What are the intended priorities of Germany’s Presidency?
Germany will work across the board during its Presidency on strengthening fundamental values and particularly on taking a joint, cooperative and constructive approach to talking about the rule of law.
For instance, the German Government will support the Commission’s plan to start publishing an annual report on the state of the rule of law, both in the European Union as a whole and in its individual member states. This report is to serve as the basis for a political dialogue in which all the member states will have an equal voice.
The Council is to have two recurring debates on this in future: an annual debate on developments in Europe as a whole and a debate every half year on particular country-specific chapters of the report. The goal is an open and constructive dialogue to improve understanding of what things are like in the different member states. This is how dangers can be detected early and mutual support can grow.
Such a dialogue can only work in tandem with other mechanisms. Respect for rule-of-law standards in the Union and in its member states is a basic condition of funds from the EU budget being spent as they should be. Germany therefore supports the Commission’s proposal to tie EU funding to respect for the rule of law in member states.
Wherever serious shortfalls in the rule of law are identified in a member state, the response mechanisms enshrined in the European treaties need to be resolutely deployed. This applies to cases under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union as well as to cases brought before the European Court of Justice.
Germany will continue to advocate for the European Union joining the European Convention on Human Rights. As soon as the pandemic situation allows, accession negotiations with the Council of Europe will resume in earnest.
How can we strengthen freedom and tolerance in the digital age?
Germany will use its Presidency of the Council to work for the democratisation of the internet and the resilience of companies handling online content. We will work to counteract the polarisation of social and political discourse. The COVID‑19 crisis has been another reminder that information based on facts plays a vital role in keeping people safe. Combatting hate crime is also crucial to the social climate.
In the interests of jointly and resolutely opposing all forms of antisemitism, Germany is seeking to improve dialogue at the European level, primarily on strategies and structures for combatting and documenting antisemitic incidents. Resolute action is also to be taken against antigypsyism.
When it comes to communicating European identity, history and values, the arts and the media have a pivotal role to play. Work to safeguard their diversity and freedom will include, for example, continuing the Creative Europe funding programme. Germany intends to investigate how the European Union might further enhance its support for the arts and media sectors, which have been severely affected by the COVID‑19 crisis – not least by implementing the EU Strategy for International Cultural Relations.