As Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has shown, democracy is a fragile concept that needs to be nurtured and protected at all times.
Protecting the rule of law
The Rule of Law is the glue that binds the European Union together. By joining the EU, all 27 Member States committed to defend the rule of law, which is essential for the protection of the values on which the EU was founded: democracy, freedom, equality, and respect for humans rights.
Three annual Rule of Law Reports have now been published on current developments across the Member States in four key areas:
- The justice system
- The anti-corruption framework
- Media pluralism
- Other institutional issues relating to checks and balances
Additional tools to safeguard the rule of law in the EU
Promotes open dialogue on the rule of law among EU institutions, Member States and civil society.
Monitors rule of law breaches in Member States which might affect the EU's financial interests.
In November 2021, the Commission presented a proposal on the transparency and targeting of political advertising, as part of measures aimed at protecting election integrity and open democratic debate.
A democracy can only function when citizens have easy access to free and high-quality information. That is why media freedom and pluralism are essential to a properly functioning democratic system, and represent a priority area in the European democracy action plan.
In December 2021, the Commission announced a new Global Europe Human Rights and Democracy programme, worth €1.5 billion, to step up EU support for the promotion and protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy, the rule of law and the work of civil-society organisations and human-rights defenders around the world until 2027.
The Commission is actively supporting Ukraine’s independent media and civil society, as part of the €335 million in humanitarian aid delivered to Ukraine. European civil society is also stepping up to support Ukrainian journalists.
Nadia Dobrianska moved from Kyiv to Cork after an Irish family offered to host her and her family. Nadia is documenting human rights violations and war crimes by the Russian military. She also plays the Irish flute and sings Irish traditional songs.
The challenges ahead
Technological shifts and social unrest over recent years mean many journalists are now unable to do their job properly. Three measures to reverse these trends have been implemented or are under preparation by the Commission:
- Safety of journalists – offline and online – Key initiatives include the creation of independent national support services such as helplines, legal advice, psychological support, increased protection of journalists during demonstrations, and shelters for journalists and media professionals facing threats.
- Legislation to protect journalists and human-rights defenders against abusive lawsuits – The new measures will enable judges to swiftly dismiss the so-called SLAPPs (strategic litigation against public participations) and empower journalists and human-rights defenders in their efforts to speak up in the public interest.
- A Media Freedom Act – The act will enshrine, for the first time in EU law, common safeguards to protect media pluralism and editorial independence. Media freedom, pluralism and the safety of journalists are also monitored in the annual Rule of Law reports.
Brave journalists are risking their lives covering the human impact of the war in Ukraine. Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff, from France, was just 32 when he lost his life in a Russian attack on a humanitarian convoy in Ukraine.