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State of the Union
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Defending EU Values

Democracy and fundamental freedoms

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

Rule of Law Mechanism 

Promotes open dialogue on the rule of law among EU institutions, Member States and civil society.

Conditionality Regulation 

Monitors rule of law breaches in Member States which might affect the EU's financial interests.

Greater transparency in political advertising 

Journalism and free speech

Democratic progress often spreads fast through a whole region...which shows the power democracy has to create momentum and a belief that positive change is possible

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

Supporting Ukraine’s independent media and civil society

€150 000
emergency fund for Ukrainian media
set up by various European media organisations to support the work of their Ukrainian counterparts.
€1.5 million
raised so far
to help Ukrainian journalists cover the operational costs of reporting on the war.
€1.5 billion
for the promotion of fundamental freedoms
including human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the work of civil-society organisations around the world until 2027.

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.

Disclaimer: The data on this page was last updated on 31 August 2022

Progress in other areas

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of the von der Leyen Commission