Macron commits to defending rule of law, media freedom in Europe

The head of state said that these are currently “being challenged in several EU Member States” in a veiled reference to countries such as Poland and Hungary. [EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON]

Defending the rule of law will be one of the major challenges when France takes over the rotating EU Council presidency in January, said President Emmanuel Macron.

He was invited by the European Committee of Regions (CoR) to debate democracy and European values Wednesday evening and recalled that this requires “an independent and impartial judiciary, uncorrupted powers and a free and pluralistic media”.

The head of state said that these are currently “being challenged in several EU Member States” in a veiled reference to countries such as Poland and Hungary.

President of the CoR, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, said, “we can’t have democracy without security” and noted Europe’s role in dealing with it.

“We are now witnessing an upsurge in violence, of which local elected representatives are sometimes the victims,” he stressed. “Europe must provide a response that guarantees the future of our democratic model,” he added. 

Responding to these concerns, the French president acknowledged that democracy and the rule of law “can never be taken for granted” and promised members of the CoR that they could “count on the determination” of the French government to defend them when they assume Council presidency.

It was an “existential struggle” to make sure that European rules and democratic checks and balances were respected, Macron added.

Another major challenge would be to “protect our democracy against all forms of manipulation”, he said. In particular, misinformation and cyber threats are “a spectre used by the enemies of Europe and liberal democracy”, he added.

Faced with these threats, the president acknowledged that “we must act to better defend our journalists”, as well as better regulate the financing of political parties and online political advertising.

Macron also stressed the importance of protecting independent media, which would be fundamental to the “vitality” of democracy.

“Editorial lines cannot be dictated by funding,” he said, promising “strong initiatives” for media freedom in 2022. 

(Magdalena Pistorius | EURACTIV.fr)

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