For an informed, respectful and democratic debate on the future of Europe: Cycle VI of the Structured Dialogue


Draft Resolution submitted by: Chloé Berthelemy, JEF Europe's Ambassador for Structure Dialogue for PC2

Adopted in Skopje, March 25th, 2018


In June 2017, the Council of the European Union[1] set down the overall thematic priority for the Cycle VI of the Structured Dialogue (SD) as “Youth in Europe: what’s next?”, aimed at contributing to the drafting of the next EU Youth Strategy and the future of Europe debate. Since the beginning of the current Cycle, JEF Europe has contributed to the process on as much as it was permitted. In this resolution, JEF Europe defines its position regarding the thematic priority, focusing specifically on three main axes, namely, the spread of fake news, the rise of anti-EU speech and the democratic reforms which could help young people to understand the EU better.


A.   Acknowledging the European Commission and policy-makers’ dedication to Cycle VI of the EU Structured Dialogue (SD) to feed into the drafting of the renewed EU youth policies.

B.   Having conducted an internal consultation within JEF Europe on the SD thematic priority, notably focusing on elements to help young people to better inform themselves and receive reliable quality information, to better debate and defend their position and to better understand the EU in the context of the debate over the future of Europe, in which they should fully take part as EU citizens;



For an informed debate:

C. Aware of the increasing volume of information flows and of the ever growing number of information distribution channels enabled by fast-evolving digital technologies and media;

D. Aware that this overflow of information allows also for the acceleration of the spread and flourishing of disinformation and dubious reporting;

E. Also noting that young people increasingly use social media platforms to inform themselves and digital media as their main source of news;

F. Taking note that young people in particular are not systematically taught and equipped with the necessary reasoning skills to evaluate all this information despite being digital-savvy and fluent in social media[2];

G. Alarmed by worrying scientific evidence[3] that young people have real difficulties in differentiating false from true information and in distinguishing the trustworthy sources of information from the unreliable ones;

H. Deeply concerned about the great potential harm disinformation can cause to democratic processes and the social fabric as well as undermine our trust in journalism and governance;

I. Expecting a united European response to this challenge considering its scale, its transnational impact and the type of stakeholders involved, notably the large digital multinational companies;

J. Also expecting from the European Commission further research on the impact of disinformation on our societies and possible legislative actions following the publication of the High level expert group on fake news set up in January 2018, while committing to enhanced transparent governance mechanisms, policy processes and better democratic inclusion.


For a respectful debate:

K. Recognising the value of entertaining a respectful debate between people who disagree with each other, especially when it is easy to receive confirmation of one’s own opinion on social media, in one’s local community and in one’s social circles, as polarisation nowadays is geographic, personal and digital;

L. Convinced that reaching a peaceful disagreement serves democracy whereas shrinking of debating spaces and banishing of divergent opinions are detrimental to a healthy public political culture;

M. Stressing the need for our own organisation to embrace that philosophy when talking to Eurosceptics;


For a democratic debate:

N. Underlining the urgency for a reform of the EU institutions to a federal Europe, as it will not only improve European democracy but also inherently change the manner in which institutions interact with European citizens;

O. Expecting that the communication of the federal institutions will be more transparent and more accessible to young people than they currently are;


JEF Europe, therefore

 

1.    Welcomes the opportunity to take part in the drafting of recommendations that will feature in the final resolution adopted by the Council of the EU;

For an informed debate:

2.    Calls for an EU-level ambitious intervention to ensure that media literacy and critical thinking are included in all national curriculums, starting from the earliest levels of schooling, aimed at developing digital citizenship awareness and good personal practices and behaviour for discourse online;

3.    Encourages cooperation between education and training institutions and public and private media and journalists to carry out common projects that develop educational programmes and tools to teach critical media literacy to young students;

4.    Calls upon the European Union to financially support initiatives within the Member States and cross-border cooperation projects that aim to create and disseminate good media literacy practices despite the significant obstacle that the diversity of national education systems represents;

5.    Strongly supports the creation and multiplication of diverse and independent fact-checking entities by civil society, private or public news media, whose role is to identify and mark false information published and circulated online, expose and confront instruments of influence and disinformation and inform citizens about media outlets that spread disinformation and manipulation;

6.    Condemns any attempt to use censorship, to take down online content or to ban online anonymity for the purpose of countering disinformation, bearing in mind the potential abuses it could lead to, the undesirable outsourcing of justice decisions to social media providers and the defined legal limits of free speech;

7.   Requests the EU and its Member States to safeguard and enhance the diversity, plurality, sustainability and independence of European news media, thus ensuring that their reporting is of quality;

8.    Invites the EU and its Member States to tackle the issue of advertising revenue policies of platforms and their link with dissemination of disinformation and to consider increasing public financial support to other forms of journalism, such as investigative journalism, which provides high-quality and well-researched information.


For a respectful debate:

9.    Emphasises the crucial need for quality civic education taught at school including the development of open-minded attitudes, emotional skills such as empathy, debating skills and the teaching of ethics and philosophy, using non-formal education methods like simulation exercises to give the opportunity to step in someone else’s shoes;

10. Encourages civil society organisations and especially pro-European youth organisations to show by example how democratic citizens’ debates can be safeguarded by creating and maintaining open spaces for discussion as well as by providing young people with the necessary skills to receive first and then question conflicting views with reasoned arguments;

11. Recalls the important role of local authorities in setting up open spaces for discussion and in bringing to life local democratic participation;

12. Remains firm in its position against hate speech and any other expression of opinions that do not fall within the limits of free speech, even if stated under the pretext of freedom of expression and democracy;

13. Approves the enforcement of the law against these kinds of illegal content both offline and online;


For a democratic debate:


14. Demands more transparency on how EU decisions are being made, notably by proactively making available up-to-date and relevant information about the different stages of the decision-making process so that citizens can understand and contribute in the EU’s decision-making;

15. Stresses the importance of having strong regulatory measures on lobbying in place to ensure a balanced participation of different interests in decision-making;

16. Requests that all MEPs and all EU civil servants only meet with lobbyists and lobbying organisations registered in the Transparency Register and encourages them to make publicly available their professional agenda;

17. Requests also to have full information on the content of the negotiations during trialogues between the Parliament, the Council and the Commission;

18. Encourages MEPs to inform and exchange directly with young people online;

19. Calls for the EU to simplify the language used for official communications, make the use of existing official social media accounts more efficient and create youth and child-friendly communication content;

20. Invites EU officials to appear more regularly on national media channels while national media should increase their coverage of EU news and embrace their mission of popularisation of EU affairs;

21. Calls for a unified and official European media in order to build and foster a European public sphere;

22. Sees in new democratic forms of participation like direct democracy or participatory democracy a chance to tackle distrust and lack of transparency of decisions taken at EU-level;


 You can download the resolution "For an informed, respectful and democratic debate on the future of Europe: Cycle VI of the Structured Dialogue"

 

 

 


[1] Council Resolution, ‘Council Resolution on the Structured Dialogue and the future development of the dialogue with young people in the context of policies for European cooperation in the youth field, post 2018’, June 2017 http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.C_.2017.189.01.0001.01.ENG&toc=OJ:C:2017:189:TOC

[2] Evaluating information: the cornerstone of civic online reasoning’, Stanford History Education Group, 2016.

[3]Evaluating information: the cornerstone of civic online reasoning’, Stanford History Education Group, 2016.

‘Fake news and critical literacy’, National Literacy Trust research report, 2017