Along with the European Parliament and the Council, the European Commission presented a draft joint declaration on digital rights and principles for the digital decade on 26 January.

VS – 02/2022

The draft joint declaration aims to lay down a guideline for a people-centric, safe, inclusive, and open digital environment, where no one is left behind. This is to ensure that the values of the European Union and the personal rights and freedoms of individuals, as recognised in Union law, are respected and enforced not only offline but also online.

Central rights and principles for the digital transformation

The draft declaration addresses the key rights and principles for the digital transformation in six chapters:

(1) People at the centre of digital transformation

According to this, digitisation should serve all Europeans and safeguard the values of the European Union as well as the personal rights of individuals. It also aims to actively realize this vision of digital transformation in international relations.

(2) Solidarity and inclusion

Everyone should have access to technology. The digital transformation should help to unite the people of Europe rather than divide them.

(3) Freedom of choice

This includes dealing with artificial intelligence algorithms and systems. The rule is that individuals' decisions must not be predetermined by digital technology. Transparency and information obligations are specified for this purpose.

(4) Participation in the public digital sphere

Accordingly, digital technology should promote democratic participation. Basic human rights and, in particular, freedom of speech and information must also be upheld in the online environment.

(5) Safety, security and empowerment

The right to the protection of personal data in the online environment applies to each person. In particular, the protection of children and young people in the online world must be ensured. It also aims to empower them to make safe and informed decisions in the online environment.

(6) Sustainability

The negative environmental and social impacts of digital products and services should be minimised.

The central rights and principles are to become the global standard

The European Commission's Notice 'A European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles for the Digital Decade' explains the purpose and mission of the draft declaration. Thus, the promotion and implementation of the principles outlined are to be understood as a joint political commitment and responsibility of the European Union and its Member States within their respective competences. The express aim is to create a global standard for rights and principles in digitisation with a joint declaration.

Given the political nature of the declaration, not all of its principles correspond to directly enforceable rights. Some have already been anchored in legislation, while others may require further action at the appropriate level. It is emphasised that the draft is to be basically understood in the context of the legal acts and instruments of the EU and leaves them untouched.

Annual monitoring to ensure implementation of core rights and principles

To ensure that the declaration has a concrete impact on the ground, the European Commission proposes to monitor progress, assess gaps, and make recommendations for action as part of an annual report on the state of the Digital Decade.

What's next:

The European Commission's proposal for a European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles for the Digital Decade is being discussed by the European Parliament and the Council. The European Commission is aiming for approval by the summer of 2022.