online platforms, which have contributed to audiences and advertising moving mostly online; stresses that on the internet, advertising is increasingly micro-targeted and its revenues are more and more commoditised, mainly to the benefit of online platforms, meaning that media services need to provide new and innovative offers; highlights that the right framework inter alia would involve treating the online environment in a similar way to the offline environment, including in relation to advertising and taxation; stresses the importance of updating EU competition law on the digital market and highlights the need to increase responsibilities and update the liability framework for online platforms; considers that online platforms acting as gatekeepers have to make sure that trustworthy quality media content is easily accessible and is not be undermined; believes that measures taken by these platforms should be tailored to the relevant markets, respecting national language laws and regional languages; stresses, however, that new obligations should be proportionate and that their practical implementation should take into account the market share and financial capacity of the relevant providers in order to help level the playing field and promote competition instead of stifling it;

21. Highlights the fact that local and community media organisations are key structures for the promotion, production and dissemination of information and facts related to local and minority artistic and cultural events; considers them to be an important instrument for maintaining media pluralism and a multicultural environment in Europe; considers that community media outlets should also be involved as stakeholders in EU programmes dedicated to promoting journalism and media literacy, and calls on the Member States to provide them with adequate support, ensuring they carry out their educational and cultural roles;

22. Recognises the internet as the new digital common source of information, which gives people new opportunities to participate, have discussions, shape opinions and share information; highlights that decisions taken by media platforms – e.g. regarding their community standards or recommendation algorithms – have considerable consequences for the exercise of the freedom of expression, the right to receive impartial information, media freedom, pluralism and democracy; calls for the EU to ensure safeguards for platforms to respect fundamental rights and freedom of speech;

23. Stresses that the Member States need to guarantee that public service media is free from censorship and political influence, as it has a duty to be pluralistic and keep the public informed, while reflecting cultural and political diversity; urges the Member State governments not to interfere in editorial decisions;

24. Recalls the 2018 Council conclusions on the strengthening of European content in the digital economy, which recognise the relevance of content generated by the media ‘as well as other cultural and creative sectors’, as being ‘essential pillars of Europe’s social and economic development’.

 

INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Date adopted

22.9.2020

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

25

3

2

Members present for the final vote

Asim Ademov, Isabella Adinolfi, Andrea Bocskor, Ilana Cicurel, Gilbert Collard, Gianantonio Da Re, Laurence Farreng, Tomasz Frankowski, Hannes Heide, Irena Joveva, Niyazi Kizilyürek, Predrag Fred Matić, Dace Melbārde, Victor Negrescu, Peter Pollák, Marcos Ros Sempere, Domènec Ruiz Devesa, Andrey Slabakov, Massimiliano Smeriglio, Michaela Šojdrová, Sabine Verheyen, Salima Yenbou

Substitutes present for the final vote

Isabel Benjumea Benjumea, Loucas Fourlas, Łukasz Kohut, Marcel Kolaja, Elżbieta Kruk, Martina Michels, Diana Riba i Giner, Monica Semedo

 

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the impact of COVID-19 measures on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights – B9-0343/2020

Source: European Parliament

B9‑0343/2020

European Parliament resolution on the impact of COVID-19 measures on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights

(2020/2790(RSP))

The European Parliament,

 having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other UN human rights treaties and instruments, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

 having regard to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and the protocols thereto,

 having regard to the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

 having regard to the European Charter of Patients’ Rights,

 having regard to the declarations of the UN Secretary General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN special rapporteurs, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and other UN bodies on the impact of COVID-19 measures on democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights,

 having regard to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),

 having regard to the declarations of and documents produced by the representatives and bodies of the Council of Europe, notably its Secretary General, the president and rapporteurs of its Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), the Commissioner for Human Rights, the Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) on the impact of COVID-19 measures on democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights,

 having regard to the Council of Europe publication of 7 April 2020 entitled ‘Respecting democracy, rule of law and human rights in the framework of the COVID-19 sanitary crisis – A toolkit for member states’,

 having regard to the relevant documents of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, including the compilation of Venice Commission opinions and reports on states of emergency[1], published on 16 April 2020, the report of 26 May 2020 entitled ‘Respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law during states of emergency – Reflections’[2], the Observatory of situations of emergency in Venice Commission member states[3], its 2011 report on the rule of law[4] and its 2016 rule of law checklist[5],

 having regard to the request by its President to the Venice Commission of 1 July 2020, following the proposal of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), and the subsequent interim report of 8 October 2020 on the measures taken in the EU Member States as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and their impact on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights[6],

 having regard to the PACE resolutions of 13 October 2020 on democracies facing the COVID-19 pandemic[7] and on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights and the rule of law[8],

 having regard to the opinion of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) of 27 April 2020 on the Draft Act on Special Rules for Conducting the General Election of the President of the Republic of Poland Ordered in 2020 (Senate Paper No.99) and to the declarations by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media,

 having regard to the statement on Hungary by the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, of 27 March 2020,

 having regard to the joint statement on Bulgaria of the UN Special Rapporteurs on contemporary forms of racism and on minority issues of 13 May 2020,

 having regard to the publications of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) of 11 May 2020 entitled ‘Parliaments in Crisis: Challenges and Innovations’[9] and of 26 March 2020 entitled ‘Elections and COVID-19’[10],

 having regard to the wide debate that has taken place on the impact of COVID-19 measures on democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights, involving citizens, the academic community, civil society and society at large[11],

 having regard to the Commission’s actions in relation to COVID-19, across all fields of its competence, and its efforts to coordinate a European response to the pandemic in domains ranging from the Schengen area to disinformation on the virus, and from data protection and apps to asylum, return and resettlement procedures,

 having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation)[12],

 having regard to Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector[13],

 having regard to Guidelines 04/2020 of the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) on the use of location data and contact tracing tools in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak and to Guidelines 03/2020 on the processing of data concerning health for the purpose of scientific research in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak,

 having regard to the Commission communication of 16 April 2020 entitled ‘Guidance on Apps supporting the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in relation to data protection’ (C(2020)2523),

 having regard to the Commission communication of 30 September 2020 entitled ‘2020 Rule of Law Report – The rule of law situation in the European Union’ (COM(2020)0580) and its 27 accompanying country chapters on the rule of law in the Member States (SWD(2020)0300-0326), which address the impact of the COVID-19 measures taken by the Member States on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights,

 having regard to the statement of 1 April 2020 by 19 Member States in which they expressed deep concern ‘about the risk of violations of the principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights arising from the adoption of certain emergency measures’[14],

 having regard to its resolution of 17 April 2020 on EU coordinated action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences[15],

 having regard to its resolution of 19 June 2020 on the situation in the Schengen area following the COVID‑19 outbreak[16],

 having regard to its resolution of 19 June 2020 on European protection of cross-border and seasonal workers in the context of the COVID-19 crisis[17],

 having regard to its resolution of 10 July 2020 on the EU’s public health strategy post-COVID-19[18],

 having regard to its resolution of 17 September 2020 entitled ‘COVID-19: EU coordination of health assessments and risk classification, and the consequences for Schengen and the single market’[19],

 having regard to its resolution of 17 September 2020 on the proposal for a Council decision on the determination of a clear risk of a serious breach by the Republic of Poland of the rule of law[20],

 having regard to its resolution of 7 October 2020 on the establishment of an EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights[21],

 having regard to its resolution of 8 October 2020 on the rule of law and fundamental rights in Bulgaria[22],

 having regard to the briefing published by its Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs on 23 April 2020 entitled ‘The Impact of COVID-19 Measures on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights in the EU’[23], summarising the main findings of the monitoring exercise launched through the weekly overviews of the COVID-19 measures taken by the Member States,

 having regard to the briefings of the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Documentation on parliamentary activity during the COVID-19 outbreak[24],

 having regard to the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) briefings linked to the state of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis in several Member States and other relevant briefings on this topic[25],

 having regard to the five bulletins of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on the fundamental rights implications of the coronavirus pandemic in the EU[26],

 having regard to the statement of the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), Josep Borrell, of 18 June 2020 on tackling COVID-19 disinformation and the impact on freedom of expression,

 having regard to the Europol Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) 2020, published on 5 October 2020,

 having regard to the Europol report of 19 June 2020 entitled ‘Exploiting Isolation: Offenders and victims of online child sexual abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic’,

 having regard to the Europol report of 30 April 2020 entitled ‘Beyond the pandemic – How COVID-19 will shape the serious and organised crime landscape in the EU’,

 having regard to the preparatory work undertaken for this resolution by the Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group (DRFMG) of the Committee on Civil liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), including its report to the LIBE Committee of 10 July 2020[27],

 having regard to the question to the Commission on the impact of COVID-19 measures on democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights (O-000065/2020 – B9-0023/2020),

 having regard to Rules 136(5) and 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

 having regard to the motion for a resolution of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs,

A. whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has created distress across the entire EU and has deeply affected the population; whereas many areas of the world, including the EU, are experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 cases and governments are adopting new restrictive measures to address the spike in cases, including the reintroduction of lockdowns and sanitary measures, the use of masks and harsher fines for non-compliance;

B. whereas government-led emergency measures that respect the rule of law, fundamental rights and democratic accountability are needed to combat the pandemic and should be the cornerstone of all efforts to control the spread of COVID-19; whereas emergency powers require additional scrutiny to ensure that they are not used as a pretext for changing the balance of powers more permanently; whereas measures taken by governments should be necessary, proportional and temporary; whereas emergency powers carry a risk of abuse of power by the executive and of remaining in the national legal framework once the emergency is over, and consequently appropriate parliamentary and judicial oversight, both internal and external, and counterbalances have to be ensured to limit this risk;

C. whereas the COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented; whereas in the future we need to rethink our crisis management methods at both Member State and EU levels;

D. whereas a number of EU countries have declared a state of emergency[28] on the basis of their constitutions[29] which have in some cases caused legal concerns, while others have resorted to emergency powers provided for under ordinary law[30] or to normal legislation[31] to urgently adopt restrictive measures in order to counter the COVID-19 epidemic; whereas these measures have an impact on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights as they affect the exercise of individual rights and freedoms, such as freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and of association, freedom of expression and information, freedom of religion, the right to family life, the right of asylum, the principle of equality and non-discrimination, the right to privacy and data protection, the right to education and the right to work; whereas these measures also have an impact on the economies of Member States;

E. whereas the functioning of democracies and the checks and balances to which they are subject are impacted when a health emergency situation causes shifts in the distribution of powers such as allowing the executive to acquire new powers to limit individual rights and to exercise competences usually reserved for the legislature and local authorities, while imposing constraints on the role of parliaments, the judiciary, civil society and the media, as well as the activities and involvement of citizens; whereas in most Member States there are no specific restrictions on the judiciary, but lockdown measures have made it near impossible for courts to operate in a normal manner;

F. whereas internal judicial oversight, complemented by external oversight, continues to be fundamental, as the rights to a fair trial and to effective legal remedies continue to apply during a state of emergency so that individuals affected by emergency measures have effective recourse in the event that state authorities interfere with their fundamental rights and to guarantee that the executive does not exceed its powers;

G. whereas the Venice Commission supports the constitutional de jure state of emergency, rather than the de facto state of emergency based on ordinary legislation, as ‘a system of de jure constitutional emergency powers can provide better guarantees for fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law, and better serve the principle of legal certainty, deriving therefrom’[32];

H. whereas the COVID-19 crisis has been and continues to be a stress test for democracies and the resilience of national safeguards for the rule of law and fundamental rights;

I. whereas trust in the actions of governments and states is paramount to ensure support for and implementation of the emergency measures adopted; whereas in order to achieve this in a democracy, transparent, science-based and democratic decisions, as well as dialogue with and the involvement of the opposition, civil society and stakeholders, are fundamental;

J. whereas the Commission has monitored the emergency measures taken by the governments of the Member States throughout the crisis; whereas Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated on 31 March 2020 that ‘any emergency measures must be limited to what is necessary and strictly proportionate. They must not last indefinitely. Moreover, governments must make sure that such measures are subject to regular scrutiny. The European Commission will closely monitor, in a spirit of cooperation, the application of emergency measures in all Member States’[33], and whereas Commissioner Didier Reynders made a similar statement on 26 March 2020;

K. whereas ‘nearly all EU Member States have introduced temporary (i.e. with a time limit) emergency measures to deal with the COVID-19 crisis[34] […] mainly through ordinary legislation’; whereas ‘the first emergency measures were generally introduced for a period of 15 days to approximately one month across all EU Member States’ and were then renewed at least once; whereas according to the Venice Commission ‘only a few EU Member States did not prescribe a time limit for the application of emergency measures’[35];

L. whereas the Venice Commission recommends that ‘declarations or measures that have no specific time limit, including those whose suspension is made conditional upon overcoming the exceptional situation, should not be considered as lawful if there is no regular review of the situation’[36];

M. whereas emergency measures must be non-discriminatory and governments must not take advantage of emergency legislation to push through restrictions on fundamental rights; whereas governments must also undertake a range of additional actions to reduce the potential negative impact that such measures might have on people’s lives;

N. whereas the state of emergency has been prolonged at least once in almost all the Member States in which it has been declared; whereas the Venice Commission underlined that the review of the declaration and prolongation of the state of emergency, as well as of the activation and application of emergency powers, is vital and that parliamentary and judicial control should be possible[37];

O. whereas parliamentary scrutiny has been limited in most Member States owing to the use of exceptional executive powers, while parliaments in some Member States have been relegated to a secondary role, allowing governments to rapidly introduce emergency measures without sufficient scrutiny;

P. whereas the European Parliament, in particular the LIBE Committee and its Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group, has continuously monitored the situation within the EU since March 2020 and has held regular exchanges with stakeholders, as reflected in the DRFMG working document on the impact of COVID-19 on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights[38];

Q. whereas ombudsman institutions and National Human Rights Institutions play an important role in detecting fundamental rights problems and in providing scrutiny, oversight and redress, and therefore in protecting citizens in relation to emergency measures;

R. whereas freedom of movement has been restricted across the Member States through obligatory or recommended self-isolation and bans on non-essential movement; whereas as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, most Schengen area states have reintroduced internal border controls or have closed such borders, whether partially, totally, or to certain types of travellers, including EU citizens and their family members or third-country nationals residing on their territory or that of another Member State; whereas there was a clear lack of coordination among Member States and with the Union institutions when these measures were introduced[39]; whereas some Member States have introduced unlawful and discriminatory restrictions by not allowing residents of another EU nationality to enter their territory;

S. whereas freedom of assembly and of association are important cornerstones of democracy; whereas the ability to exercise these rights has been restricted due to the necessary social distancing rules and public health precautions in the majority of Member States; whereas some Member States have decided to allow assemblies in compliance with social distancing rules while others have banned them altogether; whereas in some Member States, controversial laws and measures unrelated to the state of emergency have been examined without the possibility for citizens to demonstrate freely;

T. whereas freedom of expression has been restricted in some Member States on the pretext of fighting disinformation; whereas arrests have been made for ‘fearmongering’ or ‘endangering the public’ following the publishing of critical thoughts on social media; whereas the coronavirus pandemic has been accompanied by a wave of false and misleading information, hoaxes, consumer fraud, cybercrime and conspiracy theories, as well as targeted disinformation campaigns by foreign actors, which pose numerous potential threats to EU citizens, their health and their trust in public institutions;

U. whereas law enforcement authorities have in recent months seen a global increase in the amount of child sexual exploitation material shared online;

V. whereas serious and organised crime is benefiting from the changing circumstances brought about by the pandemic; whereas the important role of Europol in monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on serious and organised crime and terrorism in the EU from the outset of the pandemic must be acknowledged;

W. whereas the media play a fundamental role in scrutiny and oversight, as well as being citizens’ main sources of information; whereas media freedom has come under pressure as live press conferences have been cancelled without alternatives, and as some Member States have restricted access to public health information and limited the freedom to publish about public health policy; whereas there have been numerous accounts of questions from media outlets to governments being rejected or ignored; whereas journalists and media workers need to be protected when covering demonstrations and protests; whereas some Member States have restricted access to information by either extending or suspending deadlines for authorities to respond to freedom of information (FOI) requests;

X. whereas Member States should ensure the protection of whistleblowers during the COVID-19 crisis, and beyond, as it has proven to be a powerful tool to fight and prevent actions that undermine the public interest[40];

Y. whereas some Member States have resorted to disproportionally repressive measures to enforce restrictions, such as the criminalisation of the violation of lockdown and quarantine rules resulting in high fines and lasting criminal records[41];

Z. whereas justice systems have been impacted by the general restrictions, with the temporary closing of many courts or reductions to their activity, sometimes resulting in backlogs and longer waiting times for hearings; whereas the procedural rights of suspects and the right to a fair trial are under pressure as access to lawyers has become more difficult due to the general restrictions and as courts are making increased use of online hearings;

AA. whereas measures to combat the pandemic that restrict the right to privacy and data protection should always be necessary, proportionate and temporary in nature, with a solid legal basis; whereas new technologies have played an important part in the fight against the pandemic, but at the same time bring significant new challenges and have raised concerns; whereas the governments of some Member States have resorted to extraordinary surveillance of their citizens through the use of drones, police surveillance cars with cameras, tracking by means of location data from telecommunications providers, police and military patrols, monitoring of mandatory quarantines via house calls by the police or mandatory reporting via an app; whereas some Member States have introduced contact tracing apps, even though there is no consensus about their effectiveness and the most privacy-friendly, decentralised system is not always used; whereas in some Member States the reopening of public spaces has been accompanied by the collection of data through mandatory temperature checks and questionnaires and the obligation to share contact details, sometimes without due regard for the obligations that stem from the General Data Protection Regulation;

AB. whereas lockdown measures and the closing of borders have had a profound impact on access to asylum procedures; whereas many Member States temporarily limited or even put on hold the processing of asylum requests, and most suspended Dublin transfers, returns and resettlement; whereas some Member States have declared their ports unsafe or not allowed the disembarkation of migrants rescued in search and rescue operations, leaving them in limbo for an unlimited period of time at sea and putting their lives at risk; whereas most Member States have now recommenced these activities; whereas outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported in several asylum reception centres, resulting in vulnerable groups being put directly at risk, and whereas overcrowded camps at the EU’s external borders continue to pose a particular risk of a massive outbreak as social distancing rules cannot be applied, while shelter and access to food, water, sanitation facilities, and mental and physical healthcare, including for those who have contracted COVID-19, are very limited;

AC. whereas prisons are at particularly high risk of COVID-19 outbreaks as social distancing and sanitation rules are often impossible to enforce, and sanitary measures have led to the limiting of time in the open air as well as bans on visitors which affect prisoners’ right to communicate with their families; whereas the health of prison officers has been particularly at risk during this pandemic; whereas in some Member States, some specific categories of prisoners have been released with a view to decreasing health risks during the pandemic;

AD. whereas the enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions should be proportionate and non-discriminatory in order to avoid targeting people belonging to ethnic minorities and marginalised groups; whereas the pandemic affects Romani people disproportionally, with women and children often being the most vulnerable groups, and particularly those living in socially excluded and marginalised settings with no access to drinking water or sanitary services where it is nearly impossible to follow social distancing rules or to comply with strict hygiene measures; whereas there have been reports of incidents of racism and xenophobia in several Member States where discrimination has taken place against people of a certain background or nationality; whereas persons of Asian descent and Romani people have been the targets of hate speech and attacks; whereas certain politicians in some Member States have used media reports of mass returns of Romani migrant workers from countries with a high prevalence of COVID-19 to fan fears about the spread of the virus, reinforcing negative attitudes and stereotypes;

AE. whereas children are at a disproportionate risk of social and economic exclusion due to the lockdown measures and are facing increased risk of violation of their fundamental rights owing to abuse, violence, exploitation, and poverty; whereas many Member States have seen an increase in domestic violence due to the lockdown measures; whereas women and girls,[42] children and LGBTI+ persons are disproportionally at risk during lockdowns, as they can be exposed to abusers for long periods of time and can be cut off from social and institutional support; whereas community support for these vulnerable groups has been dramatically restricted given the measures taken in response to the pandemic;

AF. whereas equal access to healthcare, a right enshrined in Article 35 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, is potentially at risk due to measures taken to stop the spread of COVID-19, in particular for groups of people in vulnerable situations such as elderly or chronically ill persons, persons with disabilities, LGBTI+ persons, children, parents, pregnant women, homeless persons, all migrants including undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, and ethnic and other minorities; whereas sexual and reproductive health and rights services, have been negatively affected during the health crisis; whereas medicine shortages, the diversion of resources from other health issues and the abrupt cancellation of certain treatments, including IVF and transitioning treatments, may present risks to patients suffering from other illnesses[43]; whereas bereavement, isolation, the additional strain on work-life balance for parents and frontline workers, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones, leading to an increased demand for mental health services and resulting in an urgent need to increase funding for these services;

AG. whereas many Member States postponed elections[44], and one a referendum[45], owing to lockdowns imposed in the first phase of the health crisis; whereas elections have been taking place again since the pandemic entered its second phase; whereas the issue of holding or postponing elections is a delicate balancing exercise, on which the Venice Commission has developed reflections and guidelines[46]; whereas universal, free, secret and direct suffrage is only possible when open and fair electoral campaigning, freedom of expression, media freedom and freedom of assembly and association for political purposes, are guaranteed;

AH. whereas the provisions of the Treaties in the area of freedom, security and justice must not affect the exercise of the responsibilities incumbent upon Member States with regard to the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security, within the boundaries of the Union’s values of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, as stipulated in Article 2 of the TEU;

AI. whereas, according to the Treaties, limits on the Union’s competences are governed by the principle of conferral and the use of Union competences is governed by the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;

1. Recalls that, even in a state of public emergency, the fundamental principles of the rule of law, democracy and respect for fundamental rights must prevail, and that all emergency measures, derogations and limitations are subject to three general conditions, those of necessity, proportionality in the narrow sense and temporariness, conditions which have been regularly applied and interpreted in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) and various constitutional (and other) courts of the Member States[47];

2. Believes that reactions to the crisis have, on the whole, shown the strength and resilience of national democratic systems; stresses that extraordinary measures should be matched by more intense communication between governments and parliaments; calls for a more intense dialogue with stakeholders including citizens, civil society and political opposition in order to build broad support for extraordinary measures and ensure that they are implemented as efficiently as possible, while avoiding repressive measures and ensuring unimpeded access to information for journalists;

3. Calls on the Member States to ensure that, when measures that could restrict the functioning of democratic institutions, the rule of law or fundamental rights are adopted, assessed or reviewed, those measures observe the recommendations of international bodies such as the UN and the Council of Europe, including the Venice Commission, and of the Commission’s report on the rule of law situation in the EU; reiterates its call on the Member States not to abuse emergency powers to pass legislation unrelated to the COVID-19 health emergency objectives in order to surpass parliamentary oversight;

4. Calls on the Member States:

 to consider exiting the state of emergency or otherwise limiting their impact on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights,

 to evaluate the constitutional and institutional rules in force in their domestic orders in the light of the Venice Commission recommendations, for instance by moving from a de facto state of emergency based on ordinary legislation to a de jure constitutional state of emergency, hence providing for better guarantees of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the event of an emergency[48]; to explicitly define in a legislative act, where a de facto state of emergency is maintained, the objectives, content, and scope of the delegation of power from the legislature to the executive,

 to ensure that both the declaration and possible prolongation of the state of emergency, on the one hand, and the activation and application of emergency powers, on the other hand, are subject to effective parliamentary and judicial control, both internal and external, and to ensure that parliaments are entitled to discontinue the state of emergency[49],

 to ensure that, if legislative powers are transferred to the executive, any legal acts issued by the executive be subject to subsequent parliamentary approval and cease to produce effects if they do not secure such approval within a certain period of time[50]; to address the excessive use of accelerated and emergency legislation, an issue also pointed out by the Commission in its 2020 Rule of Law Report (COM(2020)0580),

 to examine how better to guarantee the central role of parliaments in situations of crisis and emergency, in particular their role in monitoring and controlling the situation at national level,

 to consider the Venice Commission’s view that parliaments need to hold their plenary sessions and that they should not allow the temporary replacement of members or reduce their attendance (even if proportionally)[51];

 to examine the Venice Commission’s reflections on elections and look into the possibility of using remote voting methods such as postal voting, internet voting, mobile ballot boxes and proxy voting, as well as early voting, in particular in the event of a pandemic;

5. Calls on the Member States to enforce the COVID-19 related measures with due regard to the proportionality of the enforcement measures; affirms that the enforcement of COVID-19 related measures needs to respect EU fundamental rights and the rule of law and considers that equal treatment of persons is crucial in that regard;

6. Calls on the Member States to evaluate the measures they have implemented which have restricted freedom of movement and to exercise the utmost restraint and ensure full respect for EU law, in particular the Schengen Borders Code and the Free Movement Directive, when considering imposing new restrictions on freedom of movement; recalls that, according to the Schengen Borders Code, the assessment of the necessity for internal border control and its prolongation when introduced as an immediate action should be monitored at Union level; calls on the Commission in that respect to exercise appropriate scrutiny over the application of the Schengen acquis, and in particular to assess the measures already taken by Member States, as well as the timeliness and quality of notifications made by the Member States, to closely monitor developments and, where necessary, to remind Member States of their legal obligations and adopt opinions; encourages the Commission to make use of its prerogatives to request additional information from Member States; calls on the Commission to enhance its reporting to Parliament on how it exercises its prerogatives under the Treaties; recalls the importance of further integration of the Schengen area, based on the Commission’s evaluations and recommendations;

7. Calls on the Member States to respect the right to family life, in particular of families living and working across different Member States and beyond, and only to allow for restrictions where strictly necessary and proportionate; calls on the Member States to allow for the reunification of couples and families separated by COVID-19 related measures, regardless of their marital status, and to refrain from imposing unnecessarily high standards of proof of the relationship;

8. Calls on the Member States to restrict the freedom of assembly only where strictly necessary and justifiable in the light of the local epidemiological situation and where proportionate, and not to use the banning of demonstrations to adopt controversial measures, even if unrelated to COVID-19, that would merit a proper public and democratic debate;

9. Encourages the Member States to take measures aimed at ensuring the right to education during this pandemic; calls on the Member States, in the light of the resurgent waves of the pandemic, to provide the means for and a safe framework within which to guarantee the continuation of classes, and to ensure that every student has effective access;

10. Calls on the Member States to respect the right to privacy and data protection and to make sure that all new surveillance or tracking measures, adopted in full consultation with data protection authorities, are strictly necessary and proportionate, have a solid legal basis, are limited as to their purposes and are of a temporary nature; calls on the Commission to monitor these measures, especially in the light of its own Recommendation (EU) 2020/518 of 8 April 2020 on a common Union toolbox for the use of technology and data to combat and exit from the COVID-19 crisis, in particular concerning mobile applications and the use of anonymised mobility data[52];

11. Recalls that the best way to fight disinformation is to protect and ensure the right to information and freedom of expression, providing support to ensure media pluralism and independent journalism; calls on the Member States, in this context, to ensure transparency when adopting measures and to provide their citizens with comprehensive, up-to-date, precise and objective information and data concerning the public health situation and measures taken to control it, to fight disinformation that aims to discredit or distort scientific knowledge about health risks and that concerns government measures that are justified in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, in a balanced way and taking great care not to create a chilling effect on freedom of expression and on journalists, healthcare workers or others by resorting to criminalisation or disproportionate sanctioning; stresses that the pandemic has increased the stigmatisation of migrants and led to a rise in instances of discrimination which has been exacerbated by misinformation and fake news[53], including racist and xenophobic incidents against people belonging to ethnic minorities, and hate speech against persons with disabilities and refugees[54]; stresses that disinformation is an evolving challenge with the potential to negatively influence democratic processes and societal debates affecting all policy areas, to undermine citizens’ trust in democracy and to discourage European cooperation and solidarity; recalls that Parliament is already working on a set of possible measures through its Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union, including Disinformation (INGE);

12. Calls for further significant investments in the EU’s strategic communication capabilities, in line with the Action Plan against Disinformation, for the stepping up of cooperation and coordination with Member States and for the full use of existing mechanisms in order to facilitate concrete cooperation with Member States and international partners on strategic communication;

13. Considers that the work of journalists has become more difficult as a result of measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, owing, for example, to the limiting of physical access to press conferences, lacking or inadequate replies to questions from public authorities, and cancelled or delayed deadlines for freedom of information requests or access to documents; regrets that while quality journalism is needed more than ever, particularly given its role in the fight against increasingly prevalent disinformation, the economic fallout of this crisis also affects the financial viability of media outlets, and in particular of independent media and journalists, thereby further undermining media pluralism in the EU; is concerned about the lack of transparency in some Member States regarding the placing of advertisements and the distribution of subsidies to the media, and about the increasing concentration of media ownership in some Member States; underlines that substantive changes in the media sector should not be brought in during a de facto or de jure state of emergency;

14. Calls on the Member States to guarantee the rights of defendants, including their unfettered access to a lawyer, and to evaluate the possibility of online hearings as a solution and an alternative to hearings in court or to the transfer of suspects to other EU Member States under the European Arrest Warrant; calls on the Member States to ensure adherence to all governing principles of judicial proceedings, including the right to a fair trial; calls on the Member States to safeguard the rights and health of all persons in prisons, in particular their rights to medical assistance, visitors, time in the open air and educational, professional or leisure activities;

15. Acknowledges that most Member States have recommenced their asylum procedures and that some have made use of the recent period of lower numbers of new applications to reduce the backlog of pending applications; calls on the Member States to fully guarantee access to an asylum procedure and to preserve the individual right to asylum, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and to carry out resettlement and dignified return procedures with full respect for international law; calls, furthermore, for access to translators to be provided, or reinstated, as soon as possible for those applying for asylum; urges the Member States to provide adequate physical and mental health facilities in reception centres, given the poor sanitary conditions, the high-risk environment and the vulnerability of refugee populations during the COVID-19 pandemic; calls on the Commission and the Member States to draw up a plan to comprehensively address the situation of the camps at the EU’s external borders and to effectively address the situation of asylum seekers; calls on the Member States to allow disembarkation and to ensure that disembarkation takes place only in a place of safety, in accordance with the relevant international and Union law, and as quickly as possible;

16. Considers that discrimination has increased during the pandemic and that certain groups have been the target of hate speech and discriminatory measures; calls on the Member States to counter such hate speech and to end and remedy such discriminatory measures; calls on national and in particular local authorities to redouble their efforts to combat antigypsyism, deconstruct negative stereotypes and involve people with a Romani background themselves in identifying and implementing measures to tackle the pandemic; calls on the Member States, furthermore, to continue their efforts to combat homophobia and transphobia, as the pandemic has exacerbated the discrimination and inequalities of which LGBTI+ people are victims;

17. Calls on the Member States to effectively guarantee safe and timely access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and the necessary healthcare services for all women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially access to contraception, including emergency contraception, and to abortion care;

18. Calls on the Member States to include independent experts on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in decision making wherever necessary; calls on the Member States to draw on the expertise of and proactively consult a broad range of experts and stakeholders, including National Human Rights Institutions, ombudsman institutions and civil society, when taking new measures;

19. Calls on the Member States to uphold the right to free and fair elections; recalls the Venice Commission’s recommendation that the adoption of reforms to electoral codes during this period should only take place following a wide debate and with a large consensus as a guarantee against abuses and of trust in the electoral process and its legitimacy; underlines that parties competing for voter support must have equal rights to campaign, and that the fairness of elections held during states of emergency might be in doubt[55]; calls on the Member States to consider the institutional consequences of any decision to postpone elections; stresses that, according to the Venice Commission, the specific rules on the postponement of elections should not be adopted by the executive branch of power nor by a simple majority in parliament, but should be laid down in the constitution or an organic law, and that the decision to postpone elections should preferably be taken by parliament in reasonable time before the election, if possible before the opening of the official campaign[56];

20. Calls on the Commission to urgently commission an independent and comprehensive evaluation of the measures taken during the ‘first wave’ of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to generate lessons learned, share best practices and enhance cooperation, and to ensure that measures taken during subsequent waves of the pandemic are effective, targeted, well justified on the basis of the specific epidemiological situation, strictly necessary and proportionate, and to limit their impact on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights; welcomes the fact that a first such assessment of Member States’ COVID-19 measures is included in the Commission’s first annual Rule of Law Report; calls on the Commission and the Council to engage in the negotiation of an interinstitutional agreement on an effective monitoring mechanism on rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights, as called for in its resolution of 7 October 2020 on the establishment of an EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights, which would assess the situation in all Member States diligently and fairly, as well as contribute to the better protection of the rule of law and the Union’s values during extraordinary situations such as the ongoing pandemic;

21. Reiterates its call on the EU institutions and the Member States to draw the right lessons from the COVID-19 crisis and to engage in far stronger cooperation in the area of health, given the huge burdens citizens have faced in trying to manage their physical and mental health during this pandemic, including through the creation of a European Health Union, as put forward in its resolution of 10 July 2020 on the EU’s public health strategy post-COVID-19[57];

22. Calls on the Commission to continue its monitoring of the measures taken, step up its activities to coordinate the Member States, proactively guide authorities in their handling of the pandemic in line with democratic rule of law and fundamental rights, take legal action and use other tools available whenever necessary and consider options available to safeguard respect for the Union’s fundamental values, as well as taking the lead to ensure that restrictive measures are lifted as soon as possible; calls on the FRA to continue reporting on the impact of COVID-19 measures on fundamental rights;

23. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations.

 

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on obligations of the Commission in the field of visa reciprocity in accordance with Article 7 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1806 – B9-0339/2020

Source: European Parliament

B9‑0339/2020

European Parliament resolution on obligations of the Commission in the field of visa reciprocity in accordance with Article 7 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1806

(2020/2605(RSP))

The European Parliament,

 having regard to Regulation (EU) 2018/1806 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement[1], in particular Article 7 thereof (‘the reciprocity mechanism’),

 having regard to its resolution of 2 March 2017 on obligations of the Commission in the field of visa reciprocity in accordance with Article 1(4) of Regulation (EC) No 539/2001)[2],

 having regard to the Commission communications on situations of non-reciprocity of 12 April 2016 (COM(2016)0221), 13 July 2016 (COM(2016)0481), 21 December 2016 (COM(2016)0816), 2 May 2017 (COM(2017)0227), 20 December 2017 (COM(2017)0813) and 19 December 2018 (COM(2018)0855), as well as its latest communication of 23 March 2020 entitled ‘State of play as regards the situation of non-reciprocity in the area of visa policy’ (COM(2020)0119),

 having regard to Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Articles 80, 265 and 290 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

 having regard to its debate on obligations in the field of visa reciprocity, held on 22 October 2020,

 having regard to the question to the Commission on obligations of the Commission in the field of visa reciprocity in accordance with Article 7 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1806 (O-000049/2020 – B9-0022/2020),

 having regard to the motion for a resolution of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs,

 having regard to Rules 136(5) and 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas the criterion of visa reciprocity as one of the criteria guiding the EU’s visa policy is generally understood to imply that EU citizens should be subject to the same conditions when travelling to a third country as the nationals of that third country are when travelling to the EU;

B. whereas the purpose of the visa reciprocity mechanism is to achieve such visa reciprocity; whereas the EU’s visa policy prohibits individual Member States from introducing a visa requirement for nationals of a third country if this country is listed in Annex II to Regulation (EU) 2018/1806 (countries whose nationals are exempt from the visa requirement for short stays);

C. whereas the reciprocity mechanism was revised in 2013, with Parliament acting as co-legislator, as it needed to be adapted in the light of the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and of the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union on secondary legal bases and ‘to provide for a Union response as an act of solidarity, if a third country listed in Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 applies a visa requirement for nationals of at least one Member State’ (Recital 1 of Regulation (EU) No 1289/2013);

D. whereas the reciprocity mechanism sets out a procedure starting with a situation of non-reciprocity with precise timeframes and actions to be taken with a view to ending a situation of non-reciprocity; whereas its inherent logic entails measures of increasing severity vis-à-vis the third country concerned, including ultimately the suspension of the exemption from the visa requirement for all nationals of the third country concerned (‘second phase of application of the reciprocity mechanism’);

E. whereas ‘in order to ensure the adequate involvement of the European Parliament and of the Council in the second phase of application of the reciprocity mechanism, given the particularly sensitive political nature of the suspension of the exemption from the visa requirement for all the nationals of a third country listed in Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 and its horizontal implications for the Member States, the Schengen associated countries and the Union itself, in particular for their external relations and for the overall functioning of the Schengen area, the power to adopt acts in accordance with Article 290 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union [was] delegated to the Commission in respect of certain elements of the reciprocity mechanism’ including the suspension of the exemption from the visa requirement for all nationals of the third country concerned;

F. whereas ‘the European Parliament or the Council may decide to revoke the delegation’ (Article 290(2)(a) of the TFEU);

G. whereas a delegated act ‘may enter into force only if no objection has been expressed by the European Parliament or the Council within a period set by the legislative act’ (Article 290(2)(b) of the TFEU);

H. whereas the Commission contested the choice of delegated acts in the second phase of application of the reciprocity mechanism before the Court of Justice of the European Union, and whereas the Court considered however the choice of the legislator to be correct (Case C-88/14);

I. whereas the mechanism thereby clearly assigns obligations and responsibilities to Parliament and the Council and to the Commission in the different phases of the reciprocity mechanism;

J. whereas the issue at stake is therefore one of solidarity between EU Member States and an institutional one whereby Parliament and the Council are currently deprived of their prerogative of ‘adequate involvement […] in the second phase of application of the reciprocity mechanism’;

K. whereas the Commission should not be left in a situation where its delays and refusal to implement EU legislation could lead to the weakening of its credibility as guardian of the treaties, but should be reminded of its institutional and legal obligations;

1. Repeats its consideration that the Commission is legally obliged to adopt a delegated act – temporarily suspending the exemption from the visa requirement for nationals of third countries which have not lifted the visa requirement for citizens of certain Member States – within a period of 24 months from the date of publication of the notifications in this regard, which ended on 12 April 2016;

2. Calls on the Commission, on the basis of Article 265 of the TFEU, to adopt the required delegated act within two months from the date of adoption of this resolution at the latest;

3. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the European Council, the Council and the national parliaments.

 

REPORT on the Digital Services Act and fundamental rights issues posed – A9-0172/2020

Source: European Parliament 2

PR_INI

CONTENTS

Page

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE INTERNAL MARKET AND CONSUMER PROTECTION

OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON CULTURE AND EDUCATION

INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

 

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on the Digital Services Act and fundamental rights issues posed

(2020/2022(INI))

The European Parliament,

 having regard to the Treaty on European Union (TEU), in particular Article 2 thereof,

 having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in particular Article 16 and Article 114 thereof,

 having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular Article 6, Article 7, Article 8, Article 11, Article 13, Article 21, Article 22, Article 23, Article 24, Article 26, Article 38, and Article 47 thereof,

 having regard to Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (‘e-Commerce Directive’)[1],

 having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (‘General Data Protection Regulation’, (GDPR))[2] ,

 having regard to Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (‘Directive on privacy and electronic communications’)[3],

 having regard to Directive (EU) 2018/1808 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 amending Directive 2010/13/EU on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the provision of audiovisual media services (Audiovisual Media Services Directive) in view of changing market realities[4],

 having regard to Directive (EU) 2019/790 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single Market and amending Directives 96/9/EC and 2001/29/EC (‘Copyright Directive’)[5]

 having regard to the Commission Recommendation of 1 March 2018 on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online[6]);

  having regard to the Europol Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) of 18 September 2018;

  having regard to the relevant case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union,

 having regard to Rule 54 of its Rules of Procedure,

 having regard to the opinions of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Culture and Education,

 having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A9-0172/2020),

A. whereas fundamental rights, such as the protection of privacy and personal data, the principle of non-discrimination, as well as freedom of expression and information, need to be ingrained at the core of a successful and durable EU policy on digital services; whereas these rights need to be seen both in the letter of the law, as well as in the spirit of their implementation;

B. whereas the types of digital services and the roles of digital service providers have drastically changed since the adoption of the e-Commerce Directive 20 years ago;

C. whereas the trust of users can only be gained by digital services that respect users’ fundamental rights, which would not only uptake of services, but would also offer a competitive advantage and stable business model for companies;

D. whereas the data protection rules applicable to all providers offering digital services in the EU’s territory were recently updated and harmonised across the EU with the General Data Protection Regulation; whereas privacy rules for electronic communications, which are a subset of digital services, are covered by the Directive on privacy and electronic communications and are currently under revision;

E. whereas the amount of all types of user-generated content shared and services provided via online platforms, including cloud services, has increased exponentially and at an unprecedented pace facilitated by advanced technologies; whereas this includes illegal content such as images depicting child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online and content that is legal but that may be harmful for society and democracy, such as disinformation on COVID-19 remedies;

F. whereas online hate speech and disinformation have become increasingly widespread in recent years as individuals and disruptive actors make use of online platforms to increase polarisation, which, in turn, is used for political purposes; whereas women, persons of colour, persons belonging to or perceived as belonging to ethnic or linguistic minorities and LGBTIQ persons are often targeted by discriminatory hate speech, bullying, threats and scapegoating online;

G. whereas this trend has been aided by online platforms whose business model is based on the collection and analysis of user data with a view to generating more traffic and ‘clicks’, and, in turn, more profiling data and thus more profit; whereas this leads to the amplification of sensationalist content; whereas hate speech and disinformation harm the public interest by undermining respectful and honest public discourse and pose threats to public security since they can incite real-world violence; whereas combating such content is key in order to ensure respect for fundamental rights and to defend the rule of law and democracy in the EU;

H. whereas social media and other content distribution platforms utilise profiling techniques to target and distribute their content as well as advertisements; whereas data collected from the digital traces of individuals can be mined in ways that allow for a highly accurate inference of very intimate personal information, especially when such data is merged with other data sets; whereas the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandals showed the risks associated with opaque data processing operations of online platforms by revealing that certain voters had been micro-targeted with political advertising and, at times, even with targeted disinformation;

I. whereas the automated algorithms that decide how to handle, prioritise, distribute and delete third-party content on online platforms, including during political and electoral campaigns, often reproduce existing discriminatory patterns in society, thereby leading to a high risk of discrimination for persons already affected; whereas the widespread use of algorithms for content removal or blocking also raises concerns over the rule of law and questions related to legality, legitimacy and proportionality;

J. whereas a small number of mostly non-European service providers have significant market power and exert influence on the rights and freedoms of individuals, our societies and democracies by controlling how information, services and products are presented, which therefore have a significant impact on the functioning of the Member States and on their citizens; whereas the decisions of these platforms can have far-reaching consequences for the freedom of expression and information and for media freedom and pluralism; ;

K. whereas the policy approach to tackle illegal content online in the EU has mainly focused on voluntary cooperation and court-order-mandated takedowns thus far, but a growing number of Member States are adopting further national legislation addressing illegal content in a non-harmonised manner; whereas provisions to address certain types of illegal content were included in recent sectoral legislation at EU level;

L. whereas a pure self-regulatory approach of platforms does not provide adequate transparency, accountability and oversight; whereas such an approach neither provides proper information to public authorities, civil society and users on how platforms address illegal content and activities and content that violates their terms and conditions, nor on how they curate content in general;

M. whereas such an approach may not guarantee compliance with fundamental rights and creates a situation where judicial responsibilities are partially handed over to private parties, which poses the risk of interference with the right to freedom of expression;

N. whereas regulatory oversight and supervision is sector-specific in the EU; whereas further and more comprehensive coordination between the different oversight bodies across the EU would be beneficial;

O. whereas the lack of robust, comparable public data on the prevalence of illegal and harmful content online, on notices and the court-mandated and self-regulatory removal thereof, and on the follow-up by competent authorities creates a deficit of transparency and accountability, both in the private and public sector; whereas there is a lack of information regarding the algorithms used by platforms and websites and the way platforms address the erroneous removal of content;

P. whereas child sexual exploitation online is one of the forms of illegal content that is facilitated by technological developments; whereas the vast amount of CSAM circulating online poses serious challenges for detection, investigation and, most of all, victim identification efforts; whereas, according to Europol, reports of online sharing of CSAM that were made to US-based NCMEC increased by 106 % within the last year;

Q. whereas according to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) jurisprudence, content should be removed following a court order from a Member State; whereas host providers may have recourse to automated search tools and technologies to detect and remove content that is equivalent to content previously declared unlawful, but should not be obliged to monitor generally the information that it stores, or to actively seek facts or circumstances indicating illegal activity, as provided for in Article 15(1) of Directive 2000/31;

R. whereas a trusted electronic identification is elementary in order to ensure secure access to digital services and to carry out electronic transactions in a safer way; whereas currently only 15 Member States have notified the Commission of their electronic identity scheme for cross-border recognition in the framework of the Regulation (EU) 910/2014[7];

S. whereas the internet and internet platforms are still a key location for terrorist groups’ activities, and they are used as a tool for sowing propaganda, recruitment and promotion of their activities;

1. Believes in the clear societal and economic benefits of a functioning digital single market for the EU and its Member States; welcomes these benefits, in particular improved access to information and the strengthening of the freedom of expression; stresses the important obligation to ensure a fair digital ecosystem in which fundamental rights as enshrined in the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, especially freedom of expression and information, non-discrimination, media freedom and pluralism, privacy and data protection, are respected and user-safety is ensured online; emphasises the fact that legislative and other regulatory interventions in the digital single market aiming to ensure compliance with this obligation should be strictly limited to what is necessary; recalls that content removal mechanisms used outside the guarantees of a due process contravene Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights;

2. Urges the Commission to adopt a tailored regulatory approach in order to address the differences that still persist between online and offline worlds and the challenges raised by the diversity of actors and services offered online; considers, in this regard, it essential to apply different regulatory approaches to illegal and legal content; stresses that illegal content online and cyber-enabled crimes should be tackled with the same rigour and on the basis of the same legal principles as illegal content and criminal behaviour offline, and with the same guarantees for citizens; recalls that the e-Commerce Directive is the legal framework for online services in the internal market that regulates content management;

3. Deems it necessary that illegal content is removed swiftly and consistently in order to address crimes and fundamental rights violations; considers that voluntary codes of conduct only partially address the issue;

4. Calls on digital service providers to take content offline in a diligent, proportionate and non-discriminatory manner, and with due regard in all circumstances to the fundamental rights of the users and to take into account the fundamental importance of the freedom of expression and information in an open and democratic society with a view to avoiding the removal of content, which is not illegal; requests that digital service providers, which on their own initiative want to restrict certain legal content of their users, explore the possibility of labelling that content, rather than it taking offline, thus giving users the chance to choose to access that content on their own responsibility;

5. Takes the position that any legally mandated content take-down measures in the Digital Services Act should concern illegal content only, as defined in EU and national law, and that the legislation should not include any undefined concepts and terms as this would create legal uncertainty for online platforms and put fundamental rights and freedom of speech at risk;

6. Acknowledges, however, that the current digital ecosystem also encourages problematic behaviour, such as micro-targeting based on characteristics exposing physical or psychological vulnerabilities, the spreading of hate speech, racist content and disinformation, emerging issues such as the organised abuse of multiple platforms, and the creation of accounts or manipulation of online content by algorithms; notes with concern that some business models are based on showing sensational and polarising content to users in order to increase their screen time and thereby the profits of the online platforms; underlines the negative effects of such business models on the fundamental rights of individuals and for society as a whole; calls for transparency on the monetisation policies of online platforms;

7. Emphasises, therefore, that the spreading of such harmful content should be contained; firmly believes that media literacy skills, user control over content proposed to them and public access to high-quality content and education are crucial in this regard; welcomes, therefore, the Commission initiative to create a European Digital Media Observatory to support independent fact-checking services, increase public knowledge on online disinformation and support public authorities in charge of monitoring digital media;

8. calls on the Commission and the Member States to support independent and public service media and educational initiatives on media literacy and targeted awareness-raising campaigns within civil society; points out that special attention should be paid to harmful content in the context of minors using the internet, especially as regards to their exposure to cyberbullying, sexual harassment, pornography, violence and self-harm;

9. Notes that since the online activities of an individual allow for deep insights into their personality and make it possible to manipulate them, the general and indiscriminate collection of personal data concerning every use of a digital service interferes disproportionately with the right to privacy and the protection of personal data; highlights, in particular, the potential negative impact of micro-targeted and behavioural advertisements and of assessments of individuals, especially minors and vulnerable groups, by interfering in the private life of individuals, posing questions as to the collection and use of the data used to personalise advertising, offer products or services or set prices; confirms that the right of users not to be subject to pervasive tracking when using digital services has been included in GDPR and should be properly enforced across the EU; notes that the Commission has proposed to make targeted content curation subject to an opt-in decision in its proposal for a new regulation concerning the respect for private life and the protection of personal data in electronic communications (2017/0003 (COD));

10. Deems that misleading or obscure political advertising is a special class of online threat because it influences the core mechanisms that enable the functioning of our democratic society, especially when such content is sponsored by third-parties, including foreign actors; underlines that when profiling is deployed at scale for political micro-targeting to manipulate voting behaviour, it can seriously undermine the foundations of democracy; calls, therefore, on digital service providers to take the necessary measures to identify and label content uploaded by social bots and expects the Commission to provide guidelines on the use of such persuasive digital technologies in electoral campaigns and political advertising policy; calls, in this regard, for the establishment of strict transparency requirements for the display of paid political advertisement;

11. Deems it necessary that illegal content is removed consistently and without undue delay in order to address infringements, especially those relating to children and terrorist content, and fundamental rights violations with the necessary safeguards in place, such as the transparency of the process, the right to appeal and access to effective judicial redress; considers that voluntary codes of conduct and standard contractual terms of service lack adequate enforcement and have proven to only partially address the issue; stresses that the ultimate responsibility for enforcing the law, deciding on the legality of online activities and ordering hosting service providers to remove or disable access to illegal content rests with independent competent authorities;

12. Acknowledges the fact that, while the illegal nature of certain types of content can be easily established, the decision is more difficult for other types of content as it requires contextualisation; warns that current automated tools are not capable of critical analysis and of adequately grasping the importance of context for specific pieces of content, which could lead to unnecessary takedowns and harm the freedom of expression and the access to diverse information, including on political views, thus resulting in censorship; highlights that human review of automated reports by service providers or their contractors does fully not solve this problem, especially if it is outsourced to private staff that lack sufficient independence, qualification and accountability;

13. Notes with concern that illegal content online can easily and quickly be multiplied and its negative impact therefore amplified within a very short period of time; nevertheless believes that the Digital Services Act should not contain any obligation for hosting service providers or other technical intermediaries to use automated tools in content moderation;

14. Recalls that illegal content online should not only be removed by online platforms, but should also be followed up by law enforcement and the judiciary where criminal acts are concerned; calls on the Commission to consider obliging online platforms to report serious crime to the competent authority when they have received knowledge of such a crime; finds, in this regard, that a key issue in some Member States is not the fact that they only have unresolved cases but also unopened ones; calls for barriers to filing complaints with the competent authorities to be removed; is convinced that, given the borderless nature of the internet and the fast dissemination of illegal content online, cooperation between service providers and national competent authorities, as well as cross-border cooperation between national competent authorities, should be improved and based on the principles of necessity and proportionality; stresses, in this regard, the need to respect the legal order of the EU and the established principles of cross-border cooperation and mutual trust; calls on Member States to equip their law enforcement and judicial authorities with the necessary expertise, resources and tools to allow them to effectively and efficiently deal with the increasing number of cases involving illegal content online and with dispute resolution concerning the taking offline of content, and to improve access to justice in the area of digital services;

15. Underlines that a specific piece of content may be deemed illegal in one Member State but is covered by the right to freedom of expression in another; highlights that in order to protect freedom of speech, to avoid conflicts of laws, to avert unjustified and ineffective geo-blocking and to aim for a harmonised digital single market, hosting service providers should not be required to remove or disable access to information that is legal in the Member State that they are established in, or where their designated legal representative resides or is established; recalls that national authorities can only enforce removal orders by independent competent authorities addressed to service providers established in their territory; considers it necessary to strengthen the mechanisms of cooperation between the Member States with the support of the Commission and relevant Union agencies; calls for a structured dialogue between Member States in order to determine the risk of specific types of content and to identify potential differences in assessment of such risks between Member States;

16. Underlines that illegal content should be removed where it is hosted, and that mere conduit intermediaries should not be required to block access to content;

17. Strongly believes that the current EU legal framework governing digital services should be updated with a view to addressing the challenges posed by the fragmentation between the Member States and new technologies, such as the prevalence of profiling and algorithmic decision-making that permeates all areas of life, as well as ensuring legal clarity and respect for fundamental rights, in particular the freedom of expression and the right to privacy in a futureproof manner given the rapid development of technology;

18. Welcomes the Commission’s commitment to introducing a harmonised approach addressing obligations for digital service providers, including online intermediaries, in order to avoid fragmentation of the internal market and inconsistent enforcement of regulations; calls on the Commission to propose the most efficient and effective solutions for the internal market as a whole, while avoiding new unnecessary administrative burdens and keeping the digital single market open, fair, safe and competitive for all its participants; stresses that the liability regime for digital service providers must be proportionate, must not disadvantage small and medium-sized providers and must not unreasonably limit innovation and access to information;

19. Considers that the reform should build on the solid foundation of and full compliance with existing EU law, especially the General Data Protection Regulation and the Directive on privacy and electronic communications, which is currently under revision, and respect the primacy of other sector-specific instruments such as the Audiovisual Media Services Directive; underlines that the modernisation of the e-commerce rules can affect fundamental rights; therefore urges the Commission to be extremely vigilant in its approach and to also integrate international human rights standards into its revision;

20. Highlights that the practical capacity of individual users to understand and navigate the complexity of the data ecosystems is extremely limited, as is their ability to identify whether the information they receive and services they use are made available to them on the same terms as to other users; calls, therefore, on the Commission to place transparency and non-discrimination at the heart of the Digital Services Act;

21. Insists that the Digital Services Act must aim to ensure a high level of transparency as regards the functioning of online services and a digital environment free of discrimination; stresses that, besides the existing strong regulatory framework that protects privacy and personal data, an obligation for online platforms is needed to ensure the legitimate use of algorithms; calls, therefore, on the Commission to develop a regime based on the e-Commerce Directive that clearly frames the responsibility of service providers to address the risks faced by their users and to protect their rights and to provide for an obligation of transparency and explainability of algorithms, penalties to enforce such obligations, the possibility of human intervention and other measures such as annual independent audits and specific stress tests to assist and enforce compliance;

22. Stresses that some digital service providers have to be able to identify users unambiguously in an equivalent manner to offline services; notes an unnecessary collection of personal data, such as mobile phone numbers, by online platforms at the point of registration for a service, often caused by the use of single sign-in possibilities; underlines that the GDPR clearly describes the data minimisation principle, thereby limiting the collected data to only that strictly necessary for the purpose; recommends that online platforms that support a single sign-in service with a dominant market share should be required to also support at least one open identity system based on a non-proprietary, decentralised and interoperable framework;

23. Underlines that where a certain type of official identification is needed offline, an equivalent secure online electronic identification system needs to be created; believes that online identification can be improved by enforcing eIDAS Regulation’s[8]cross-border interoperability of electronic identifications across the European Union; asks the Commission to explore the creation of a single European sign-in system as an alternative to private single sign-in systems and to introduce an obligation for digital services to always also offer a manual sign-in option, set by default; underlines that this service should be developed so that the collection of identifiable sign-in data by the sign-in service provider is technically impossible and data gathered is kept to an absolute minimum; recommends, therefore, that the Commission also explore the creation of a verification system for users of digital services, in order to ensure the protection of personal data and age verification, especially for minors, which should not be used commercially or to track the users cross-site; stresses that these sign-in and verification systems should apply only to digital services that require personal identification, authentication or age verification; recalls that the Member States and Union institutions have to guarantee that electronic identifications are secure, transparent, process only the data necessary for the identification of the user and are used for a legitimate purpose only and are not used commercially, and are not used to restrain general access to the internet or to track the users cross-site;

24. Deems it indispensable to have the full harmonisation and clarification of rules on liability at EU level to guarantee the respect of fundamental rights and the freedoms of users across the EU; believes that such rules should maintain liability exemptions for intermediaries that do not have actual knowledge of the illegal activity or information on their platforms; expresses its concern that recent national laws to tackle hate speech and disinformation lead to an increasing fragmentation of rules and to a lower level of fundamental rights protection in the EU;

25. Calls, to this end, for legislative proposals that keep the digital single market open and competitive by providing harmonised requirements for digital service providers to apply effective, coherent, transparent and fair procedures and procedural safeguards to address illegal content in line with national and European law, including via a harmonised notice-and-action procedure;

26. Believes, in this regard, that it is crucial for online platforms to be provided with clear rules, requirements and safeguards with regard to liability for third-party content; proposes that a common regulatory framework be put in place in order to efficiently identify and remove illegal content;

27. Highlights that rules on notice-and-action mechanisms should be complemented by requirements for platforms to take specific measures that are proportionate to their scale of reach as well as their technical and operational capacities in order to effectively address the appearance of illegal content on their services; recognises, therefore, where technologically feasible, on the basis of sufficiently substantiated orders by independent competent public authorities, and taking full account of the specific context of the content, that digital service providers may be required to execute periodic searches for distinct pieces of content that a court had already declared unlawful, provided that the monitoring of and search for the information concerned by such an injunction are limited to information conveying a message whose content remains essentially unchanged compared with the content which gave rise to the finding of illegality and containing the elements specified in the injunction, which, in line with the judgment of the Court of Justice of 3 October 2019 in case C-18/18[9], are identical or equivalent to the extent that would not require the host provider to carry out an independent assessment of that content;

28. Maintains that the choice of the concrete measures should be left to the platforms; supports a balanced approach based on a dialogue with stakeholders and an assessment of the risks incurred by the platforms, as well as a clear chain of responsibility to avoid unnecessary regulatory burdens for the platforms and unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on fundamental rights, in particular the freedom of expression, access to information, including on political ideas, and the right to privacy; stresses that certain obligations can be further specified by sectoral legislation; emphasises that any measure put in place to this end cannot constitute, either de jure or de facto, a general monitoring requirement;

29. Stresses the need for appropriate safeguards and due process obligations, including a requirement for human oversight and verification, in addition to counter notice procedures, to allow content owners and uploaders to defend their rights adequately and in a timely manner, and to ensure that removal or blocking decisions are legal, accurate, well-founded, protect users and respect fundamental rights; highlights that persons who systematically and repeatedly submit wrongful or abusive notices should be sanctioned; recalls that besides counter-notice procedures and out-of-court dispute settlements by platforms in accordance with the internal complaints system, the possibility of effective judicial redress should remain available to satisfy the right to effective remedy;

30. Supports the preservation of the current framework on the limited liability for content and the country of origin principle, but considers improved coordination for removal requests between national competent authorities to be essential; underlines that illegal content should be removed where it is hosted; emphasises that such requests should be subject to legal safeguards in order to prevent abuse and ensure full respect of fundamental rights; highlights that removal requests from competent authorities should be specific and clearly state the legal basis for removal; stresses that an effective oversight and enforcement mechanism, including proportionate sanctions taking into account their technical and operational capacities, should apply to those service providers that fail to comply with lawful orders;

31. Recalls that digital service providers must not be legally required to retain personal data of their users or subscribers for law enforcement purposes, unless a targeted retention is ordered by an independent competent authority in full respect of Union law and CJEU jurisprudence; further recalls that such retention of data should be limited to what is strictly necessary with respect to the categories of data to be retained, the means of communication affected, the persons concerned and the retention period adopted;

32. Believes that in order to protect fundamental rights, the Digital Services Act should introduce rules aiming to ensure that the terms of service of digital service providers are clear, transparent, fair and made available in an easy and accessible manner to users; deplores the fact that the terms of service of some content platforms force law enforcement officers to use personal accounts to investigate certain complaints, which poses a threat both to these investigations and to personal safety, calls for more efficient coordination between Member States regarding the follow up of law enforcement on flagged illegal content; recalls that take-down-orders from independent competent authorities have to always be based on law, not on the terms of service of the service providers;

33. Calls on the Commission to ensure that users have access to diverse and quality content online as a means towards ensuring that citizens are adequately informed; expects the Digital Services Act to ensure that quality media content is easy to access and easy to find on third-party platforms and that removals of content are in line with human rights standards and limited to content that is manifestly illegal or has been found illegal by an independent competent authority; stresses that legal content should not be subject to any legal removal or blocking obligations;

34. Supports greater dialogue between the Member States, competent authorities and relevant stakeholders with the aim of developing, evaluating and improving soft law approaches, such as the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation, in order to further address categories of legal content, including disinformation; expects the Commission to issue guidelines including increased transparency rules on content moderation and advertising policy in a specific instrument accompanying the Digital Services Act to ensure that the removal and the blocking of legal content on the basis of terms and conditions are limited to the absolute minimum; calls, further, on the Commission to establish a framework that prohibits platforms from exercising a second layer of control over content that is provided under a media service provider’s responsibility and that is subject to specific standards and oversight;

35. Emphasises, moreover, that users should be given more choice and control with regard to the content that they see, including more options on the way content is ranked to them and the possibility to opt-out from any content curation; strongly believes that the design and performance of recommendation systems should be user-friendly and subject to full transparency;

36. Deems that accountability, both in the private and public sector, and evidence-based policy making require robust data on the incidence and the tackling of illegal activity and the removal of illegal content online, as well as robust data on the content curation algorithms of online platforms;

37. Calls, in this regard, for an annual, comprehensive and consistent public reporting obligation for platforms, proportionate to their scale of reach and operational capacities, more specifically on their content moderation procedures, including information on adopted measures against illegal activities online and standardised data on the amount of content removed and the underlying legal reasons and bases, the type and justification of removal requests received, the number of requests whose execution was refused and the reasons therefore; stresses that such reports, covering actions taken in a given year, should be submitted by the end of the first quarter of the following year;

38. Calls, moreover, for an annual public reporting obligation for national authorities, including standardised data on the number of removal requests and their legal bases, on the number of removal requests that were subject to administrative or judicial remedies, on the outcome of these proceedings, with a mention of the outcomes that specified content or activities wrongly identified as illegal, and on the total number of decisions imposing penalties, including a description of the type of penalty imposed;

39. Expresses its concern regarding the fragmentation and the documented lack of financial and human resources for the supervision and oversight bodies; calls for increased cooperation between the Member States with regard to regulatory oversight of digital services;

40. Considers that in order to guarantee proper enforcement of the Digital Services Act, the oversight of compliance with procedures, procedural safeguards and transparency obligations laid down in this act should be harmonised within the digital single market; supports, in this regard, strong and rigorous enforcement by an independent EU oversight structure that has the competence to impose fines on the basis of an assessment of a clearly defined set of factors, such as proportionality, technical and organisational measures, and negligence; believes that this should include the possibility for fines to be based on a percentage of the annual global turnover of the company;

41. Stresses that audits of digital service providers’ internal policies and algorithms should be made with due regard to Union law, in particular to the fundamental rights of the services’ users, taking into account the importance of non-discrimination and the freedom of expression and information in an open and democratic society, and without publishing commercially sensitive data; urges that there is the need to assess, upon complaint or upon initiative of the oversight bodies, whether and how digital service providers amplify content, for example through recommendation engines and optimisation features such as autocomplete and trending;

42. Considers that the transparency reports drawn up by platforms and national competent authorities should be made publicly available and analysed for structural trends in removal, detection and blocking at EU level;

43. Underlines the importance of empowering users to enforce their own fundamental rights online, including by means of easily accessible, impartial, transparent, efficient and free complaint procedures, reporting mechanisms for illegal content and criminal behaviour for individuals and companies, legal remedies, educational measures and awareness-raising on data protection issues and child online safety;

44. Believes that past experience has proved the effectiveness of allowing innovative business models to flourish and of strengthening the digital single market by removing barriers to the free movement of digital services and preventing the introduction of new, unjustified national barriers, and that the continuation of this approach would reduce the fragmentation of the internal market; considers, furthermore, that the Digital Services Act can offer opportunities to develop citizens’ knowledge and skills in the field of digitalisation, while at the same time guaranteeing a high level of consumer protection, including by safeguarding online safety;

45. Emphasises the indispensability of agreed standards of essential security in cyberspace in order for digital services to provide their full benefits to citizens; notes, therefore, the urgent need for the Member States to take coordinated action to ensure basic cyber hygiene and to prevent avoidable dangers in cyberspace, including through legislative measures;

46. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

The impact of digital services on our daily lives and the amount of user-generated content have increased drastically since the adoption of the e-Commerce Directive 20 years ago. Although the measure has been a foundation for the growth of digital services across the Union, today’s prevalence of illegal content online and the lack of meaningful transparency in how digital service providers deal with it, show that a reform is needed.

The path of voluntary cooperation and self-regulation has been explored with some success, but has proven to be insufficient on its own, as illustrated by the growing number of Member States adopting national legislation to address illegal content on grounds that the existing framework insufficiently deals with societal concerns.

The Rapporteur therefore welcomes the Commission’s commitment to present a new Digital Services Act (DSA). This report aims to provide input on the elements which should be included in the DSA from a fundamental rights and data protection perspective.

In this regard, the Rapporteur finds that respect for fundamental rights and data protection obliges us to address illegal content online with the same rigor as offline content, without disproportionate restrictions on the freedom of expression. This right to freedom of expression may cover specific content in one Member State but not in another and in many cases requires nuanced contextualisation. This responsibility inevitably entails interpretation of the law that should not be delegated to private companies. Underlining that it is not feasible for public authorities to discuss every individual piece of content, a meaningful co-regulatory approach will have to be found.

The Rapporteur believes that the DSA should build on and fully respect existing Union legislation, including the GDPR and e-Privacy Directive. As far as the current rules laid down in the e-Commerce Directive are concerned, the Rapporteur recommends keeping the prohibition of a general monitoring obligation, limited liability for content and the internal market clause in order to avoid over-compliance and unnecessary regulatory burdens. To address illegal content more effectively, legal obligations for digital service providers should be introduced on meaningful transparency, harmonised procedures and procedural safeguards, accountability for content moderation, as well as proactive measures to address the appearance of illegal content on their services. An independent Union body should be created to exercise oversight on procedural efforts of digital service providers, analyse whether they or the algorithms they use amplify illegal content, impose proportionate penalties when necessary and provide a structured analysis of illegal content removal at Union level.

Illegal content should not only be taken down but followed up by law enforcement and the judiciary. The Rapporteur calls, in this regard, for improved cooperation between digital service providers and competent authorities across the Union.

 

 

 

OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE INTERNAL MARKET AND CONSUMER PROTECTION (9.7.2020)

for the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

on the Digital Services Act and fundamental rights issues posed

(2020/2022(INI))

Rapporteur for opinion: Adam Bielan

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection calls on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

1. Welcomes the Commission’s commitment to introduce a harmonised approach addressing obligations for digital service providers, including online intermediaries, in order to avoid fragmentation of the internal market and inconsistent enforcement of regulations; stresses that any new measures introduced by the Digital Services Act should take into account the possible impact on the functioning of the internal market, while fully respecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of users across the Union; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to avoid the ‘export’ of national regulations and instead to propose the most efficient and effective solutions for the internal market as a whole, while seeking to avoid creating new administrative burdens and keeping the digital single market open, fair, safe and competitive for all its participants;

2. Believes that the Digital Services Act should comply with the broad framework of fundamental rights of users and consumers in the internal market, such as the protection of privacy, non-discrimination and dignity, and that above all it should not weaken freedom of expression; recalls furthermore that the use of content removal mechanisms without guarantees of due process is a contravention of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights;

3. Recognises the need to modernise the legislation where necessary in order to better address challenges posed by evolving technologies; states, however that limited liability provisions as set out in the e-Commerce Directive[10] must be maintained in the Digital Services Act, including the long-established principle prohibiting general monitoring obligations, particularly in order to protect fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, and to maintain the freedom to provide services; underlines the importance of these protections to further strengthen and better protect consumers trust online and promote the growth of European companies, and of SMEs and microbusinesses in particular;

4. Recognises that online intermediaries, including SMEs, microbusinesses and large players, have differing capabilities with regard to the moderation of content; warns that overburdening businesses with disproportionate new obligations could further hinder the growth of SMEs and prevent them from entering the market; calls on the Commission, therefore, to guarantee the openness and competitiveness of the digital single market;

5. Recalls that the e-Commerce Directive is the legal framework for online services in the internal market that regulates content management; stresses that unjustified fragmentation of that framework resulting from the revision of the e-commerce directive by the Digital Services Act package should be avoided; notes that the Digital Services Act package should also include an ex-ante instrument imposing obligations on platforms that pose a threat to the level playing field, in order to address market failures and abusive behaviours, protect consumers’ fundamental rights and strengthen the freedom to provide services, especially for SMEs;

6. Notes the significant differences between digital services and therefore calls for the avoidance of a one-size-fits-all approach, and believes that the Commission should further examine, using inter alia the public consultation launched ahead of its legislative proposal on the Digital Services Act, the possibility that different provisions might be needed to address different digital services, circumstances and situations;

7. Recalls the fact that disinformation and misinformative or harmful content is not always illegal; recalls that types of illegal content can vary between Member States; calls, therefore, for the establishment of a well-defined, harmonised and transparent notice-and-action process within the current limited liability principles while being mindful of significant differences between digital service providers in terms of the scale of their reach and operational capacities, so to avoid unnecessary regulatory burdens; supports an increased dialogue between the Member States, competent authorities and relevant stakeholders with the aim of developing, evaluating and improving soft law approaches, such as the EU-wide Code of Practice on Disinformation, in order to further tackle disinformation and other categories of harmful content;

8. Highlights the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation with false or misleading content and consumer scams involving unsafe or counterfeit products; stresses that the Digital Services Act should distinguish ‘illegal’ content from ‘harmful’ and other content; considers that harmful content should not be regulated or defined in the Digital Service Act;

9. Calls for the introduction of the appropriate safeguards, due process obligations and counter-notice tools to allow content owners and uploaders to defend their rights adequately and in a timely manner, including with human oversight, when notified of any takedown of content; underlines its view that delegating the responsibility to set boundaries on freedom of expression to private companies is unacceptable and creates risks for both individuals and businesses; believes that removal of illegal content should be followed up where necessary by law enforcement or judicial oversight, and that if a judicial redress or counter-notice procedure establishes that the activity or information in question is not illegal, the online intermediary should restore the removed content without undue delay;

10. Believes that past experience has proved the effectiveness of allowing innovative business model to flourish and strengthening the digital single market by removing barriers to the free movement of digital services and preventing the introduction of new, unjustified national barriers, and that the continuation of this approach would reduce the fragmentation of the internal market; considers furthermore that the Digital Services Act can offer opportunities to develop citizens’ knowledge and skills in the field of digitalisation while at the same time guaranteeing a high level of consumer protection, including by safeguarding online safety;

11. Encourages the Commission to assess, based on the existing legislation and new supporting data from, among other sources, its public consultations, the extent to which the Digital Services Act should address the challenges connected to algorithms and other automated tools, especially with regard to the transparency of such systems, or otherwise to outline which legislation should address these issues; stresses the importance of indiscriminate access to diverse content and opinions, as well as the fact that networks and network access should not be hampered without justified legal grounds.

INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Date adopted

7.7.2020

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

41

0

3

Members present for the final vote

Alex Agius Saliba, Andrus Ansip, Alessandra Basso, Brando Benifei, Adam Bielan, Hynek Blaško, Biljana Borzan, Vlad-Marius Botoş, Markus Buchheit, Dita Charanzová, Deirdre Clune, David Cormand, Petra De Sutter, Carlo Fidanza, Evelyne Gebhardt, Alexandra Geese, Sandro Gozi, Maria Grapini, Svenja Hahn, Virginie Joron, Eugen Jurzyca, Arba Kokalari, Marcel Kolaja, Kateřina Konečná, Andrey Kovatchev, Jean-Lin Lacapelle, Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques, Adriana Maldonado López, Antonius Manders, Beata Mazurek, Leszek Miller, Kris Peeters, Anne-Sophie Pelletier, Christel Schaldemose, Andreas Schwab, Tomislav Sokol, Ivan Štefanec, Kim Van Sparrentak, Marion Walsmann, Marco Zullo

Substitutes present for the final vote

Pascal Arimont, Maria da Graça Carvalho, Edina Tóth, Stéphanie Yon-Courtin

 

FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

41

+

ECR

Adam Bielan, Carlo Fidanza, Eugen Jurzyca, Beata Mazurek

EPP

Pascal Arimont, Maria da Graça Carvalho, Deirdre Clune, Arba Kokalari, Andrey Kovatchev, Antonius Manders, Kris Peeters, Andreas Schwab, Tomislav Sokol, Ivan Štefanec, Edina Tóth; Marion Walsmann

GREENS/EFA

David Cormand, Petra De Sutter, Alexandra Geese, Marcel Kolaja, Kim Van Sparrentak

ID

Alessandra Basso, Markus Buchheit, Virginie Joron, Jean‑Lin Lacapelle

NI

Marco Zullo

RENEW

Andrus Ansip, Vlad‑Marius Botoş, Dita Charanzová, Sandro Gozi, Svenja Hahn, Stéphanie Yon‑Courtin

S&D

Alex Agius Saliba, Brando Benifei, Biljana Borzan, Evelyne Gebhardt, Maria Grapini, Maria‑Manuel Leitão‑Marques, Adriana Maldonado López; Leszek Miller, Christel Schaldemose

 

 

3

0

EUL/NGL

Kateřina Konečná, Anne‑Sophie Pelletier

ID

Hynek Blaško

 

Key to symbols:

+ : in favour

 : against

0 : abstention

 

 

 

 

OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON CULTURE AND EDUCATION (20.7.2020)

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Culture and Education calls on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

1. Points out that fundamental rights constitute an objective system of values which ensures that fundamental communication freedoms, such as the right to privacy of communications, freedom and pluralism of expression, freedom of information, arts, science and media, as well as the right to property and its protection, are not alterable and must be balanced against one another, including by private-law agreements or business terms and conditions;

2. Underlines that the Digital Services Act (DSA) should be fully compliant with the objective of ensuring the protection of fundamental rights, as well as consumer protection, user safety, the option of online anonymity and freedom of speech and the protection of property; underlines that fundamental rights do not only apply as defensive rights against the state, but also apply to those who exercise their power through their technical infrastructure, thus limiting their power; stresses that fundamental rights must therefore also impose obligations on those who exercise power through their technical infrastructures; stresses that due account should be taken of the degree of market dominance, a dominant or quasi-monopolistic position, the degree of user reliance on supply and the interests affected by users, the powerful players themselves and other third parties;

3. Stresses the importance of helping consumers and users to gain greater control over and take responsibility for their own data and identity, and calls for a high level of protection of personal data while increasing the levels of transparency and accountability of digital services;

4. Emphasises that content that is legal and legally shared under Union or national law must remain online and that the removal of such content must not lead to the identification of individual users or the processing of personal data;

5. Points out that the media ecosystem suffers from the disruptive effects of online platforms; emphasises that public authorities have an obligation to adopt a legal framework that promotes the development of independent and pluralistic media;

6. Recalls the obligation for online platforms and other online services to act expeditiously to remove illegal content from their platforms and services and recalls that these mandatory protection measures operate within a legislative framework and are subject to judicial oversight; considers that sector-specific rules may ensure unhindered access to media services and content, as well as advance media freedom and pluralism;

7. Calls for all measures that could impact fundamental rights to continue to be based on judicial and regulatory oversight and for no public-authority tasks to be transferred to private companies or individuals;

8. Calls for balanced solutions regarding content removal, with cooperation between platforms, regulatory authorities, rights holders and users; stresses that sharing GDPR‑compliant data on illegal activities with law enforcement and other authorities should be a priority for platforms, in addition to their own effective and appropriate safeguards;

9. Calls for transparency in the procedures that social platforms use to remove content, and for the prevention of the removal of content that is not illegal; calls for clear rules for large social platforms, requiring them to check flagged content and to reply to uploaders with a reasoned decision if their content is blocked; calls, therefore, for efficient complaint and redress mechanisms for human‑directed users, while preventing abuse of such mechanisms;

10. Calls on the Commission to ensure that transparency reports are made available by platform operators containing information on the number of cases where content has been wrongly identified as illegal or as illegally shared, and that competent authorities provide information on the number of cases where removals lead to the investigation and prosecution of crimes;

11. Points out that some harmful content or partially accurate information may not necessarily be illegal; notes that automatic filtering tools may lead to the filtering out of legal content; considers it necessary to ensure that content owners can defend their rights adequately once their content has been removed;

12. Stresses that any monitoring of their content applied by online platforms and other services should be submitted to rigorous and transparent standards that are known to users and that enable an effective right to appeal against decisions, first to online platforms or services, but also to a public authority;

13. Suggests that particular attention be paid to the protection of children and young people and that this protection also be safeguarded under data protection law, and calls for online services for the protection of children and young people to be subject to the highest restrictions under data protection law;

14. Points out that soft coordination, support or supplementary measures, such as codes of conduct or self-regulation and co-regulation, can be effective means of regulation provided that government agencies monitor their impact and legal provisions are made for state regulation where such measures are proved to be ineffective, since they often allow a rapid response to changing circumstances, including involving non-EU participants;

15. Points out that, in principle, enforcement, including in cross-border cases, is the responsibility of the national regulatory authorities and should not be transferred to European level without good reason; furthermore, believes that the idea of the country of origin principle will be strengthened if the national regulatory authorities have effective enforcement tools and efficient procedures for cross-border cooperation; stresses that this should be accompanied at European level by swift and efficient dispute settlement procedures that ensure lasting legal peace;

16. Demands that the services developed and used in the Union guarantee effective and comprehensive privacy and data protection, and that the highest possible level of freedom of expression and information, the protection of intellectual property and privacy of communication, the promotion of opinion, cultural diversity and net neutrality in a secure digital environment represent advantages in global competition that should not be underestimated; calls on the Commission to systematically promote the development of these services in a more targeted manner through clear and efficient solutions that are appropriate for the digital age;

17. Calls for European values to be upheld, promoting diversity of opinion, net neutrality, freedom of speech, protection of property and access to information, media pluralism and cultural and linguistic diversity; calls for clear and, as far as possible, uniformly applicable rules on platform liability, illegal or harmful content, algorithmic accountability, transparent advertising and the fight against harmful content, hate speech and disinformation and its dissemination via fake or bot accounts, in order to preserve fundamental rights and freedom;

18. Stresses that any new obligations on platforms should be proportional to their market share and financial capacity in order to promote fair competition and to support innovation; believes that such an approach would help to strengthen information and media plurality and cultural and linguistic diversity;

19. Calls for sector-specific rules that serve to achieve society-wide objectives and give tangible expression to them for certain sectors, such as Directive (EU) 2018/1808, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), or Directive (EU) 2019/790, the ‘Copyright Directive’, to take precedence over general rules in order to guarantee the rights of the rights holders in the digital environment;

20. Stresses that any provision on content moderation for service providers must ensure full respect for freedom of expression, which according to Article 11 of the Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union, includes ‘freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authorities and regardless of frontiers’, and that access to a wide variety of opinions contributes to the development of open and democratic societies, even when those views are controversial or unpalatable;

21. Stresses the need to give citizens more control over how their personal data is managed and protected online, while also placing more responsibility on businesses in their data protection practices;

22. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote cooperation between the public and private sectors and the academic world in order to reinforce knowledge sharing, the promotion of safety education and training, data privacy, ethical implications and respect for human rights in connection with the use of digital technology, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI);

23. Believes that platform liability should be tailored to respect the size of the operator and that a clear distinction be made regarding platform engagement with the content, based on clear and verifiable criteria and aspects, such as editorial functions, actual knowledge and a certain degree of control; considers also that any proposed system should be accompanied by solid guarantees of fundamental rights and adequate independent and impartial public oversight;

24. Stresses that, regardless of the social benefits provided by new technologies, digital services and data-driven technologies, including AI, the top priority must be to address and analyse potential risks to democratic values, the rule of law and fundamental rights.

 

INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Date adopted

13.7.2020

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

28

0

2

Members present for the final vote

Asim Ademov, Christine Anderson, Andrea Bocskor, Vlad-Marius Botoş, Ilana Cicurel, Gilbert Collard, Gianantonio Da Re, Laurence Farreng, Tomasz Frankowski, Romeo Franz, Alexis Georgoulis, Hannes Heide, Irena Joveva, Petra Kammerevert, Niyazi Kizilyürek, Predrag Fred Matić, Dace Melbārde, Victor Negrescu, Niklas Nienaß, Peter Pollák, Marcos Ros Sempere, Domènec Ruiz Devesa, Andrey Slabakov, Massimiliano Smeriglio, Michaela Šojdrová, Sabine Verheyen, Milan Zver

Substitutes present for the final vote

Isabel Benjumea Benjumea, Marcel Kolaja

Substitutes under Rule 209(7) present for the final vote

Angel Dzhambazki

 

FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

28

+

PPE

Asim Ademov, Isabel Benjumea Benjumea, Andrea Bocskor, Tomasz Frankowski, Peter Pollák, Michaela Šojdrová, Sabine Verheyen, Milan Zver

S&D

Hannes Heide, Petra Kammerevert, Predrag Fred Matić, Victor Negrescu, Marcos Ros Sempere, Domènec Ruiz Devesa, Massimiliano Smeriglio

RENEW

Vlad-Marius Botoş, Ilana Cicurel, Laurence Farreng, Irena Joveva

ID

Gilbert Collard

VERTS/ALE

Romeo Franz, Marcel Kolaja, Niklas Nienaß

ECR

Angel Dzhambazki, Dace Melbārde, Andrey Slabakov

GUE/NGL

Alexis Georgoulis, Niyazi Kizilyürek

 

 

2

0

ID

Christine Anderson, Gianantonio Da Re

 

Key to symbols:

+ : in favour

 : against

0 : abstention

 

 

INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE
FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

50

+

EPP

Magdalena Adamowicz, Isabel Benjumea Benjumea, Vladimír Bilčík, Vasile Blaga, Ioan‑Rareş Bogdan, Lena Düpont, Andrzej Halicki, Balázs Hidvéghi, Lívia Járóka, Jeroen Lenaers, Nuno Melo, Roberta Metsola, Nadine Morano, Kris Peeters, Paulo Rangel, Ralf Seekatz, Tomas Tobé, Tomáš Zdechovský

S&D

Katarina Barley, Pietro Bartolo, Delara Burkhardt, Maria Grapini, Sylvie Guillaume, Evin Incir, Marina Kaljurand, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Javier Moreno Sánchez, Birgit Sippel, Sylwia Spurek, Paul Tang, Bettina Vollath, Elena Yoncheva

RENEW

Malik Azmani, Anna Júlia Donáth, Sophia in ‘t Veld, Fabienne Keller, Moritz Körner, Maite Pagazaurtundúa, Michal Šimečka, Ramona Strugariu, Dragoş Tudorache

ID

Peter Kofod

ECR

Joachim Stanisław Brudziński, Assita Kanko, Jadwiga Wiśniewska

EUL/NGL

Pernando Barrena Arza, Cornelia Ernst, Anne‑Sophie Pelletier, Sira Rego

NI

Laura Ferrara

 

6

ID

Nicolas Bay, Jean‑Paul Garraud, Tom Vandendriessche

ECR

Rob Rooken

NI

Kostas Papadakis, Milan Uhrík

 

11

0

ID

Nicolaus Fest, Annalisa Tardino

GREENS/EFA

Patrick Breyer, Saskia Bricmont, Damien Carême, Gwendoline Delbos‑Corfield, Alice Kuhnke, Diana Riba i Giner, Tineke Strik

ECR

Jorge Buxadé Villalba, Nicola Procaccini

 

Key to symbols:

+ : in favour

 : against

0 : abstention

 

 

REPORT on the establishment of an EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights – A9-0170/2020

Source: European Parliament 2

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on the establishment of an EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights

(2020/2072(INL))

The European Parliament,

 having regard to Article 295 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

 having regard, in particular, to Article 2, Article 3(1), the second subparagraph of Article 3(3), Article 4(3) and Articles 5, 6, 7 and 11 of the Treaty on European Union,

 having regard to the articles of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union relating to the respect for, and the promotion and protection of, democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the Union, including Articles 70, 258, 259, 260, 263 and 265 thereof,

 having regard to Protocol No 1 on the role of national parliaments in the European Union and Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

 having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

 having regard to the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union,

 having regard to the Copenhagen criteria and the body of Union rules that a candidate country must fulfil if it wishes to join the Union (the acquis),

 having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

 having regard to the United Nations instruments on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the recommendations and reports of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review, as well as the case law of the United Nations treaty bodies and the special procedures of the Human Rights Council,

 having regard to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of 8 March 1999,

 having regard to the recommendations and reports of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Representative on Freedom of the Media and other bodies of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe,

 having regard to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the European Social Charter, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights, and the conventions, recommendations, resolutions and reports of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers, the Human Rights Commissioner, the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, the Steering Committee on Anti-Discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion, the Venice Commission and other bodies of the Council of Europe,

 having regard to the Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union of 23 May 2007,

 having regard to the United Nations Convention against Corruption,

 having regard to the agreement establishing the Group of States against Corruption,

 having regard to the Rule of Law Checklist adopted by the Venice Commission at its 106th Plenary Session on 18 March 2016,

 having regard to the Council of Europe’s toolkit for Member States ‘Respecting democracy, rule of law and human rights in the framework of the COVID-19 sanitary crisis’ of 7 April 2020,

 having regard to the 2020 Annual Report by the partner organisations to the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists,

 having regard to the Commission communication of 17 July 2019 entitled ‘Strengthening the rule of law within the Union – A blueprint for action’ (COM(2019)0343),

 having regard to the Commission communication of 29 January 2020 containing the Commission Work Programme 2020 (COM(2020)0027) and the adjusted Commission Work Programme of 27 May 2020 (COM(2020)0440),

 having regard to the EU Justice Scoreboard 2020,

 having regard to the European Economic and Social Committee Opinion of 19 June 2019 entitled ‘Further strengthening the Rule of Law within the Union. State of play and possible next steps’, which proposed the establishment of an annual Forum on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law,

 having regard to the report of the European Economic and Social Committee’s Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law of June 2020 entitled ‘National developments from a civil society perspective, 2018-2019’,

 having regard to the report of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights entitled ‘Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU’, published on 17 January 2018, and to its other reports and data,

 having regard to the report of the European Institute for Gender Equality entitled ‘Beijing +25: the fifth review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in the EU Member States’, published on 5 March 2020,

 having regard to the conclusions of the Council of the European Union and the Member States meeting within the Council on ensuring respect for the rule of law of 16 December 2014,

 having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2016 with recommendations to the Commission on the establishment of an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights[1],

 having regards to its resolution of 19 April 2018 on the need to establish a European Values Instrument to support civil society organisations which promote fundamental values within the European Union at local and national level[2],

 having regard to its legislative resolution of 17 April 2019 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Rights and Values programme[3],

 having regard to its resolution of 14 November 2018 on the need for a comprehensive EU mechanism for the protection of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights[4],

 having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2019 on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union in 2017[5],

 having regard to its resolution of 13 February 2019 on experiencing backlash in women’s rights and gender equality in the EU[6],

 having regard to its resolution of 28 March 2019 on the situation of rule of law and fight against corruption in the EU, specifically in Malta and Slovakia[7],

 having regard to its resolution of 18 December 2019 on public discrimination and hate speech against LGBTI people, including LGBTI free zones[8],

 having regard to its resolution of 15 January 2020 on human rights and democracy in the world and the European Union’s policy on the matter – annual report 2018[9],

 having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2020 on ongoing hearings under Article 7(1) of the TEU regarding Poland and Hungary[10],

 having regard to its resolution of 17 April 2020 on EU coordinated action to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences[11],

 having regard to the joint civil society organisation recommendations entitled ‘From blueprint to footprint: Safeguarding media freedom and pluralism through the European Rule of Law Mechanism’ of April 2020,

 having regard to the report of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions entitled ‘The Rule of Law in the European Union’ of 11 May 2020,

 having regard to the Human Rights and Democracy Network Working Group on EU Internal Human Rights Policy’s submission of 4 May 2020 to the European Commission in the framework of the stakeholder consultation for the 2020 Rule of Law Report,

 having regard to its European added value assessment accompanying the legislative initiative report on an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights of October 2016,

 having regard to the Parliament’s Preliminary Assessment on the European added value of an EU mechanism on democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights of April 2020,

 having regard to Rules 46, 54 and 148 of its Rules of Procedure,

 having regard to the opinions of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs,

 having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A9-0170/2020),

A. whereas the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU); whereas those values are values which are common to the Member States and to which all Member States have freely subscribed; whereas democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights are mutually reinforcing values;

B. whereas the Union has codified in its accession criteria that Union membership requires that a candidate country has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities; points out, however, that the Union lacks effective tools to enforce those criteria once a country has become part of the Union;

C. whereas the preceding decade has seen brazen attacks against Union values in several Member States; whereas Parliament has addressed those worrying developments repeatedly in its resolutions since 2011, including the activation of Article 7 TEU in 2018; whereas Parliament has been calling since 2016 for a comprehensive, preventive and evidence-based monitoring in this field via an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights;

D. whereas vulnerable groups such as women, persons with disabilities, Roma, LGBTI persons and elderly persons continue not having their rights fully respected in some Member States and are not fully protected from hate and discrimination, in breach of Union values as provided for in Article 2 TEU and of the right to non-discrimination provided for in Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the Charter); whereas emergency measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have further strained fundamental rights and democratic checks and balances;

E. whereas approximately 10 % of Union citizens belong to a national minority; whereas respecting the rights of minorities is an integral part of the values of the Union as set out in Article 2 TEU; whereas minorities contribute to the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Union; whereas there is currently no Union legal framework to guarantee and monitor minority rights;

F. whereas breaches of the values referred to in Article 2 TEU, without proper response and consequences at Union level, weaken the cohesion of the European project, the rights of all Union citizens and mutual trust among the Member States;

G. whereas corruption poses a serious threat to democracy, the rule of law and the fair treatment of all citizens;

H. whereas independent journalism and access to pluralistic information are key pillars of democracy; whereas the worrying state of media freedom and pluralism in the Union has not been addressed in a sufficiently vigorous manner; whereas civil society is essential for any democracy to thrive; whereas the shrinking space for civil society contributes to violations of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights; whereas Union institutions are to maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society at all levels;

I. whereas the independence, quality and efficiency of national justice systems are crucial for the achievement of effective justice; whereas the availability of legal aid and the level of court fees can have a major impact on access to justice; whereas the Charter has the same legal value as the Treaties; whereas, in accordance with the guidance of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Charter is applied by Member States’ judicial authorities only when implementing legal acts of the Union, it is, however, important for the fostering of a common legal, judicial and rule of law culture that the rights as enshrined in the Charter be always taken into account;

J. whereas the Commission is preparing to publish its 2020 Rule of Law Report, to be followed by a Strategy for the Implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and a European Democracy Action Plan;

K. whereas a regulation on the protection of the Union’s budget in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States, once adopted, would become an indispensable tool in safeguarding the rule of law within the Union;

L. whereas any monitoring mechanism must closely involve stakeholders active in the protection and promotion of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, including civil society, the Council of Europe and United Nations bodies, the Organization for Security and Co-operation, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, national human rights institutions, relevant authorities and professional associations supporting judiciaries in the independent delivery of justice; whereas, therefore, adequate Union funding is necessary for civil society, particularly through the Justice Programme and the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme;

M. whereas it is necessary to strengthen and streamline existing mechanisms and develop an effective mechanism to ensure that the principles and values enshrined in the Treaties are upheld throughout the Union;

N. whereas Parliament, the Commission and the Council (the ‘three institutions’) share political responsibility for upholding Union values, within the limits of the powers conferred on them by the Treaties; whereas an interinstitutional agreement based on Article 295 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) would ensure the necessary arrangements to facilitate the cooperation of the three institutions in that regard; whereas, pursuant to Article 295 TFEU, any of the three institutions may propose such an agreement;

1. Emphasises the urgent need for the Union to develop a robust, comprehensive and positive agenda for effectively protecting and reinforcing democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights for all its citizens; insists that the Union must remain a champion of freedom and justice in Europe and the world;

2. Warns that the Union is facing an unprecedented and escalating crisis of its founding values, which threatens its long-term survival as a democratic peace project; is gravely concerned by the rise and entrenchment of autocratic and illiberal tendencies, further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession, as well as corruption, disinformation and state capture, in several Member States; underlines the dangers of this trend for the cohesion of the Union’s legal order, the protection of the fundamental rights of all its citizens, the functioning of its single market, the effectiveness of its common policies and its international credibility;

3. Recalls that the Union remains structurally ill-equipped to tackle democratic, fundamental rights and rule of law violations and backsliding in the Member States; regrets the inability of the Council to make meaningful progress in enforcing Union values in ongoing Article 7 TEU procedures; notes that the Council’s failure to apply Article 7 TEU effectively is in fact enabling continued divergence from the values provided for in Article 2 TEU; notes with concern the disjointed nature of the Union’s toolkit in that field and calls for it to be streamlined and properly enforced;

4. Welcomes the Commission’s work on the annual Rule of Law Report; welcomes the fact that corruption and media freedom is part of the annual assessment; notes, however, that it fails to encompass the areas of democracy and fundamental rights; particularly regrets that freedom of association and the shrinking space for civil society are not part of the annual assessment; underlines with concern that vulnerable groups, including women, persons with disabilities, Roma, LGBTI persons and elderly persons, continue not seeing their rights fully respected in some Member States and are not fully protected from hate and discrimination, in breach of Union values as provided for in Article 2 TEU; recalls that Parliament has repeatedly called for a monitoring mechanism to cover the full scope of Article 2 TEU; reiterates the need for a an objective and evidence-based monitoring mechanism enshrined in a legal act binding the three institutions to a transparent and regularised process, with clearly defined responsibilities, so that the protection and promotion of all Union values becomes a permanent and visible part of the Union agenda;

5. Proposes the establishment of an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights (the ‘Mechanism’), building on Parliament’s 2016 proposal and the Commission’s annual Rule of Law Report, to be governed by an interinstitutional agreement between the three institutions, consisting of an Annual Monitoring Cycle on Union values, covering all aspects of Article 2 TEU and applying equally, objectively and fairly to all Member States, while respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;

6. Underlines that the Annual Monitoring Cycle must contain country-specific clear recommendations, with timelines and targets for implementation, to be followed up in subsequent annual or urgent reports; stresses that failure to implement the recommendations must be linked to concrete Union measures, including procedures under Article 7 TEU, infringement proceedings and budgetary conditionality once in force; points out that recommendations should not only be aimed at redressing violations but should also promote policies enabling citizens to benefit from Union rights and values;

7. Points out that the Mechanism should consolidate and supersede existing instruments to avoid duplication, in particular the annual Rule of Law Report, the Commission’s Rule of Law Framework, the Commission’s annual reporting on the application of the Charter, the Council’s Rule of Law Dialogue and the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), while increasing complementarity and coherence with other available tools, including procedures under Article 7 TEU, infringement proceedings and budgetary conditionality once in force; considers that the three institutions should use the findings from the Annual Monitoring Cycle in their assessment for the purposes of triggering Article 7 TEU and Regulation (EU) 2020/xxxx of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of the Union’s budget in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States[12]; stresses that the roles and prerogatives of each of the three institutions must be respected;

8. Underlines that judicial independence is integral to judicial decision making and is a requirement resulting from the principle of effective legal protection set out in Article 19 TEU; is worried that recent attacks on the rule of law have mainly consisted of attempts to jeopardise judicial independence and stresses that every national court is also a European court; urges the Commission to use all the instruments at its disposal against any attempt by governments of Member States to endanger the independence of national courts and to inform Parliament of any such situation in a timely manner;

9. Recalls that the accession of the Union to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is a legal obligation provided for under Article 6(2) TEU; reiterates the need for a swift conclusion of the accession process in order to ensure a consistent framework for human rights protection throughout Europe and to further strengthen the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms within the Union; calls therefore on the Commission to step up efforts to fully implement the Treaties and conclude the accession process without undue delay;

10. Recalls the indispensable role played by civil society, national human rights institutions, equality bodies and other relevant actors in all stages of the Annual Monitoring Cycle, from providing input to facilitating implementation and monitoring; underlines the need to provide human rights defenders and reporting actors with protection at both national and Union level, including against abuses of court actions  where necessary, along with adequate funding at all levels; calls in that regard for the creation of a statute for European cross-border associations and non-profit organisations after a thorough impact assessment; stresses the contribution of whistleblowers to safeguarding the rule of law and fighting corruption; calls on the Commission to closely monitor the transposition and application of Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law[13]; points out that the accreditation status of national human rights institutions and the space for civil society may themselves serve as indicators for assessment purposes; encourages national parliaments to hold public debates and adopt positions on the outcome of the monitoring cycle; highlights that training of justice professionals is essential for the proper implementation and application of Union law and thus for the strengthening of a common legal culture throughout the Union; considers that the upcoming European judicial training strategy must put additional focus on promoting the rule of law and judicial independence and include training on skills and non-legal issues to make judges better prepared to resist undue pressure; encourages the Commission and the Member States to further promote and facilitate the dialogue between courts and legal practitioners by fostering the regular exchange of information and best practices in order to strengthen and advance a Union area of justice based on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights; stresses the need to ensure adequate funding for the sectoral Justice Programme  and Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme in the upcoming MFF, as those programmes aim to protect and promote Union values and develop a Union area of justice based on the rule of law and to support civil society;

11. Points to the complementarity that should exist between the EU Justice Scoreboard, which allows for a comparison between Member States’ judicial systems, and the Mechanism; notes that according to the 2020 EU Justice Scoreboard there are still significant differences among Member States regarding the number of pending cases and that the building up of backlogs has increased in some Member States, that not all Member States offer training on ICT skills aimed at adapting to digitalisation and facilitating access to justice, that legal aid has become less accessible in some Member States over the years and that gender equality has not yet been ensured in the judicial systems in most Member States

12. Reaffirms the role of Parliament, in accordance with Article 7 TEU, in monitoring compliance with Union values; reiterates the call for Parliament to be able to present its reasoned proposal to the Council and to attend Article 7 hearings when it is Parliament that initiated the procedure, respecting the prerogatives of each of the three institutions and the principle of sincere cooperation; calls on the Council to keep Parliament regularly informed and closely involved and to work in a transparent manner; believes that the Mechanism, underpinned by an interinstitutional agreement, will provide the necessary framework for better coordination;

13. Is of the view that, in the long-term, strengthening the Union’s ability to promote and defend its constitutional core might require Treaty change; looks forward to the reflection and conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe in that regard; stresses that the effectiveness of the Article 7 TEU procedure should be enhanced by revising the majority necessary for action and reinforcing the sanctioning mechanism; invites the Conference on the Future of Europe to consider strengthening the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union in protecting the Union’s founding values; calls for a revision of Council Regulation (EC) No 168/2007 of 15 February 2007 establishing a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights[14], following a thorough impact assessment, with a view to strengthening and enlarging its mandate to cover all the values referred to in Article 2 TEU;

14. Strongly believes that addressing the crisis of Union values, including through the proposed Mechanism, is a precondition for re-establishing mutual trust among Member States, thus enabling the Union as a whole to sustain and further all common policies;

15. Regrets that the European Council, in its conclusions of 21 July 2020, weakened the budgetary conditionality mechanism proposed by the Commission; reiterates its call to ensure that systemic breaches of the values referred to in Article 2 TEU are made incompatible with Union funding; stresses the need to employ reverse qualified majority for the protection of the Union budget, without which the effectiveness of the new budgetary conditionality mechanism would be under threat; demands that the application of budgetary conditionality be accompanied by measures aimed at mitigating any potential impact on individual beneficiaries of Union funding, including civil society organisations; underlines that the budgetary conditionality mechanism cannot be substituted by the proposed Annual Monitoring Cycle alone; urges the European Council to act on its promise made in the Sibiu Declaration of 9 May 2019 to protect democracy and the rule of law;

16. Invites the Commission and the Council to enter without delay into negotiations with Parliament on an interinstitutional agreement in accordance with Article 295 TFEU; considers the proposal set out in the Annex hereto to constitute an appropriate basis for such negotiations;

17. Instructs its President to forward this resolution and the accompanying proposal to the Commission and the Council.

 

ANNEX TO THE MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION:

Proposal for an Interinstitutional Agreement on Reinforcing Union Values

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION,

Having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and in particular Article 295 thereof,

Whereas:

(1) According to Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities (‘Union values’).

(2) Pursuant to Article 49 TEU, respect for and commitment to promoting Union values is a fundamental condition of Union membership. In accordance with Article 7 TEU, the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of Union values can lead to the suspension of voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council. Respect for Union values forms the basis of a high level of confidence and mutual trust between Member States.

(3) The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission (the ‘three institutions’) recognise the importance of respect for Union values. Respect for Union values is necessary for the good functioning of the Union and the achievement of its objectives as set out in Article 3 TEU. The three institutions are committed to mutual sincere cooperation with the aim of promoting and ensuring respect for Union values.

(4) The three institutions recognise the need for streamlining and strengthening the effectiveness of existing tools designed to foster compliance with Union values. A comprehensive and evidence-based interinstitutional mechanism, respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, should therefore be established in order to improve coordination between the three institutions and consolidate initiatives taken previously. In accordance with the Conclusions of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of 6 and 7 June 2013, such a mechanism should operate in ‘a transparent manner, on the basis of evidence objectively compiled, compared and analysed and on the basis of equality of treatment as between all Member States’.

(5) The three institutions agree that an Annual Monitoring Cycle on Union Values is necessary to reinforce the promotion and respect for Union values. The Annual Monitoring Cycle should be comprehensive, objective, impartial, evidence-based and applied equally and fairly to all Member States. The primary objective of the Annual Monitoring Cycle should be to prevent violations of and non-compliance with Union values and to highlight positive developments and exchange best practices, while providing a shared basis for other actions by the three institutions. The three institutions also agree to use this Interinstitutional Agreement to integrate existing instruments and initiatives relating to the promotion of and respect for Union values, in particular the annual Rule of Law Report, the Council’s annual Rule of Law Dialogue and the Commission’s Rule of Law Framework, in order to avoid duplication and strengthen overall effectiveness.

(6) The Annual Monitoring Cycle should consist of a preparatory stage, the publication of an annual monitoring report on compliance with Union values including country-specific recommendations, and a follow-up stage including the implementation of recommendations. The Annual Monitoring Cycle should be conducted in a spirit of transparency and openness with the involvement of citizens and civil society and should be protected from disinformation.

(7) The three institutions share the view that the Annual Monitoring Cycle should replace Commission Decisions 2006/928/EC[15] and 2006/929/EC[16] and fulfil, inter alia, the objectives of those Decisions. This Interinstitutional Agreement is without prejudice to the 2005 Act of Accession, in particular Articles 37 and 38 thereof.

(8) The Annual Monitoring Cycle should also be complementary to and coherent with other instruments relating to the promotion and strengthening of Union values. In particular, the three institutions commit to using the findings of the annual monitoring reports in their assessment of whether there is a clear risk of a serious breach or existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of Union values in the context of Article 7 TEU. Similarly, the Commission has committed to using the findings of the annual monitoring report as part of its assessment of whether an infringement procedure should be launched and whether there are generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States, in accordance with Article 5 of Regulation (EU) 2020/xxxx of the European Parliament and of the Council

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

 

OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AFFAIRS (14.9.2020)

FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

20

+

EPP

Geoffroy Didier, Esteban González Pons, Jiří Pospíšil, Emil Radev, Axel Voss, Marion Walsmann, Javier Zarzalejos

S&D

Ibán García Del Blanco, Franco Roberti, Marcos Ros Sempere, Tiemo Wölken, Lara Wolters

RENEW

Ilhan Kyuchyuk, Liesje Schreinemacher, Stéphane Séjourné, Adrián Vázquez Lázara

VERTS/ALE

Heidi Hautala, Marie Toussaint

GUE/NGL

Manon Aubry

NI

Mislav Kolakušić

 

3

ID

Gunnar Beck, Jean‑Paul Garraud, Gilles Lebreton

 

2

0

ECR

Angel Dzhambazki, Raffaele Stancanelli

 

Key to symbols:

+ : in favour

 : against

0 : abstention

 

 

 

 

 

OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS (11.9.2020)
INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE
FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

51

+

PPE

Magdalena ADAMOWICZ, Isabel BENJUMEA BENJUMEA, Vladimír BILČÍK, Vasile BLAGA, Ioan-Rareş BOGDAN, Lena DÜPONT, Andrzej HALICKI, Jeroen LENAERS, Nuno MELO, Roberta METSOLA, Nadine MORANO, Kris PEETERS, Paulo RANGEL, Ralf SEEKATZ, Tomas TOBÉ, Tomáš ZDECHOVSKÝ

S&D

Katarina BARLEY, Pietro BARTOLO, Delara BURKHARDT, Maria GRAPINI, Sylvie GUILLAUME, Evin INCIR, Marina KALJURAND, Juan Fernando LÓPEZ AGUILAR, Javier MORENO SÁNCHEZ, Birgit SIPPEL, Sylwia SPUREK, Paul TANG, Bettina VOLLATH, Elena YONCHEVA

Renew

Malik AZMANI, Anna Júlia DONÁTH, Sophia in ‘t VELD, Fabienne KELLER, Moritz KÖRNER, Maite PAGAZAURTUNDÚA, Michal ŠIMEČKA, Ramona STRUGARIU, Dragoş TUDORACHE

Greens/EFA

Patrick BREYER, Saskia BRICMONT, Damien CARÊME, Gwendoline DELBOS-CORFIELD, Alice KUHNKE, Diana RIBA I GINER, Tineke STRIK

GUE

Pernando BARRENA ARZA, Cornelia ERNST, Anne-Sophie PELLETIER, Sira REGO

NI

Laura FERRARA

 

14

PPE

Balázs HIDVÉGHI, Lívia JÁRÓKA

ID

Nicolas BAY, Nicolaus FEST, Jean-Paul GARRAUD, Annalisa TARDINO, Tom VANDENDRIESSCHE

ECR

Joachim Stanisław BRUDZIŃSKI, Jorge BUXADÉ VILLALBA, Nicola PROCACCINI, Rob ROOKEN, Jadwiga WIŚNIEWSKA

NI

Kostas PAPADAKIS, Milan UHRÍK

 

1

0

ID

Peter KOFOD

 

Key to symbols:

+ : in favour

 : against

0 : abstention

 

 

INTERIM REPORT on the proposal for a Council decision on the determination of a clear risk of a serious breach by the Republic of Poland of the rule of law – A9-0138/2020

Source: European Parliament

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on the proposal for a Council decision on the determination of a clear risk of a serious breach by the Republic of Poland of the rule of law

(COM(2017)08352017/0360R(NLE))

 

The European Parliament,

 having regard to the proposal for a Council decision (COM(2017)0835),

 having regard to the Treaty on European Union, and in particular Article 2 and Article 7(1) thereof,

 having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

 having regard to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Protocols thereto,

 having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

 having regard to the international human rights treaties of the United Nations, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

 having regard to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention),

 having regard to its legislative resolution of 20 April 2004 on the Commission communication on Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union: Respect for and promotion of the values on which the Union is based[1],

 having regard to Communication of 15 October 2003 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union – Respect for and promotion of the values on which the Union is based[2],

 having regard to Communication of 11 March 2014 from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council, ‘A new EU Framework to strengthen the Rule of Law’[3],

 having regard to its resolution of 13 April 2016 on the situation in Poland[4],

 having regard to its resolution of 14 September 2016 on the recent developments in Poland and their impact on fundamental rights as laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union[5],

 having regard to its resolution of 15 November 2017 on the situation of the rule of law and democracy in Poland[6],

 having regard to the activation by the Commission of the structured dialogue under the Rule of Law Framework in January 2016,

 having regard to Commission Recommendation (EU) 2016/1374 of 27 July 2016 regarding the rule of law in Poland[7],

 having regard to Commission Recommendation (EU) 2017/146 of 21 December 2016 regarding the rule of law in Poland  complementary to Recommendation (EU) 2016/1374[8],

  having regard to Commission Recommendation (EU) 2017/1520 of 26 July 2017 regarding the rule of law in Poland complementary to Recommendations (EU) 2016/1374 and (EU) 2017/146 [9],

 having regard to Commission Recommendation (EU) 2018/103 of 20 December 2017 regarding the rule of law in Poland complementary to Commission Recommendations (EU) 2016/1374, (EU) 2017/146 and (EU) 2017/1520[10],

 having regard to its resolution of 1 March 2018 on the Commission’s decision to activate Article 7(1) TEU as regards the situation in Poland[11],

 having regard to its resolution of 14 November 2019 on the criminalisation of sexual education in Poland[12],

 having regard to its resolution of 18 December 2019 on public discrimination and hate speech against LGBTI people, including LGBTI free zones[13],

 having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2019 on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union in 2017[14],

 having regard to its resolution of 3 May 2018 on media pluralism and media freedom in the European Union[15],

 having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2020 on ongoing hearings under Article 7(1) of the TEU regarding Poland and Hungary[16],

 having regard to its resolution of 17 April 2020 on EU coordinated action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences[17],

 having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2016 with recommendations to the Commission on the establishment of an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights[18],

 having regard to its resolution of 13 February 2019 on experiencing a backlash in women’s rights and gender equality in the EU[19],

 having regard to its resolution of 28 November 2019 on the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention and other measures to combat gender-based violence[20],

 having regard to its legislative resolution of 4 April 2019 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of the Union’s budget in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States[21],

 having regard to its legislative resolution of 17 April 2019 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Rights and Values programme[22],

 having regard to the four infringement procedures launched by the Commission against Poland in relation to the reform of the Polish judicial system, of which the first two resulted in judgments of the Court of Justice[23] finding violations of the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) of the Treaty on European Union enshrining the principle of effective judicial protection, while the two other procedures are still pending,

 having regard to the three hearings of Poland held in 2018 by the General Affairs Council within the framework of the Article 7(1) TEU procedure,

 having regard to the mission report of 3 December 2018, following the visit by the Committee on Civil Liberties and Justice and Home Affairs to Warsaw from 19 until 21 September 2018, and to the hearings on the rule of law situation in Poland held in that Committee on 20 November 2018 and 23 April 2020;

 having regard to the annual reports of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and the European Anti-Fraud Office,

 having regard to the 2018 WHO recommendations on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights,

 having regard to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of 24 July 2014, Al Nashiri v. Poland (application No. 28761/11),

 having regard to Rules 89 and 105(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

 having regard to the opinion of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality,

 having regard to the interim report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A9-0138/2020),

A. whereas the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union  and as reflected in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and embedded in international human rights treaties;

B. whereas, in contrast to Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the scope of Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union is not confined to areas covered by Union law, as indicated in the Commission’s Communication of 15 October 2003, and whereas the Union can therefore assess the existence of a clear risk of a serious breach of the common values referred to in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union not only in the event of a breach in this limited field but also in the event of a breach in an area where the Member States act autonomously;

C. whereas any clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union does not concern solely the individual Member State where the risk materialises but has a negative impact on the other Member States, on mutual trust between Member States and on the very nature of the Union;

D. whereas the Member States have, in accordance with Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union, freely and voluntarily committed themselves to the common values referred to in Article 2 thereof;

1. States that the concerns of Parliament relate to the following issues:

– the functioning of the legislative and electoral system,

– the independence of the judiciary and the rights of judges,

– the protection of fundamental rights;

2. Reiterates its position, expressed in several of its resolutions on the situation of the rule of law and democracy in Poland, that the facts and trends mentioned in this resolution taken together represent a systemic threat to the values of Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and constitute a clear risk of a serious breach thereof;

3. Expresses its deep concern that, despite three hearings with the Polish authorities having been held in the Council, multiple exchanges of views in the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in the presence of the Polish authorities, alarming reports by the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe, and four infringement procedures launched by the Commission, the rule of law situation in Poland has not only not been addressed but has seriously deteriorated since the triggering of the procedure referred to in Article 7(1) TEU; is of the opinion that discussions in the Council within the framework of the procedure referred to in Article 7(1) TEU have been neither regular nor structured, and have neither sufficiently addressed the substantial issues that warranted the activation of the procedure nor adequately mapped the impact that the Polish government’s actions are having on the values referred to in Article 2 TEU;

4. Notes that the Commission’s reasoned proposal of 20 December 2017 in accordance with Article 7(1) of the TEU regarding the rule of law in Poland: proposal for a Council decision on the determination of a clear risk of a serious breach by the Republic of Poland of the rule of law[24] has a limited scope, namely the rule of law situation in Poland in the strict sense of independence of the judiciary; sees an urgent need to widen the scope of the reasoned proposal by including clear risks of serious breaches of other basic values of the Union, especially democracy and respect for human rights;

5. Takes the view that the latest developments in the ongoing hearings under Article 7(1) TEU once again underline the imminent need for a complementary and preventive Union mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights as put forward in its resolution of 25 October 2016;

6. Reiterates its position on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of the Union’s budget in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States, including the need to safeguard the rights of beneficiaries, and calls on the Council to start interinstitutional negotiations as soon as possible;

7. Reiterates its position as regards the budget envelope for the new Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme within the next multiannual financial framework, and calls on the Council and the Commission to ensure that adequate funding is provided for national and local civil society organisations to grow grassroots support for democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights in the Member States, including Poland;

****

Functioning of the legislative and electoral system in Poland

Use of powers of constitutional revision by the Polish parliament

8. Denounces the fact that the Polish parliament assumed powers of constitutional revision which it did not have when it acted as the ordinary legislature in adopting the Act of 22 December 2015 amending the Act on the Constitutional Tribunal[25] and the Act of 22 July 2016 on the Constitutional Tribunal[26], as found by the Constitutional Tribunal in its judgments of 9 March[27], 11 August[28] and 7 November 2016[29][30];

9. Regrets, furthermore, that many particularly sensitive legislative acts have been adopted by the Polish parliament at a time when independent constitutional review of laws can no longer be effectively guaranteed, such as the Act of 30 December 2015 amending the Act on Civil Service and certain other acts[31], the Act of 15 January 2016 amending the Act on the police and certain other acts[32], the Act of 28 January 2016 on the public prosecution office[33] and the Act of 28 January 2016 – regulations implementing the Act on the public prosecution office[34], the Act of 18 March 2016 amending the Act on the Ombudsman and certain other acts[35], the Act of 22 June 2016 on the National Media Council[36], the Act of 10 June 2016 on anti-terrorist actions[37] and several other acts fundamentally reorganising the judicial system[38];

The use of expedited legislative procedures

10. Deplores the frequent use of expedited legislative procedures by the Polish parliament for the adoption of crucial legislation redesigning the organisation and functioning of the judiciary, without meaningful consultation with stakeholders, including the judicial community[39];

Electoral law and organisation of elections

11. Notes with concern that the OSCE concluded that media bias and intolerant rhetoric in the campaign for the October 2019 parliamentary elections were of significant concern[40] and that, while all candidates were able to campaign freely, senior state officials used publicly funded events for campaign messaging; notes, furthermore, that the dominance of the ruling party in public media further amplified its advantage[41];

12. Is concerned that the new Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Matters of the Supreme Court (hereinafter the ‘Extraordinary Chamber’), the majority of whose members are individuals nominated by the new National Council of the Judiciary and which risks not qualifying as an independent tribunal in the assessment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (hereinafter the ‘Court of Justice’), is to ascertain the validity of elections and to examine electoral disputes; notes that this raises serious concerns as regards the separation of powers and the functioning of Polish democracy, in that it makes judicial review of electoral disputes particularly vulnerable to political influence and is capable of creating legal uncertainty as to the validity of such review[42];

13. Notes that, in its 2002 Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters[43], the Venice Commission provides clear guidelines on the holding of general elections during public emergencies, including epidemics; notes that, while the Code provides for the possibility of exceptional voting arrangements, any amendments to introduce such arrangements may only be considered to be in accordance with European best practices ‘if the principle of free suffrage is guaranteed’; considers that this is not the case with the amendments to the electoral framework for the presidential elections that were to take place on 10 May 2020, since they could impede the elections from taking a fair, secret and equal course, with full respect for the right to privacy[44] and in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament  and of the Council[45]; notes moreover that those amendments run counter to the case law of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal that was developed when constitutional review was still effective, and which stated that the electoral code is not to be modified 6 months before any elections; notes with concern that the announcement to postpone the presidential elections came only 4 days before the scheduled date;

Independence of the judiciary and of other institutions and the rights of judges in Poland

Reform of the justice system – general considerations

14. Recognises that, while the organisation of the justice system is a national competence, the Court of Justice has repeatedly held that Member States are required to comply with their obligations under Union law when exercising that competence; reiterates that national judges are also European judges, applying Union law, which makes their independence a common concern for the Union, including the Court of Justice, which has to enforce respect for the rule of law as laid down in Article 19 TEU and Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (hereinafter the ‘Charter’) in the field of application of Union law; calls on the Polish authorities to uphold and maintain the independence of Polish courts;

The composition and functioning of the Constitutional Tribunal

15. Recalls that the Acts concerning the Constitutional Tribunal adopted on 22 December 2015 and 22 July 2016, as well as the package of three acts adopted at the end of 2016[46], seriously undermined the Constitutional Tribunal’s independence and legitimacy and that the Acts of 22 December 2015 and of 22 July 2016 were declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Tribunal on 9 March 2016 and 11 August 2016, respectively; recalls that those judgments were not published at the time or implemented by the Polish authorities; seriously deplores the fact that the constitutionality of Polish laws can no longer be effectively guaranteed in Poland since the entry into force of the aforementioned legislative changes[47]; invites the Commission to consider launching an infringement procedure in relation to the legislation on the Constitutional Tribunal, its unlawful composition and its role in preventing compliance with the preliminary ruling of the Court of Justice of 19 November 2019[48];

The retirement, appointment and disciplinary regimes for judges of the Supreme Court

16. Recalls that, in 2017, changes in the method of nomination of candidates for the office of the First President of the Supreme Court ( hereinafter the ‘First President’) effectively rendered the participation of the Supreme Court judges in the selection procedure meaningless; denounces the fact that the Act of 20 December 2019 amending the Act on the organisation of the common courts, the Act on the Supreme Court and certain other acts[49] (the ‘Act of 20 December 2019’) even further reduces the participation of the judges in the selection process for the First President by introducing a position of Acting First President of the Supreme Court (hereinafter the ‘Acting First President’) appointed by the President of the Republic of Poland and by reducing the quorum in the third round to 32 out of 125 judges only, thereby effectively abandoning the model of power-sharing between the President of the Republic of Poland and the judicial community enshrined in Article 183(3) of the Polish Constitution[50];

17. Notes with concern the irregularities surrounding the nomination of the Acting First President and his further actions; is deeply concerned that the process of electing the candidates for the office of First President did not comply with Article 183 of the Polish Constitution or the Rules of Procedure of the Supreme Court and violated basic standards of deliberation among the members of the General Assembly of the Judges of the Supreme Court (hereinafter the ‘General Assembly’); notes with regret that doubts concerning the validity of the election process in the General Assembly as well as the impartiality and independence of the Acting First Presidents during the election process could undermine further the separation of powers and the legitimacy of the new First President nominated by the President of the Republic of Poland on 25 May 2020, and could thus call into question the independence of the Supreme Court; recalls that similar violations of law by the President of the Republic of Poland occurred when nominating the President of the Constitutional Tribunal;

18. Shares the Commission’s concern that the power of the President of the Republic of Poland (and in some cases the Minister of Justice) to exercise influence over disciplinary proceedings against Supreme Court judges by appointing a disciplinary officer who will investigate the case, excluding the disciplinary officer of the Supreme Court from on-going proceedings, raises concerns as regards the principle of separation of powers and may affect judicial independence[51];

19. Recalls that the Court of Justice, in its judgment of 24 June 2019[52], found that lowering the retirement age of sitting judges of the Supreme Court is contrary to Union law and breaches the principle of the irremovability of judges and thus that of judicial independence, after it had earlier granted the Commission’s request for interim measures on the matter by order of 17 December 2018[53]; notes that the Polish authorities passed the Act of 21 November 2018 amending the Act on the Supreme Court[54] in order to comply with the order of the Court of Justice, the only instance so far in which they undid changes to the legislative framework governing the justice system in connection with a decision by the Court of Justice;

The composition and functioning of the Disciplinary Chamber and Extraordinary Chamber of the Supreme Court

20. Recalls that, in 2018, two new chambers within the Supreme Court were created, namely the Disciplinary Chamber and the Extraordinary Chamber, which were staffed with newly appointed judges selected by the new National Council of the Judiciary and entrusted with special powers – including the power of the Extraordinary Chamber to quash final judgments taken by lower courts or by the Supreme Court itself by way of extraordinary review, and the power of the Disciplinary Chamber to discipline other judges of the Supreme Court and of common courts, creating de facto a “Supreme Court within the Supreme Court”;[55]

21. Recalls that, in its ruling of 19 November 2019[56], the Court of Justice, answering a request for a preliminary ruling by the Supreme Court (Chamber of Labour Law and Social Insurance, hereinafter the ‘Labour Chamber’) concerning the Disciplinary Chamber, ruled that national courts have a duty to disregard provisions of national law which reserve jurisdiction to hear a case where Union law may be applied to a body that does not meet the requirements of independence and impartiality;

22. Notes that the referring Supreme Court (Labour Chamber) subsequently concluded in its judgment of 5 December 2019[57] that the Disciplinary Chamber does not fulfil the requirements of an independent and impartial tribunal within the meaning of Polish and Union law, and that the Supreme Court (Civil, Criminal and Labour Chambers) adopted a resolution on 23 January 2020[58] reiterating that the Disciplinary Chamber is not a court due to its lack of independence and therefore its judgments cannot be considered to be judgments given by a duly appointed court; notes with grave concern that the Polish authorities have declared that those decisions are of no legal significance when it comes to the continuing functioning of the Disciplinary Chamber and the new National Council of the Judiciary, and that the Constitutional Tribunal declared the Supreme Court resolution unconstitutional on 20 April 2020[59], creating a dangerous judiciary duality in Poland in open violation of the primacy of Union law and in particular of Article 19(1) TEU as interpreted by the Court of Justice in that it prevents the effectiveness and application of the Court of Justice’s ruling of 19 November 2019[60] by the Polish courts[61];

23. Notes the order of the Court of Justice of 8 April 2020[62] instructing Poland to immediately suspend the application of the national provisions on the powers of the Disciplinary Chamber and calls on the Polish authorities to swiftly implement the order; calls on the Polish authorities to fully comply with the order and calls on the Commission to submit an additional request to the Court of Justice seeking that payment of a fine be ordered in the event of persisting non-compliance; calls on the Commission to urgently start infringement proceedings in relation to the national provisions on the powers of the Extraordinary Chamber, since its composition suffers from the same flaws as the Disciplinary Chamber;

The composition and functioning of the new National Council of the Judiciary

24. Recalls that it is up to the Member States to establish a council for the judiciary, but that, where such council is established, its independence must be guaranteed in line with European standards and the Member State’s constitution; recalls that, following the reform of the National Council of the Judiciary, which is the body responsible for safeguarding the independence of the courts and judges in accordance with Article 186(1) of the Polish Constitution, by means of the Act of 8 December 2017 amending the Act on the National Council of the Judiciary and certain other acts[63], the judicial community in Poland was deprived of the power to delegate representatives to the National Council of the Judiciary, and hence its influence on recruitment and promotion of judges; recalls that before the reform, 15 out of 25 members of the National Council of the Judiciary were judges elected by their peers, while since the 2017 reform, those judges are elected by the Polish parliament; strongly regrets that, taken in conjunction with the premature termination in early 2018 of the mandates of all the members appointed under the old rules, this measure led to a far-reaching politicisation of the National Council of the Judiciary[64];

25. Recalls that the Supreme Court, implementing the criteria set out by the Court of Justice in its judgment of 19 November 2019, found in its judgment of 5 December 2019 and in its decisions of 15 January 2020[65], as well as in its resolution of 23 January 2020, that the decisive role of the new National Council of the Judiciary in the selection of the judges of the newly created Disciplinary Chamber undermines the latter’s independence and impartiality[66]; is concerned about the legal status of the judges appointed or promoted by the new National Council of the Judiciary in its current composition and about the impact their participation in adjudicating may have on the validity and legality of proceedings;

26.  Recalls that the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary suspended the new National Council of the Judiciary on 17 September 2018 because it no longer fulfilled the requirements of being independent of the executive and legislature and initiated the expulsion procedure in April 2020[67];

27. Calls on the Commission to start infringement proceedings regarding the Act of 12 May 2011 on the National Council of the Judiciary[68], as amended on 8 December 2017, and to ask the Court of Justice to suspend the activities of the new National Council of the Judiciary by way of interim measures;

The rules governing the organisation of the common courts and the appointment of courts presidents and the retirement regime for judges of the common courts

28. Regrets that the Minister of Justice, who is, in the Polish system, also the Prosecutor General, obtained the power to appoint and dismiss court presidents of the lower courts at his discretion during a transitional period of 6 months, and that in the 2017-2018 period, the Minister of Justice replaced over 150 court presidents and vice-presidents; notes that, after this period, the removal of court presidents remained in the hands of the Minister of Justice, with virtually no effective checks attached to that power; notes, furthermore, that the Minister of Justice also obtained other “disciplinary” powers vis-à-vis court presidents, and presidents of higher courts, who in turn, now have large administrative powers vis-à-vis presidents of lower courts[69]; regrets this major setback for the rule of law and judicial independence in Poland[70];

29. Regrets that the Act of 20 December 2019 that entered into force on 14 February 2020 changed the composition of the assemblies of judges and moved some of the powers of those bodies of judicial self-government to the colleges of courts presidents appointed by the Minister of Justice[71];

30. Recalls that, in its judgement of 5 November 2019[72], the Court of Justice found that the provisions of the Act of 12 July 2017 amending the Act on the organisation of the common courts and certain other acts[73], which lowered the retirement age of judges of the common courts, whilst allowing the Minister of Justice to decide on the prolongation of their active service, and which set a different retirement age depending on their gender, were contrary to Union law;

The rights and independence of judges, including the new disciplinary regime for judges

31.  Denounces the new provisions introducing further disciplinary offences and sanctions in respect of judges and court presidents because they pose a serious risk to judicial independence[74]; denounces the new provisions prohibiting any political activity of judges, obliging judges to disclose publicly their membership in associations and restricting substantively the deliberations of judicial self-governing bodies, which go beyond the principles of legal certainty, necessity and proportionality in restricting the judges’ freedom of expression[75];

32. Is deeply concerned by the disciplinary proceedings initiated against judges and prosecutors in Poland in connection with their judicial decisions applying Union law or public statements in defence of judicial independence and the rule of law in Poland; condemns the smear campaign against Polish judges and the involvement of public officials therein; calls on the Polish authorities to refrain from the abusive use of disciplinary proceedings and from other activities undermining the authority of the judiciary;

33. Calls on the Polish authorities to remove the new provisions (on disciplinary offences and other) that prevent the courts from examining questions of independence and impartiality of other judges from the standpoint of Union law and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), hence depriving judges from exercising their duty under Union law to set aside national provisions conflicting with Union law[76]; 

34.  Welcomes the Commission’s initiation of infringement proceedings in relation to the aforementioned new provisions; calls on the Commission to request the Court of Justice to use the expedited procedure and to grant interim measures, when it comes to a referral of the case to the Court of Justice;

The status of the Prosecutor General and the organisation of the prosecution services

35. Denounces the merger of the office of the Minister of Justice and that of the Prosecutor General, the increased powers of the Prosecutor General vis-à-vis the prosecution system, the increased powers of the Minister of Justice in respect of the judiciary (Act of 27 July 2001 on the organisation of common courts[77], as amended) and the weak position of checks on those powers (National Council of Public Prosecutors), which result in the accumulation of too many powers for one person and have direct negative consequences for the independence of the prosecutorial system from the political sphere, as stated by the Venice Commission[78];

36. Recalls that, in its judgement of 5 November 2019, the Court of Justice found that lowering the retirement age of public prosecutors was contrary to Union law because it established a different retirement age for male and female public prosecutors in Poland;

Overall assessment of the rule of law situation in Poland

37. Concurs with the Commission, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Group of States against Corruption and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers that the aforementioned separate changes to the legislative framework governing the judicial system, considering their interaction and overall impact, amount to a serious, sustained and systemic breach of the rule of law, enabling the legislative and executive powers to interfere throughout the entire structure and output of the justice system in a manner which is incompatible with the principles of separation of powers and the rule of law, thereby significantly weakening the independence of the judiciary in Poland[79]; condemns the destabilising impact on the Polish legal order of the measures taken and appointments made by the Polish authorities since 2016;

Protection of fundamental rights in Poland

The Polish Commissioner for Human Rights

38. Is concerned about political attacks on the independence of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights[80]; highlights the fact that the Commissioner for Human Rights has been publicly critical, within his area of responsibility, of various measures taken by the current government; recalls the fact that the statute of the Commissioner for Human Rights is enshrined in the Polish Constitution and that the term of office of the current Commissioner for Human Rights is due to end in September 2020;

The right to a fair trial

39. Is concerned about reports alleging undue delays in court proceedings, difficulties in accessing legal assistance during arrest, and instances of insufficient respect for the confidentiality of communication between counsel and client[81]; calls on the Commission to closely monitor the situation regarding lawyers in Poland; recalls the right of all citizens to be advised, defended and represented by an independent lawyer in accordance with Articles 47 and 48 of the Charter;

40. Is concerned that, since the entry into force on 14 February 2020 of the Act of 20 December 2019, only the Extraordinary Chamber, whose independence and impartiality itself is in question, can decide whether a judge, tribunal or court is independent and impartial, hence depriving citizens of an important element of judicial review at all other instances[82]; recalls the fact that following the case law of the Court of Justice, the right to a fair trial obliges every court to check, on its own initiative, whether it fulfils the criteria of independence and impartiality[83];

The right to information and freedom of expression, including media freedom and pluralism

41. Reiterates that media freedom and media pluralism are inseparable from democracy and the rule of law and that the right to inform and the right to be informed are part of the basic democratic values on which Union is founded; recalls that, in its resolution of 16 January 2020, Parliament called on the Council to address in the hearings under Article 7(1) TEU any new developments in the field of freedom of expression, including media freedom;

42. Recalls that, in its resolution of 14 September 2016, Parliament expressed its concern about previously adopted and newly suggested changes to Polish media law; repeats its call on the Commission to carry out an assessment of the legislation adopted as regards its compatibility with Union law, in particular with Article 11 of the Charter and Union law on public media;

43. Expresses its serious concerns about actions carried out in recent years by the Polish authorities in relation to the public broadcaster, including a re-shaping of the public broadcaster into a pro-government broadcaster, preventing public media and their governing bodies from expressing independent or dissenting voices and exercising control over broadcasting content[84]; recalls the fact that Article 54 of the Polish Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and forbids censorship;

44. Is deeply concerned by the excessive use of defamation cases by some politicians against journalists, including by imposing criminal fines and suspending journalists from exercising their profession; fears that there will be a chilling effect on the profession and independence of journalists and media[85]; calls on the Polish authorities to guarantee access to appropriate legal remedies for journalists and their families who become the subject of lawsuits intended to silence or intimidate independent media; calls on the Polish authorities to fully implement the Council of Europe’s Recommendation of 13 April 2016 on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors[86]; regrets that so far the Commission has not come up with the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) legislation that would also protect Polish journalists and media from vexatious lawsuits;

45. Is concerned about reported cases of detention of journalists for doing their job when reporting on anti-lockdown protests during the COVID-19 epidemic[87];

Academic freedom

46. Expresses concern over the use and threat of defamation litigation against academics; calls on the Polish authorities to respect freedom of speech and academic freedom, in line with international standards;[88]

47. Calls on the Polish parliament to repeal Chapter 6c of the Act of 18 December 1998 on the Institute of National Remembrance – Committee for the Prosecution of the Crimes against the Polish Nation[89], which jeopardises freedom of speech and independent research by rendering it a civil offense that is actionable before civil courts to cause harm to the reputation of Poland and its people, such as by making any accusation of complicity of Poland or Poles in the Holocaust[90];

Freedom of assembly

48. Reiterates its call on the Polish government to respect the right of freedom of assembly by removing from the current Act of 24 July 2015 on public assemblies[91], as amended on 13 December 2016[92], the provisions prioritising government-approved ‘cyclical’ assemblies[93]; urges the Polish authorities to refrain from applying criminal sanctions to people who participate in peaceful assemblies or counter-demonstrations and to drop criminal charges against peaceful protesters; urges the Polish authorities moreover to adequately protect peaceful assemblies and bring to justice those who violently attack people participating in peaceful assemblies;

49. Is concerned about the very restrictive ban on public assemblies[94] which was in force during the COVID-19 pandemic without the introduction of a state of natural disaster as laid down in Article 232 of the Polish Constitution and insists on the need to apply the principle of proportionality when restricting the right to assembly;

Freedom of association

50. Calls on the Polish authorities to modify the Act of 15 September 2017 on the National Institute for Freedom – Centre for the Development of Civil Society[95],[96] in order to ensure access to state funding for critical civil society groups at local, regional and national levels, and a fair, impartial and transparent distribution of public funds to civil society, ensuring pluralistic representation[97]; reiterates its call for adequate funding to be made available for the organisations concerned through different funding instruments at Union level, such as the Union values strand of the new Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme and Union pilot projects; is deeply concerned that Polish Members of the European Economic and Social Committee are facing political pressure for the actions taken in the remit of their mandate[98];

Privacy and data protection

51. Reiterates its conclusion set out in its resolution of 14 September 2016 that the procedural safeguards and material conditions laid down in the Act of 10 June 2016 on anti-terrorist actions and the Act of 6 April 1990 on the police[99], as amended, for the implementation of secret surveillance are not sufficient to prevent its excessive use or unjustified interference with the privacy and data protection of individuals, including of opposition and civil society leaders[100]; repeats its call on the Commission to carry out an assessment of that legislation as regards its compatibility with Union Law, and urges Polish authorities to fully respect the privacy of all citizens;

52. Is deeply concerned about the fact that the Ministry of Digital Affairs of Poland transferred personal data from the Universal Electronic System for Registration of the Population (hereinafter the ‘PESEL register’) to the postal services operator on 22 April 2020, in order to facilitate the organisation of the presidential elections on 10 May 2020 via postal ballot, without a proper legal basis to do so, as  the Polish parliament did not adopt a bill allowing for an all-postal election until 7 May 2020; notes, furthermore, that the PESEL register is not identical to the electoral register and also includes the personal data of citizens of other Member States, and that, therefore, the above-mentioned transfer could constitute a potential breach of Regulation (EU) 2016/679; recalls that the European Data Protection Board stated that public authorities may disclose information on individuals included in electoral lists, but only when this is specifically authorised by national law[101]; notes that the Polish Commissioner for Human Rights filed a complaint with the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw on the basis of a possible breach of Articles 7 and 51 of the Polish Constitution by the Ministry of Digital Affairs of Poland;

Comprehensive sexuality education

53. Reiterates its deep concern expressed in its resolution of 14 November 2019, also shared by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights[102], over the draft law amending Article 200b of the Polish Penal Code, as submitted to the Polish parliament by the ‘Stop Paedophilia’ initiative, for its extremely vague, broad and disproportionate provisions, which de facto seek to criminalise the dissemination of sexual education to minors and whose scope potentially threatens all persons, in particular parents, teachers and sex educators, with up to three years in prison for teaching about human sexuality, health and intimate relations; 

54. Stresses that age-appropriate and evidence-based comprehensive sexuality and relationship education is key to building young peoples’ skills to form healthy, equal, nurturing and safe relationships, free from discrimination, coercion and violence; believes that comprehensive sexuality education also has a positive impact on gender equality outcomes, including transforming harmful gender norms and attitudes towards gender-based violence, helping prevent intimate partner violence and sexual coercion, homophobia and transphobia, breaking the silence around sexual violence, sexual exploitation or abuse, and empowering young people to seek help; calls on the Polish parliament to refrain from adopting the proposed draft law amending Article 200b of the Polish Penal Code and strongly invites the Polish authorities to ensure access to scientifically accurate and comprehensive sexuality education for all school children in line with international standards and that those who provide such education and information are supported in so doing in a factual and objective manner;

Sexual and reproductive health and rights

55. Recalls that, in accordance with the Charter, the ECHR and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, women’s sexual and reproductive health is related to multiple human rights, including the right to life and dignity, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, the right of access to health care, the right to privacy, the right to education and the prohibition of discrimination, as is also reflected in the Polish Constitution; recalls that Parliament strongly criticised, in its resolution of 15 November 2017, any legislative proposal that would prohibit abortion in cases of severe or fatal foetal impairment, thereby drastically limiting and coming close to banning in practice access to abortion care in Poland as most legal abortions are performed under that ground[103], and emphasised that universal access to healthcare, including sexual and reproductive healthcare and the associated rights, is a fundamental human right[104]; regrets the proposed amendments[105] to the Act of 5 December 1996 on doctors’ and dentists’ professions[106], under which doctors would no longer be legally obliged to indicate an alternative facility or practitioner in case of denial of sexual and reproductive health services due to personal beliefs; is concerned about the use of the conscience clause including the absence of reliable referral mechanisms and lack of timely appeals for women who are denied such services; calls on the Polish parliament to refrain from any further attempts to restrict women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights; strongly affirms that the denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights services is a form of violence against women and girls; calls on the Polish authorities to take measures to implement fully the judgments handed down by the European Court of Human Rights in cases against Poland, which has ruled on several occasions that restrictive abortion laws and lack of implementation violates the human rights of women[107];

56. Recalls that previous attempts to further limit the right to abortion, which in Poland is already among the most restricted in the Union, were halted in 2016 and 2018 as a result of mass opposition from Polish citizens as expressed in the ‘Black Marches’; strongly invites the Polish authorities to consider repealing the law limiting women’s and girls’ access to the emergency contraceptive pill;

Hate speech, public discrimination, violence against women, domestic violence and intolerant behaviour against minorities and other vulnerable groups, including LGBTI persons

57. Urges the Polish authorities to take all necessary measures to firmly combat racist hate speech and incitement to violence, online and offline, and publicly condemn and distance itself from racist hate speech by public figures, including politicians and media officials[108], to address prejudices and negative sentiments towards national and ethnic minorities (including Roma), migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and to ensure effective enforcement of the laws outlawing parties or organisations that promote or incite racial discrimination[109]; calls on the Polish authorities to comply with the 2019 recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[110];

58. Is deeply concerned by the Polish Deputy Minister of Justice’s recent declaration that Poland should denounce the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention); encourages the Polish authorities to give practical and effective application to that Convention, including by ensuring application of the existing legislation across the country, as well as the provision of a sufficient number and quality of shelters for women who are victims of violence and their children;

59. Notes that the May 2020 LGBTI Survey II conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights highlights an increase in intolerance and violence in Poland towards LGBTI persons and complete disbelief in the government’s combat against prejudice and intolerance by Polish LGBTI respondents, recording the lowest percentage across the Union (only 4 %), and the highest percentage of respondents avoiding going to certain places for fear of being assaulted, harassed or threatened (79 %);

60. Recalls, also in the context of the 2020 presidential campaign, its stance as expressed in its resolution of 18 December 2019, when it strongly denounced any discrimination against LGBTI people and the violation of their fundamental rights by public authorities, including hate speech by public authorities and elected officials, the banning of and inadequate protection against attacks on Pride marches and awareness-raising programmes, the declarations of zones in Poland free from so-called ‘LGBT ideology’ and the adoption of ‘Regional Charters of Family Rights’, discriminating in particular against single-parent and LGBTI families; notes the lack of any improvement in the situation of LGBTI persons in Poland since the adoption of that resolution and that mental health and physical safety of Polish LGBTI people are particularly at risk; recalls the condemnation of such actions by the Polish Commissioner for Human Rights, who filed nine complaints to administrative courts arguing that the LGBTI-free zones violate Union law, and by the Commission and international organisations; recalls that spending under cohesion funds must not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and that municipalities acting as employers must respect Council Directive 2000/78/EC[111], which prohibits discrimination and harassment on the ground of sexual orientation in employment[112]; calls on the Polish authorities to implement the relevant case law of the Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights and in that context to address the situation of same sex spouses and parents with a view to ensuring their enjoyment of the right to non-discrimination in law and in fact[113]; condemns the law suits against the civil society activists who published the so-called “Atlas of Hate” that documents cases of homophobia in Poland; strongly invites the Polish government to ensure the legal protection of LGBTI people against all forms of hate crime and hate speech;****

61. Notes that the lack of independence of the judiciary in Poland has already begun affecting mutual trust between Poland and other Member States, especially in the field of judicial cooperation in criminal matters, given that national courts have refused or hesitated to release Polish suspects under the European Arrest Warrant procedure due to profound doubts about the independence of the Polish judiciary; considers the threat to the uniformity of the Union legal order posed by the deterioration of the rule of law in Poland to be particularly serious; points out that mutual trust between the Member States can be restored only once respect for the values enshrined in Article 2 TEU is ensured;

62. Calls on the Polish government to comply with all provisions relating to the rule of law and fundamental rights enshrined in the Treaties, the Charter, the ECHR and international human rights standards, and to engage in an honest dialogue with the Commission; stresses that such dialogue needs to be conducted in an impartial, evidence-based and cooperative manner; calls on the Polish government to cooperate with the Commission pursuant to the principle of sincere cooperation as set out in the TEU; calls on the Polish government to swiftly and fully implement the rulings of the Court of Justice and to respect the primacy of Union law;

63.  Calls on the Council and the Commission to refrain from narrowly interpreting the principle of the rule of law, and to use the procedure under Article 7(1) TEU to its full potential by addressing the implications of the Polish government’s action for all the principles enshrined in Article 2 TEU, including democracy and fundamental rights as highlighted in this report;

64. Calls on the Council to resume the formal hearings – the last of which was held as long ago as December 2018 – as soon as possible and to include in those hearings all the latest and major negative developments in the areas of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights; urges the Council to finally act under the Article 7(1) TEU procedure by finding that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by the Republic of Poland of the values referred to in Article 2 TEU, in the light of overwhelming evidence thereof as displayed in this resolution and in so many reports of international and European organisations, the case law of the Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights and reports by civil society organisations; strongly recommends that the Council address concrete recommendations to Poland, as provided for in Article 7(1) TEU, as a follow‑up to the hearings, and that it indicate deadlines for the implementation of those recommendations; calls furthermore on the Council to commit to assessing the implementation of these recommendations in a timely manner; calls on the Council to keep Parliament regularly informed and closely involved and to work in a transparent manner, to allow for meaningful participation and oversight by all European institutions and bodies and by civil society organisations;

65. Calls on the Commission to make full use of the tools available to it, to address a clear risk of a serious breach by Poland of the values on which the Union is founded, in particular expedited infringement procedures and applications for interim measures before the Court of Justice, as well as budgetary tools; calls on the Commission to continue to keep Parliament regularly informed and closely involved;

66. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission and to the President, government and parliament of the Republic of Poland, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

 

 

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

1. Institutional background

The European Union is founded and guided by the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. The European Parliament must defend without reservation the rule of law, including the principles of legality, which implies a transparent, accountable, democratic and pluralistic process for enacting laws; legal certainty; separation of powers; prohibition of arbitrariness of the executive powers; independent and impartial courts; effective judicial review including respect for fundamental rights; and equality before the law.

It must be borne in mind that the Parliament has repeatedly discussed the “Copenhagen dilemma”: it cannot be consistent with Union law and values that candidate states are examined on the grounds of respect of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights on their way into the Union, but that there is no further test as to the respect for those values once they have entered the Union. The values on which the Union is founded (Article 2 TEU) are not only requirements for accession to the Union, but are also binding once the country achieved full membership of the Union. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to have a comprehensive rule of law toolbox to ensure the mandatory fulfilment of the above-mentioned values.

On 20 December 2017, the European Commission issued its reasoned proposal based on Article 7(1) TEU for a Council decision on the determination of a clear risk of a serious breach by the republic of Poland of the rule of law. The Article 7(1) TEU procedure constitutes a preventive phase endowing the Union with the capacity to intervene in the event of a clear risk of a serious breach of the common values. So far, the General Affairs Council has held three hearings of Poland, all concentrated in 2018. Since then, the Commission has provided updates on the rule of law situation in Poland within the Council, but no further hearings were organised.

In parallel to the triggering of the Article 7(1) TEU procedure in relation to Poland, the Commission has launched four infringements procedures against Poland in relation to the judicial reforms, two of which have led to a judgments of the CJEU finding violations of the principle of effective judicial protection as laid down in Article 19(1) TEU.

The European Parliament expressed its concerns regarding the rule of law situation in Poland in several resolutions adopted during the past years. Those concerns relate to the functioning of the legislative and electoral system; the independence of the judiciary and the rights of judges; and the protection of fundamental rights, including rights of persons belonging to minorities.

Since the situation of the rule of law in Poland has not only not been addressed but has seriously deteriorated since the triggering of the Article 7(1) TEU, the Rapporteur emphasizes the importance of this interim report, which aims to

 take stock of the developments as regards the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights in Poland since 2015;

 urge the Commission and the Council to widen the scope of the Article 7(1) TEU procedure to include clear risks of serious breaches of democracy and fundamental rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities;

 call on the Polish authorities, the Council and the Commission to each act swiftly within their own competences to tackle this severe rule of law crisis.

The Rapporteur took the task of conducting an in-depth analysis and took into consideration the opinions issued by European and international organisations, such as the bodies of the Council of Europe, the OSCE/ODIHR, and the United Nations, and judgments by national, European and international courts. The Rapporteur wants this report to be based on facts as analysed by trustful institutions and organisations, to which Poland is a party and/or of which it accepted the standards and ways of working.

The LIBE Committee also organised a mission to Warsaw in September 2018, where the delegation met with representatives of the Polish Government, the Sejm and the Senate, political parties, judicial institutions, representatives of the OSCE/ODIHR, legal practitioners, journalists and representatives of civil society, and held two hearings, in 2018 and 2020, to assess the rule of law situation in Poland. The Rapporteur conducted further meetings with different stakeholders (NGOs, scholars, journalists, judges, …) and members of the Polish government in order to hear directly from those who are facing the situation on the ground (see legislative footprint in annex).

 

2. Taking stock of the developments as regards the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights in Poland since 2015

– The independence of the judiciary and the rights of judges

As regards the rule of law in the strict sense of independence of the judiciary, the situation in Poland is far from improving and concerns remain or increase in every aspect exposed in this report: the politicization of the Polish Constitutional Court as early as in 2015; the composition and behaviour of the new National Council of the Judiciary; the tight grip of the Minister of Justice, who is also the Prosecutor-General, on the prosecution services; the creation of the disciplinary chamber and the chamber of extraordinary appeal inside the Supreme Court; the systematic intimidation of judges and disciplinary proceedings against judges who speak out on these reforms.

Recently, on 29 April 2020, the European Commission launched an infringement procedure on the so called ‘muzzle law’. This new law on the judiciary, which entered into force on 14 February 2020 is clearly incompatible with the primacy of EU law in that it deprives judges from exercising their duties under Union law to put aside national provisions conflicting with Union law. Major concerns regarding this law also include the introduction of further disciplinary offences and sanctions against judges and court presidencies, which risk to undermine the principle of judicial independence and moreover their freedom of expression and association by prohibiting any political activity and obliging to disclose publicly their membership in associations.

During the LIBE mission and exchanges of views with the Polish Minister of Justice and Deputy Minister of Justice, the Polish authorities cited as reasons for the profound reorganisation of its justice system since 2015 citizens’ dissatisfaction with the speed and efficiency of the administration of justice, alleged corruption and crimes or misdemeanours of individual judges that were left unpunished, and the need to decommunise the judiciary.[114] The Rapporteur insists that the reasons cited do not justify the firm grip of the executive on the judiciary as a result of the reforms. Alleged cases of corruption or crime are to be prosecuted on an individual basis and the European Court of Human Rights has clearly underlined that also a lustration process must be individualised and may moreover be less justified if taking place long after the end of the communist regime.[115]

– The functioning of the legislative and electoral system

Furthermore, the Rapporteur was concerned about the organisation of presidential elections during this specific time of an epidemic, which entailed a clear risk that equal, direct and secret elections as enshrined in the Polish Constitution could not be fulfilled, based on a fair election campaign with equal access to the media. According to OSCE/ODIHR observers, both candidates in Poland’s presidential run-off were eventually able to campaign freely, while hostility as well as biased coverage by the public broadcaster tarnished the election. Negative campaigning and mutual vilification abounded, while reports of threats against politicians and journalists were of serious concern. As in the first round, the incumbent’s campaign and coverage by the public broadcaster were marked by homophobic, xenophobic and anti-Semitic rhetoric.[116]

– The protection of fundamental rights, including rights of persons belonging to minorities

Sexual and reproductive health and rights are under threat in Poland. The proposed ban on the termination of pregnancy due to severe or fatal foetal anomalies would further tighten an already restrictive abortion law and therefore would result in a nearly complete ban on abortion. In addition, the draft bill to criminalise sexual education to minors has raised serious concerns within the European Parliament as well as with other international bodies and civil society organizations. While it was difficult for civil society to get organised on such themes during the Covid-19 outbreak, the Polish parliament voted on amendments to the Act of 5 December 1996 on doctors and dentists professions, under which doctors would no longer be legally obliged to indicate an alternative facility or practitioner in case of denial of sexual and reproductive health services due to personal beliefs.

Furthermore, the level of protection of minorities is seriously worrisome, as well as of women’s rights and rights of people identifying as LGBTI, while Member States have the duty to protect the moral and physical integrity of all citizens. The Rapporteur strongly deplores to see some areas in the European Union declaring themselves free from ideologies which do not even exist.

Several more fundamental rights concerns are being addressed in the report, including regarding the right to a fair trial, media and academic freedom, freedom of assembly and association and the right to privacy protection.

3. Widening of the scope of the Article 7(1) TEU procedure

The Rapporteur wants this interim report to give a new impulse in the Article 7(1) TEU procedure, by including not only the most recent controversial changes to the Polish judicial system, but by including an analysis of the situation of democracy and fundamental rights in Poland, which require specific attention.

4. Call for action by the Polish authorities, the Council and the Commission

The Rapporteur calls on the Polish Government to comply with all provisions relating to the rule of law and fundamental rights enshrined in the Treaties, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the European Convention on Human Right and international human rights standards, to swiftly implement the rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union and to respect the primacy of Union law and to engage directly in dialogue with the Commission.

The Rapporteur is concerned with the passiveness of the Council in addressing the situation of the Rule of Law in Poland, and calls upon the Member States to resume the formal hearings as soon as possible in order to include all the latest and major negative developments in the areas of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights. More importantly, the Rapporteur calls upon the Council to finally act under the Article 7(1) TEU procedure by finding that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by the Republic of Poland of the rule of law, in the light of overwhelming evidence thereof as displayed in this resolution and in so many reports of international and European organisations, the case-law of the the Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights and reports by civil society organisations, and to address recommendations to Poland under the Article 7(1) TEU procedure.

Finally, the Commission is called upon to make full use of the tools available to address a clear risk of a serious breach by Poland of the values on which the Union is founded, in particular expedited infringement procedures and applications for interim measures before the Court of Justice.

 

 

 

 

OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS AND GENDER EQUALITY (6.7.2020)

for the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

on the determination of a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law by the Republic of Poland

(2017/0360R(NLE))

Rapporteur for opinion: Evelyn Regner

 

 

PA_Consent_Interim

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality calls on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its report:

 having regard to the issue paper of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights of December 2017 entitled ‘Women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in Europe’,

 having regard to the European Parliament resolution of 14 November 2019 on the criminalisation of sexual education in Poland[117],

 having regard to the 2019 recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights and the WHO Regional Office for Europe publication entitled ‘Standards for Sexuality Education in Europe. A framework for policy-makers, educational and health authorities and specialists’,

 having regard to the European Parliament resolution of 13 February 2019 on experiencing a backlash in women’s rights and gender equality in the EU[118],

 having regard to the results of the LGBTI Survey II carried out by the Fundamental Rights Agency, which highlight an increase in intolerance and violence in Poland against LGBTI people, with Polish LGBTI respondents demonstrating total disbelief in the government’s fight against prejudice and intolerance, with the lowest percentage in the whole EU (only 4 %), and where Poland has the highest percentage of respondents avoiding certain places for fear of being assaulted, harassed or threatened (79 %),

 having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’), in particular Articles 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 21, 35 and 45 thereof,

 having regard to Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), on the founding values of the Union, and Article 7 TEU, on determining the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2,

 having regard to Article 8 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), on equality between women and men, and Article 9 of the TFEU, on combating social exclusion and a high level of education, training and protection of human health, Title IV of the TFEU on free movement of persons, services and capitals and Title V of the TFEU on area of freedom, security and justice,

A. whereas Article 35 of the Charter stipulates that ‘everyone has the right of access to preventive health care and the right to benefit from medical treatment under the conditions established by national laws and practices’ and lays down the objective of ‘a high level of human health protection’; whereas the provision of accessible and affordable sexual and reproductive health and rights, including contraception and safe and legal abortion, is related to multiple human rights, including the right to life and dignity, protection against inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to access healthcare, the right to privacy, the right to education and the prohibition of discrimination; whereas the denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights contravenes the rulings of the UN Human Rights Committee and the ECHR;

B. whereas the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, as set out in Article 2 of the TEU and enshrined in international human rights treaties; whereas those values, which are common to the Member States and to which all Member States have freely subscribed, constitute the basis of the rights enjoyed by persons living in the Union; whereas Article 7 of the TEU provides for the possibility of suspending certain rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to a Member State, including voting rights in the Council, where a Member State has been found to have committed a serious and persistent breach by of the values referred to in Article 2;

C. whereas two draft laws stemming from citizens’ initiatives are before the Polish Parliament, one of which, known as the ‘Stop Abortion’ bill, seeks to tighten up Poland’s Act of 1993 on ‘Family Planning, Protection of the Human Foetus and Conditions for Legal Pregnancy Termination’, which is already one of the most restrictive laws in the EU on abortion, in order to remove legal access in cases of severe or fatal foetal abnormality, fundamentally denying access to abortion; the other, known as the ‘Stop paedophilia’ bill to make providing sexual education to minors by teachers, health care workers and other education professionals a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment;

D. whereas comprehensive, age-appropriate and evidence-based sexuality education is key to building the capacities of children and young people to develop healthy, equal, nurturing and safe relationships and to have a positive impact on gender equality, including by transforming harmful gender norms and attitudes towards gender-based violence, homophobia and transphobia, to prevent discrimination and all forms of abuse and gender-based violence and to contribute to reducing teenage pregnancy, reducing risk-taking and increasing use of contraception;

E whereas the Sejm was legally obliged, within six months of taking up its duties, to consider draft laws stemming from citizens’ initiatives; whereas on 16 April 2020 the Polish Parliament voted to refer back to committee the two draft laws stemming from citizens’ initiatives on access to abortion and on sexual education for minors; whereas the dates on which the parliamentary committees will study the bills have not yet been announced;

F. whereas in 2016, 2018 and 2020 draft bills imposing restrictive anti-abortion measures or attempting to introduce an almost total ban on the right to abortion have caused mass protests by women and civil society organisations throughout the country and abroad, including the ‘Black Monday’ women’s strike of 2016; whereas, regrettably, since the beginning of 2019, over 80 regions, counties or municipalities have passed resolutions declaring themselves free from so-called ‘LGBT ideology’ or have adopted all or part of the ‘Regional Charters of Family Rights’, discriminating in particular against single‑parents and LGBTI parents and people and de facto restricting the freedom of movement of the EU citizens;

1. Welcomes the fact that, on 16 April 2020, the Polish Parliament did not adopt the two draft laws stemming from citizen’s initiatives on access to abortion and on the comprehensive and age-appropriate sexuality education for minors; regrets that the Polish Parliament did not flatly reject these two draft laws and objects to these bills being referred back to committee for further consideration given that each would undermine human rights; believes that the prospect of a possible future vote on these bills is a potential threat to the founding principles of the EU, as enshrined in Article 2 of the TEU, notably respect for human rights and human dignity, non-discrimination and equality, including equality between women and men as well as sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and LGBTI rights and the work of civil society;

2. Calls on the Polish Government and the members of the Polish Parliament to halt consideration of these two draft laws, given that a vigorous, necessary and legitimate debate is under way in the country and throughout Europe in response to the moral issues and grievances they raise, and that the lives and fundamental rights of thousands of women, couples and families, children and adolescents, many of them among the youngest and most vulnerable in society, would be irreparably damaged, as would the lives and rights of sexual and reproductive health educators, including teachers, outreach workers, health care personnel and rights activists; is deeply concerned about repeated attempts to introduce, consider and reform legislation with the aim of restricting women’s rights and gender equality; urges members of the Polish Parliament to refrain from any further attempts to restrict the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and adolescents;

3. Regrets recent legislative proposals under which medical facilities would no longer be legally obliged to indicate an alternative facility in the event of refusal of an abortion by doctors on the basis of their personal beliefs; reiterates its concerns about the use of the conscience clause, including the lack of reliable referral mechanisms and the absence of timely recourse for women who are denied legal access to abortion; recalls that, under human rights law, doctors should not be allowed to undermine the women’s inalienable rights to timely access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services and the right to life, health and privacy; calls on the Polish Government to comply with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights[119], which has ruled that obstacles to access legal abortion in practice violates human rights and, therefore, to include in the law a rule stipulating that, in the event of refusal, the medical facility must indicate another specialist or facility that will perform the abortion procedure; calls for the repeal of the law restricting women’s and girls’ access to the emergency contraception pill;

4 Strongly affirms that the denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights services is a form of violence against women and girls and recalls that the unavailability of scientifically accurate information violates the rights of individuals to make informed choices about their own SRHR;

5. Encourages the Polish authorities to implement the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention concretely and effectively, in particular by ensuring the application of existing legislation throughout the country and the provision of a sufficient number and quality of shelters for women victims of violence and their children;

6. Is concerned about the backlash from the loss of women’s rights, the trend towards shrinking space for civil society and the inadequate level of protection in Poland of the fundamental human right of women and adolescent girls to health, of which sexual and reproductive health and related rights, including the access to information and self‑determination, is an essential component protected by law at international level; is concerned also about the loss of rights of young LGBTI people, whose mental health and physical safety are particularly at risk due to the government’s continued attacks on activists and organisations through raids, defunding and intimidation;

7. Stresses that unhindered and timely access to reproductive health services and respect for women’s reproductive autonomy and decision-making are critical to protect women’s human rights and gender equality; recalls that international human rights bodies have repeatedly affirmed that highly restrictive abortion laws are contrary to human rights standards and must be reformed; recalls that Parliament has already strongly criticised, in its resolutions of 14 September 2016[120] and 15 November 2017[121], any legislative proposal that would prohibit abortion in cases of severe or fatal foetal impairment, thereby virtually banning access to abortion care in Poland as most legal abortions are performed on this ground;

8. Stresses that women who decide to terminate a pregnancy either travel to another country to obtain safe and legal abortion services or undergo potentially unsafe procedures at home and might risk their lives during these procedures, particularly poor women; reiterates that denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights services, including safe and legal abortion, is a form of violence against women and girls;

9. Strongly reiterates that access to comprehensive and age-appropriate information about sex, sexuality and access to sexual and reproductive health care, including sexual education, family planning, contraceptive methods and safe and legal abortion, are essential to create a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having sexual experiences free of risk, coercion, discrimination and violence;

10. Reiterates that young people must be empowered and protected through age-appropriate information about sex and sexuality and access to sexual and reproductive healthcare; Stresses that, instead of protecting young people, the lack of information and education about sex and sexuality jeopardises the safety and well-being of young people by making them vulnerable to sexual exploitation, abuse and violence, including girls and LGBTI youth, who are particularly impacted by gender inequality and social norms; calls for educators, doctors and carers to be supported, protected and encouraged to provide this information;

11. Recalls that education, in addition to being a stand-alone human right, is a prerequisite for the enjoyment of other fundamental rights and freedoms; recalls that Poland has a duty under international human rights law to provide comprehensive, compulsory, age‑appropriate, standardised, evidence‑based and scientifically accurate sexuality education; recalls that such education is a necessary part of the school curriculum in order to meet the World Health Organization’s standards for Europe to educate and protect young people; affirms that such education should encompass sexual orientation and gender identity, sexual expression, relationships and consent, as well as information on negative outcomes or conditions such as STIs and HIV, unintended pregnancy, sexual violence and harmful practices such as grooming and female genital mutilation;

12. Calls on the Polish Government to urgently condemn and take appropriate legal measures against the resolutions adopted by regional and local authorities concerning the creation of ‘LGBT‑free areas’ in Poland, which violate fundamental rights and fuel more hatred, fear and threats against LGBTI+ people in Poland; recalls its resolution of 18 December 2019 on public discrimination and hate speech against LGBTI+ people, including LGBTI free zones[122]; urges the Polish Government to take steps to protect LGBTI+ people, to address all human rights violations and to guarantee the rights and freedoms of individuals and organisations in society representing the interests of women and LGBTI+ people;

13. Recalls that Article 7 of the TEU can be triggered where there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2; strongly believes that violations of the rights of women, LGBTI+ people and other minorities seriously breach the values of equality and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities enshrined in Article 2 of the TEU; calls on the Commission to monitor the situation in order to assess whether the creation of LGBTI‑free zones in one third of Polish municipalities, homophobic statements and other violations of minorities’ rights constitute a breach of Article 2 of the TEU, Article 3(2) of the TEU, Article 21 of the TFEU, Titles IV and V of the TFEU and Article 45 of the Charter; calls on the Commission to consequently examine a reasoned opinion in accordance with Article 258 of the TFEU and, in such a case, to consider launching the appropriate infringement procedure; urges the Commission to suspend further EU structural funding in the regions where it would have been used for anti‑LGBTI+ actions violating EU values; calls on the Council to address these issues in the context of its current hearing on the situation in Poland;

14. Calls on the Polish Government to include sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics as a protected personal characteristic in the Criminal Code to ensure the rights of all LGBTI+ people in Poland;

15. Calls for comprehensive sexuality, age‑appropriate and anti‑discrimination education in accordance with international standards in Poland in order to combat homophobia, discriminatory attitudes, gender stereotypes and myths about sexuality and reproductive health; calls on the Polish government to ensure that young people have access to comprehensive, age‑appropriate, evidence‑based sexuality and anti‑discrimination education in the school curriculum, in accordance with European and international standards, and to ensure that qualified teachers or educators are supported in order to provide such education in a factual and objective manner; calls on the Polish authorities to refrain from adopting a policy that runs counter to these objectives, and from taking any disciplinary action against or stigmatising teachers and educators for their teachings related to sexuality and anti-discrimination;

16. Calls on the Polish Government to comply with the recommendations made by the European Parliament in its resolution of 14 November 2019 on the criminalisation of sexual education in Poland[123], as well as those of the Council of Europe and the WHO;

17. Believes that Parliament’s consent to the MFF 2021-2027, which includes the Rights and Values programme, should be conditional on adherence to the values of the European Union; reiterates its call for a mechanism to protect the Union budget in the event of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States and is prepared not to give its consent to the MFF if political agreement is not reached on such a mechanism; calls on the Polish authorities to ensure adequate funding by means of EU-level instruments such as the MFF and other pilot projects to make the MFF available to fundamental rights organisations, including women’s rights and LGBTI+ organisations, and to address the increasing bureaucratisation and funding restrictions on fundamental rights organisations, including women’s rights organisations and activists.

PROCEDURE – COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Title

Determination of a clear risk of a serious breach by the Republic of Poland of the rule of law

References

2017/0360R(NLE)

Committee responsible

 

LIBE

 

 

 

 

Opinion by

 Date announced in plenary

FEMM

27.5.2020

Rapporteur

 Date appointed

Evelyn Regner

27.4.2020

Date adopted

3.7.2020

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

24

6

3

 

FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

24

+

RE

Abir Al‑Sahlani, Samira Rafaela, María Soraya Rodríguez Ramos, Hilde Vautmans, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou

GUE/NGL

Eugenia Rodríguez Palop, Elena Kountoura

EPP

Frances Fitzgerald, Cindy Franssen, Arba Kokalari, Sirpa Pietikäinen, Christine Schneider, Elissavet Vozemberg‑Vrionidi

S&D

Robert Biedroń, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Heléne Fritzon, Lina Gálvez Muñoz, Maria Noichl, Pina Picierno, Evelyn Regner

GREENS/EFA

Terry Reintke, Diana Riba i Giner, Ernest Urtasun, Alice Kuhnke

 

6

ID

Christine Anderson, Simona Baldassarre, Annika Bruna, Isabella Tovaglieri

ECR

Margarita de la Pisa Carrión, Jadwiga Wiśniewska

 

3

0

EPP

Rosa Estaràs Ferragut, Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska, Lívia Járóka

 

Key to symbols:

+ : in favour

 : against

0 : abstention

 

PROCEDURE – COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

Title

Determination of a clear risk of a serious breach by the Republic of Poland of the rule of law

References

2017/0360R(NLE)

Date of consultation / request for consent

7.5.2020

 

 

 

Committee responsible

 Date announced in plenary

LIBE

27.5.2020

 

 

 

Committees asked for opinions

 Date announced in plenary

AFCO

27.5.2020

FEMM

27.5.2020

 

 

Not delivering opinions

 Date of decision

AFCO

8.6.2020

 

 

 

Rapporteurs

 Date appointed

Juan Fernando López Aguilar

14.10.2019

 

 

 

Discussed in committee

13.7.2020

14.7.2020

 

 

Date adopted

16.7.2020

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

52

15

0

Members present for the final vote

Magdalena Adamowicz, Konstantinos Arvanitis, Katarina Barley, Pietro Bartolo, Nicolas Bay, Vladimír Bilčík, Vasile Blaga, Ioan-Rareş Bogdan, Saskia Bricmont, Joachim Stanisław Brudziński, Jorge Buxadé Villalba, Damien Carême, Caterina Chinnici, Clare Daly, Marcel de Graaff, Lena Düpont, Laura Ferrara, Nicolaus Fest, Jean-Paul Garraud, Sylvie Guillaume, Andrzej Halicki, Balázs Hidvéghi, Evin Incir, Sophia in ‘t Veld, Patryk Jaki, Lívia Járóka, Marina Kaljurand, Fabienne Keller, Peter Kofod, Moritz Körner, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Nuno Melo, Roberta Metsola, Nadine Morano, Javier Moreno Sánchez, Maite Pagazaurtundúa, Nicola Procaccini, Emil Radev, Paulo Rangel, Terry Reintke, Diana Riba i Giner, Ralf Seekatz, Michal Šimečka, Martin Sonneborn, Sylwia Spurek, Tineke Strik, Ramona Strugariu, Annalisa Tardino, Tomas Tobé, Milan Uhrík, Tom Vandendriessche, Bettina Vollath, Jadwiga Wiśniewska, Elena Yoncheva, Javier Zarzalejos

Substitutes present for the final vote

Abir Al-Sahlani, Bartosz Arłukowicz, Malin Björk, Delara Burkhardt, Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Nathalie Loiseau, Erik Marquardt, Sira Rego, Domènec Ruiz Devesa, Paul Tang, Hilde Vautmans, Tomáš Zdechovský

Date tabled

20.7.2020

 

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the situation in the Schengen area following the COVID-19 outbreak – B9-0165/2020

Source: European Parliament 2

B9‑0165/2020

European Parliament resolution on the situation in the Schengen area following the COVID‑19 outbreak

(2020/2640(RSP))

The European Parliament,

 having regard to the 35th anniversary of the Schengen Agreement signed on 14 June 1985,[1] the 30th anniversary of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement signed on 19 June 1990,[2] and the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the Schengen Agreement on 26 March 1995,

 having regard to Article 67(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which provides that the Union must constitute an area of freedom, security and justice which ‘shall ensure the absence of internal border controls for persons’,

 having regard to Article 21(1) of the TFEU, which provides that every citizen of the Union must have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States,

 having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, including Article 45 thereof, which stipulates that every citizen of the Union has the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States,

 having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on a Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code),[3] which codified Regulation (EC) No 562/2006[4] of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 establishing a Community Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code), which had been the first act adopted under the codecision procedure in the Justice and Home Affairs Area,

 having regard to Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States (the Free Movement Directive)[5], and the principle of non-discrimination enshrined therein,

 having regard to the Commission’s guidelines (‘COVID‑19: Guidelines for border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services’) of 16 March 2020 (C(2020)1753), endorsed by the Heads of State or Government on 17 March 2020,

 having regard to the conclusions of the President of the European Council following the videoconference of 17 March 2020 with members of the European Council on COVID‑19, which endorsed the call to reinforce the external borders by applying a coordinated temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for a period of 30 days, based on the Commission communication ‘COVID-19: Temporary Restriction on Non-Essential Travel to the EU’ (COM(2020)0115) and its subsequent prolongation,

 having regard to the Commission communication ‘COVID-19: Guidance on the implementation of the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU, on the facilitation of transit arrangements for the repatriation of EU citizens, and on the effects on visa policy’ of 30 March 2020 (C(2020)2050),

 having regard to the Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures presented by the President of the Commission and the President of the European Council,

 having regard to the Commission communication of 8 April 2020 on the assessment of the application of the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU (COM(2020)0148),

 having regard to the Commission communication ‘COVID-19: Towards a phased and coordinated approach for restoring freedom of movement and lifting internal border controls’ of 13 May 2020 (C(2020)3250),

 having regard to its resolution of 30 May 2018 on the annual report on the functioning of the Schengen area[10], according to which ‘where in a situation of a serious threat to public policy or internal security, Member States consider applying chapter II of Title III of the Regulation (EU) 2016/399 [introducing internal border control], they should first assess whether the situation can be adequately addressed by way of stepping up police checks within the territory, including in border areas’;

7. Acknowledges that the Schengen Area has never before experienced the outbreak of such a serious pandemic on its territory; recalls that the provisions of the Schengen Borders Code state explicitly that a threat to public health may constitute a ground for refusal of entry at the external border, and further recalls that the Code does not – and the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement did not – mention public health as grounds for the reintroduction of internal border controls, foreseeing the reintroduction of internal border controls only to address serious threats to public policy or internal security;

8. Regrets the fact that some Member States introduced border controls and other border restrictions at short notice without providing sufficient information on their own populations and other Member States; deplores, moreover, the collateral consequences of border checks observed at some internal borders, such as excessive waiting times without adequate hygiene facilities and adequate physical distancing, thereby creating health risks both for the persons subject to the border checks and for border guards, and the additional burden placed on already overstretched border guards and police officers, who are not trained health professionals; expresses concern, moreover, at the numerous obstacles encountered by many cross-border workers within the Schengen area since the outbreak of the pandemic, including the lack of clear and available information regarding restrictions applicable to them when crossing borders;

9. Notes that, under the Free Movement Directive, Member States may restrict the freedom of movement and residence of Union citizens and their family members, irrespective of nationality, on grounds of public health; insists, nonetheless, that the safeguards laid down in that directive must be guaranteed by all Member States and that, in particular, non-discrimination between Member States’ own nationals and resident EU-citizens must be ensured;

10. Considers that a swift return to a fully functional Schengen area is of the utmost importance, and depends both on the political will of the Member States and their commitment to coordinate measures under the Schengen acquis; calls on the Commission to take the lead in coordinating action at European level, with the objective of addressing the challenge that COVID-19 poses to the health of European citizens, while maintaining the Schengen area as an area without internal border controls, in full respect of the principles of solidarity and mutual trust; believes that the search for European responses will deliver mutual benefits; deeply regrets and rejects any uncoordinated, bilateral or multilateral action by individual Member States, discussed outside the Union framework; requires that any arrangement must respect the principle of non-discrimination;

11. Calls on Member States to reduce restrictions on the freedom of movement to the same extent that COVID-19 containment measures are relaxed; considers that with the appropriate Union-level coordination, a more regional approach may be more proportionate than national border controls and might allow for restrictions on freedom of movement to be lifted where the public health situation in neighbouring regions has comparably improved;

12. Calls on Member States to urgently discuss, together with Parliament, the Council and the Commission, a Recovery Plan for Schengen, including the ways and means to return as quickly as possible to a fully functioning Schengen area without internal border control and with contingency plans in the event of a potential second peak, in order to prevent temporary internal border controls from becoming semi-permanent in the medium term;

13. Recalls that, according to the Schengen Borders Code, the assessment of the necessity for internal border control and its prolongation when introduced as an immediate action should be monitored at Union level; calls on the Commission in that respect to exercise appropriate scrutiny over the application of the Schengen acquis, and in particular to assess the measures already taken by Member States, as well as the timeliness and quality of notifications made by the Member States, to closely monitor developments and, where necessary, to remind Member States of their legal obligations and to adopt opinions; encourages the Commission to make use of its prerogatives to request additional information from Member States; calls on the Commission to enhance its reporting to Parliament on how it exercises its prerogatives under the Treaties;

14. Deplores the fact that the provision of the Schengen Borders Code under which Member States are to report within four weeks of the lifting of border controls to Parliament, the Council and the Commission has lost its intended purpose, resulting in Parliament being uninformed; calls, therefore, on the Member States which have introduced internal border controls to report in a timely manner, at least every six months, to Parliament by providing accurate and detailed data for the reintroduction of internal border controls; deeply regrets that the Commission, since 2015, has not published the annual report on the functioning of the area without internal border controls, something it is obliged to do under the Schengen Borders Code;

15. Recalls that temporary travel restrictions applying to all non-essential travel from third countries to the Schengen Area have been introduced; underlines that all decisions on refusal of entry at external borders need to be in accordance with the provisions of the Schengen Borders Code, including the respect of fundamental rights in particular, as laid down in Article 4 thereof;

16. Calls on the Council and the Member States to step up their efforts to achieve the completion of Schengen integration with all EU Member States; reiterates its call on the Council to present a new draft decision on the full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis in Bulgaria and Romania as soon as possible; when consulted by the Council in accordance with Article 4 of the Act of Accession, is prepared to express its opinion on the full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis in Croatia; considers that solidarity and responsibility are for all, and that the future of the Schengen area can only be one without fragmentation;

17. Considers that, in the medium term, some thought must be given to how to enhance mutual trust between Member States and ensure that the Union’s legislative tools provide for a truly European governance of the Schengen area, which would allow for an effective European coordinated response to challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining the right to freedom of movement and the principle of the absence of controls at internal borders, which is at the heart of the Schengen project cherished by EU citizens; calls for a proposal from the Commission to that end to reform Schengen governance in light of new challenges;

18. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

 

Press release – Returning to free movement across borders is of utmost importance

Source: European Parliament

A swift return to a fully functional Schengen area is needed to safeguard freedom of movement and ensure the EU’s economic recovery, says the Civil Liberties Committee.

Civil Liberties Committee MEPs express their concern about the current situation of internal border controls in the Schengen area and their impact on people and businesses, in a resolution adopted on Thursday by 53 votes in favour, 6 against and 6 abstentions.

They stress that a swift and coordinated return to a fully functional Schengen area is of utmost importance to safeguard freedom of movement, one of the main achievements of European integration, and to ensure the EU’s economic recovery after the pandemic.

While demanding that member states reduce restrictions on the freedom of movement to the same extent that COVID-19 containment measures are being relaxed, MEPs suggest that a regional approach may be more proportionate than national border controls. Restrictions on freedom of movement could be lifted where the public health situation in neighbouring regions has comparably improved.

MEPs also urgently call for a debate on setting up a Recovery Plan for Schengen and the ways and means to return to a fully functioning Schengen area as quickly as possible, to prevent temporary internal border controls from becoming semi-permanent. The plan should also include contingency plans in case of a potential second wave.

Civil Liberties Committee Chair and rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) said: “For the vast majority of EU citizens, the Schengen area constitutes one of the greatest achievements in the history of the EU, and it has never before experienced the outbreak of such a serious pandemic on its territory. I strongly deplore any unilateral or disproportionate measures by individual Member States to impose border restrictions upon other Member States without communication or a clear and limited timeframe. All actions meant to restore a fully operational Schengen area must be coordinated at EU level and fully respect the principle of non-discrimination”.

Future of Schengen: new governance and enlargements

In the medium-term, MEPs stress that a reflection on how to enhance mutual trust between member states and ensure a truly European governance of the Schengen area is needed. In light of new challenges, they call on the Commission to propose a reform of Schengen governance.

MEPs also ask in their resolution for the Council and member states to increase their efforts in Schengen integration and take the necessary steps to admit Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia into Schengen. Except for these three countries, Cyprus and Ireland, all EU countries are part of the Schengen area. Of non-EU states, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have joined Schengen.

Next steps

The resolution follows a debate in the Civil Liberties Committee on the situation in the Schengen area. The plenary is expected to vote on the resolution in its plenary session taking place 17-19 June.

RECOMMENDATION FOR SECOND READING on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on Community statistics on migration and international protection – A9-0108/2020

Source: European Parliament

 

 

Symbols for procedures

 * Consultation procedure

 *** Consent procedure

 ***I Ordinary legislative procedure (first reading)

 ***II Ordinary legislative procedure (second reading)

 ***III Ordinary legislative procedure (third reading)

 

(The type of procedure depends on the legal basis proposed by the draft act.)

 

 

 

 

 

Amendments to a draft act

Amendments by Parliament set out in two columns

 

Deletions are indicated in bold italics in the left-hand column. Replacements are indicated in bold italics in both columns. New text is indicated in bold italics in the right-hand column.

 

The first and second lines of the header of each amendment identify the relevant part of the draft act under consideration. If an amendment pertains to an existing act that the draft act is seeking to amend, the amendment heading includes a third line identifying the existing act and a fourth line identifying the provision in that act that Parliament wishes to amend.

 

Amendments by Parliament in the form of a consolidated text

 

New text is highlighted in bold italics. Deletions are indicated using either the ▌symbol or strikeout. Replacements are indicated by highlighting the new text in bold italics and by deleting or striking out the text that has been replaced.

By way of exception, purely technical changes made by the drafting departments in preparing the final text are not highlighted.

 

 

 

CONTENTS

Page

DRAFT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION

SHORT JUSTIFICATION

PROCEDURE – COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

DRAFT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION

on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on Community statistics on migration and international protection

(15300/1/2019 – C9‑0102/2020 – 2018/0154(COD))

(Ordinary legislative procedure: second reading)

The European Parliament,

 having regard to the Council position at first reading (15300/1/2019 – C9‑0102/2020),

 having regard to its position at first reading[1] on the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2018)0307),

 having regard to Article 294(7) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

 having regard to the provisional agreement approved by the committee responsible under Rule 74(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

 having regard to Rule 67 of its Rules of Procedure,

 having regard to the recommendation for second reading of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A9-0108/2020),

1. Approves the Council position at first reading;

2. Notes that the act is adopted in accordance with the Council position;

3. Instructs its President to sign the act with the President of the Council, in accordance with Article 297(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

4. Instructs its Secretary-General to sign the act, once it has been verified that all the procedures have been duly completed, and, in agreement with the Secretary-General of the Council, to arrange for its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union;

5. Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.

 

SHORT JUSTIFICATION

The proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on Community statistics on migration and international protection dates back to 2018 and aims to provide for a legal basis for existing voluntary data collections already conducted by most national authorities, while providing the necessary flexibility to adapt to future data needs.

 

The European Parliament adopted its first reading position corresponding to the LIBE report during the previous term (16 April 2019) after COREPER didn’t confirm provisional agreement reached under Romanian Presidency on 31 January 2019. Negotiations have restarted with the new elected Parliament and the Finnish Presidency.

 

Subsequently, and after intensive early 2nd reading inter-institutional negotiations based on a new proposal of the Finnish Presidency that modified the provisional agreement, on the trilogue on 28 November 19, the two co-legislators finally reached an overall political agreement that incorporated the relevant points of Parliament’s negotiating mandate. The text agreed was confirmed by COREPER on 4 December 2019 and approved by the LIBE Committee on 9 December 2019.

 

Since the Council’s first reading position adopted on 20 March 2020 fully reflects the agreement reached in early 2nd reading interinstitutional negotiations, your rapporteur recommends that it be endorsed by the European Parliament without amendments, so that this amending regulation can be adopted swiftly and enter into force as soon as possible.

PROCEDURE – COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

Title

Community statistics on migration and international protection

References

15300/1/2019 – C9-0102/2020 – 2018/0154(COD)

Date of Parliament’s first reading – P number

16.4.2019 T8-0359/2019

Commission proposal

COM(2018)0307 – C8-0182/2018

Receipt of Council position at first reading announced in plenary

17.4.2020

Committee responsible

 Date announced in plenary

LIBE

17.4.2020

 

 

 

Rapporteurs

 Date appointed

Jan-Christoph Oetjen

4.9.2019

 

 

 

Previous rapporteurs

Cecilia Wikström

Discussed in committee

3.12.2019

9.12.2019

12.5.2020

 

Date adopted

25.5.2020

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

65

2

0

Members present for the final vote

Magdalena Adamowicz, Malik Azmani, Katarina Barley, Pietro Bartolo, Nicolas Bay, Vladimír Bilčík, Vasile Blaga, Ioan-Rareş Bogdan, Patrick Breyer, Saskia Bricmont, Joachim Stanisław Brudziński, Jorge Buxadé Villalba, Damien Carême, Caterina Chinnici, Clare Daly, Marcel de Graaff, Lena Düpont, Cornelia Ernst, Laura Ferrara, Nicolaus Fest, Jean-Paul Garraud, Sylvie Guillaume, Andrzej Halicki, Balázs Hidvéghi, Evin Incir, Sophia in ‘t Veld, Lívia Járóka, Marina Kaljurand, Assita Kanko, Fabienne Keller, Peter Kofod, Moritz Körner, Alice Kuhnke, Jeroen Lenaers, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Lukas Mandl, Nuno Melo, Roberta Metsola, Nadine Morano, Javier Moreno Sánchez, Nicola Procaccini, Emil Radev, Paulo Rangel, Terry Reintke, Diana Riba i Giner, Ralf Seekatz, Birgit Sippel, Martin Sonneborn, Sylwia Spurek, Tineke Strik, Ramona Strugariu, Annalisa Tardino, Dragoş Tudorache, Milan Uhrík, Tom Vandendriessche, Bettina Vollath, Jadwiga Wiśniewska, Elena Yoncheva, Javier Zarzalejos

Substitutes present for the final vote

Malin Björk, Ondřej Kovařík, Nathalie Loiseau, Jan-Christoph Oetjen, Sira Rego, Domènec Ruiz Devesa, Isabel Santos, Loránt Vincze

Date tabled

2.6.2020