The opinion refers to the European democracy action plan (EDAP), adopted by the EC on 3 December 2021.
Starting from the assumption that the EU, national, regional and local authorities have a shared responsibility to promote democracy, as one of the core values on which the EU is based, together with human rights and the rule of law, the opinion invites the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council to take into account the regional and local dimension of democracy both in the acts that will implement the EDAP and in the review of its implementation scheduled in 2023. It recalls that a proper implementation of the EDAP requires joint efforts between the EU, national, regional and local institutions, in relation to the respective competences and with the close engagement of civil society.
The opinion addresses, from a territorial perspective, the main pillars of EDAP:
Protecting election integrity and promoting democratic participation,
Strengthening media freedom and media pluralism,
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS:
underlines that the EDAP should pay special attention to the activities of local and regional authorities, as they are well placed to take part in the war on disinformation and can play an important educational role, creating the conditions for local communities to develop good democratic habits;
stresses that the concern for free and democratic elections referred to in the EDAP should apply in equal measure to European, national, regional and local elections;
proposes drawing up a non-compulsory and non-binding for the Member States, Europe-wide curriculum for civic education, critical thinking and media literacy, which would be subject to public consultation and then adapted to respond to regional and local needs. This should cover school education, training of civil servants, lifelong learning and public campaigns. The CoR would like to play an active role in drafting this curriculum;
believes that a European agency should be set up, in close cooperation with the European Parliament's INGE Committee, tasked with carrying out preventive measures to tackle disinformation, hate speech, intolerance, violence against specific social groups and the spread of conspiracy theories;
highlights as a concrete step the establishment of the Paweł Adamowicz Award for promoting social inclusion, equal opportunities and respect for human rights and civil liberties and for tackling prejudice and xenophobia;
highlights the fact that attacking the media undermines European values and puts us on the path towards authoritarianism;
stresses that the trust of EU citizens in the work of the EU's most important bodies is an essential precondition for the development of a democratic European community. The predictability and credibility of the central institutions in the Member States requires those countries to respect the rule of law. In this context highlights the key role of local and regional authorities in strengthening citizenship. Local and regional authorities are the authority closest to citizens and the one that is most trusted.