European Commission puts forward declaration on digital rights and principles for everyone in the EU

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 January, 2022 at 2:23 pm by Andre Camilleri

Today, the Commission is proposing to the European Parliament and Council to sign up to a declaration of rights and principles that will guide the digital transformation in the EU.

The draft declaration on digital rights and principles aims to give everyone a clear reference point about the kind of digital transformation Europe promotes and defends. It will also provide a guide for policy makers and companies when dealing with new technologies. The rights and freedoms enshrined in the EU’s legal framework, and the European values expressed by the principles, should be respected online as they are offline. Once jointly endorsed, the Declaration will also define the approach to the digital transformation which the EU will promote throughout the world.

Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager, said: “We want safe technologies that work for people, and that respect our rights and values. Also when we are online. And we want everyone to be empowered to take an active part in our increasingly digitised societies. This declaration gives us a clear reference point to the rights and principles for the online world.”

Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, said: “We want Europeans to know: living, studying, working, doing business in Europe, you can count on top class connectivity, seamless access to public services, a safe and fair digital space. The declaration of digital rights and principles also establishes once and for all that what is illegal offline should also be illegal online. We also aim to promote these principles as a standard for the world.”

Rights and principles in the digital age

The draft declaration covers key rights and principles for the digital transformation, such as placing people and their rights at its centre, supporting solidarity and inclusion, ensuring the freedom of choice online, fostering participation in the digital public space, increasing safety, security and empowerment of individuals, and promoting the sustainability of the digital future.

These rights and principles should accompany people in the EU in their everyday life: affordable and high-speed digital connectivity everywhere and for everybody, well-equipped classrooms and digitally skilled teachers, seamless access to public services, a safe digital environment for children, disconnecting after working hours, obtaining easy-to-understand information on the environmental impact of our digital products, controlling how their personal data are used and with whom they are shared.

The declaration is rooted in EU law, from the Treaties to the Charter of Fundamental rights but also the case law of the Court of Justice. It builds on the experience of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Former European Parliament President David Sassoli promoted the idea of the access to the Internet as a new human right back in 2018. Promoting and implementing the principles set out in the declaration will be a shared political commitment and responsibility at both Union and Member State level within their respective competences. To make sure the declaration will have concrete effects on the ground, the Commission proposed in September to monitor progress, evaluate gaps and provide recommendations for actions through an annual report on the ‘State of the Digital Decade’.

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