On 23 February 2021, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, took part in the European Union’s General Affairs Council in a video-conference format.
During the meeting, views were exchanged on the European Democracy Action Plan designed to strengthen the resilience of the EU and its Member States in the face of challenges to democracy: protecting the integrity of elections and promoting democratic participation; strengthening media freedom and media pluralism; and countering disinformation.
We highly welcome the action plan, in which many of the positions voiced by Latvia have been taken into account, for instance, strengthening a voluntary mutual commitment by the largest online platforms to fighting disinformation online, promoting transparency of political advertising and reinforcing the strategic communication groups of the European External Action Service, said the Parliamentary Secretary, adding that the plan is a good basis for further EU action.
“Latvia supports the Action Plan’s pillars aimed at protecting elections and strengthening media pluralism. At the same time, the speed and scale of the spread of the COVID-related disinformation make it clear that the EU should also strongly focus on the anti-disinformation pillar of the Plan,” Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica pointed out.
The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned the lack of algorithmic transparency as a major problem. The users should be able to better understand the impact of ranking and recommender algorithms on the public debate and the risks that the manipulation of the data presents, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica warned.
The Parliamentary Secretary also voiced support for the revision of the legal framework on the statute and funding of European political parties and foundations: “It is indispensable to ban indirect funding from abroad in order to strengthen European democracy and ensure greater transparency. We should achieve this before the 2024 European elections.”
At the meeting, the Member States assessed the state of play of EU-UK relations and the application of the agreements that have been signed. In the context of the different fees for work visas set by the United Kingdom for citizens of certain EU Member States, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica asserted: “We also underline the principles of equal attitude and non-discrimination of EU citizens. The issue of the different work visa fees should be raised with the UK at the meeting of the Partnership Council.”
In a discussion on the Conference on the Future of Europe, the Parliamentary Secretary underlined the need to agree on the management of the Conference so that the activities and events of the Conference could start as soon as possible.
Representatives from Member States continued preparations for the informal video conference of Members of the European Council on 25-26 February 2021, focusing in particular on response to the COVID-19 pandemic, resilience of the EU’s health sector, as well as security, defence and external affairs.
The meetings of the General Affairs Council are held once a month and in the first half of 2021 they are chaired by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU.
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