Today the European Parliament in Strasbourg backed a report by ALDE MEP Marietje Schaake (D66,Netherlands) calling for an ambitious strategy to prioritize digital freedom in EU Foreign Policy. The struggle for human rights has a growing technological component, and therefore digital freedoms should be considered fundamental rights. They are an indispensable element of human rights as they are a modern-day vehicle for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
"Prisons are increasingly populated by dissidents confronted with their own internet and mobile communications, compromised by the authorities. The EU must take the lead in promoting and protecting digital freedoms. Apart from being the world’s largest trade block the EU is also a community of values, which should also be the core of all our external actions. The European Commission is working on a Cyber security plan, which this Parliament is eagerly awaiting, but let us ensure there is no zero sum game between the cyber security and digital freedoms. "
Schaake's report "on A Digital Freedom Strategy in EU Foreign Policy" includes many concrete measures. EU trade agreements, development and aid programs, accession negotiations and human rights dialogues should include conditionality clauses preserving unrestricted access to the Internet and ensuring the free flow of information. Digital collection of evidence and proliferation of images of human rights violations should be admissible under international (criminal) law as evidence in court proceedings. The EU should stop the export of dual-use items and technologies that are used as tools of repression through (mass) censorship, (mass) surveillance, tracing and tracking of human rights defenders, journalists, activists and dissidents.
Marietje Schaake points out that the technological developments have a revolutionary impact on the lives of people all over the world. Several EU Member States have already identified access to internet as a fundamental right, the European Commission agrees digital freedoms are an integral part of the Copenhagen criteria.
She continued "The EU should take the lead in globally promoting and protecting digital freedoms by creating synergies between our trade, security and foreign policies, by aligning our values and interests. We need to do justice to the new reality that technological developments create, and update our laws and regulations to mainstream digital freedom. "