Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on the Digital Agenda for Europe
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 29 September 2010
at the 1094th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
1. Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention” – ETS No. 5) provides that the State parties shall “secure to everyone within their jurisdiction” the rights and freedoms protected by the Convention. Council of Europe standards and values apply to both offline and online environments.1
2. Guaranteeing all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the online environment, including the right to respect for private life, the right to freedom of religion, the right to freedom of expression, the prohibition of discrimination, the protection of human dignity, the right to freedom of assembly and association, the right to the protection of property, the right to education and ensuring the openness and security of the Internet, are prerequisites for ensuring peoples’ full participation in online social and economic activities and for the effective exercise of democratic citizenship. The value of quality content, in particular that provided by professional media, should be underlined in this context.
3. Growing numbers of people rely on the Internet and information and communication technologies (ICTs) as essential tools for their everyday activities (communication, information, knowledge, commercial transactions). People therefore expect the Internet and the ICT infrastructure and services to be accessible, affordable, secure, reliable and ongoing. Consequently, the Internet and other ICTs have high public service value.2
4. The Council of Europe ministers responsible for media and new communication services agreed to continue to develop the notion of the public service value of the Internet and, in that context, to explore, inter alia, the extent to which universal access to the Internet should be developed as part of member states’ provision of public services.3
5. The ministers responsible for information society policy of the European Union member states and the European Economic Area agreed on the Granada Ministerial Declaration on the European Digital Agenda4 (Granada Ministerial Declaration). Subsequently, in the framework of its communication “A Digital Agenda for Europe”, the European Commission mapped out a number of action lines to boost the economic activity and deliver economic and social benefits to European citizens in the online environment.5
6. The Granada Ministerial Declaration and the Digital Agenda for Europe promote the public service value of the Internet by reaffirming and supporting related policy objectives. They set important benchmarks for its delivery to all citizens and seek also to bolster the digital economy for the benefit of both citizens and businesses alike, paving the way for the creation of a single market for online content and products in European Union member states. These texts also promote ICT research and innovation strategies in the provision of public services and in addressing education, environmental, energy, health and demographic challenges.
7. Emphasis is also placed on users as active participants in, and competent contributors to, the development of the digital society and innovation. Considerable importance is attached to empowering users to fully exploit the economic, social and cultural opportunities and benefits offered by the Internet and ICTs.
8. The Granada Ministerial Declaration and the Digital Agenda for Europe suggest developing further the creation, production and dissemination of creative content, including that of a cultural and journalistic nature in the online environment. In this respect, they signal, inter alia, the need to embrace innovative intellectual property-related business models. Furthermore, they confirm the relevance of public policies on the digitisation and dissemination of European cultural heritage for the promotion of the fundamental values of pluralism and of cultural and linguistic diversity.
9. A number of Council of Europe instruments on the protection and exercise of rights and fundamental freedoms on the Internet share the vision and the objectives of the action lines of the above-mentioned Granada Ministerial Declaration and the Digital Agenda for Europe. The commonality of goals pursued by the Council of Europe and the European Union on public policy issues related to Internet governance is also highlighted in the framework of the pan-European dialogue on Internet governance (EuroDIG), which the Council of Europe strongly supports.
10. The follow-up to Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)16 to member states on measures to promote the public service value of the Internet is an important objective for Council of Europe member states. The member states’ ministers responsible for media and new communication services have agreed to pursue co-operation on media and new communication services fields with a view to providing common responses to developments regarding the media and the provision of media-like services, in particular as regards the respect for freedom of expression and information, the right to private life and the dignity of human beings. They also agreed to explore a broader legal response to the need to protect the cross-border flow of media and media-like content and, more generally, Internet traffic.6
11. The Committee of Ministers therefore:
- welcomes the Granada Ministerial Declaration and the Digital Agenda for Europe, as well as the elaboration of policy initiatives aimed at implementing their forward-looking action lines;
- emphasises that the Council of Europe values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law are essential in the building of an inclusive and open pan-European digital society and declares that the Council of Europe will contribute to achieving this objective in the context of its work;
- encourages Council of Europe member states generally to promote the objectives of the Digital Agenda for Europe in their respective domestic activities as a means for promoting the public service value of the Internet and ICTs;
- invites the European Union to co-operate with the Council of Europe in this field.
1 Resolution “Internet governance and critical Internet resources”, adopted at the 1st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and New Communication Services (Reykjavik, Iceland, 28-29 May 2009).
2 Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)16 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to promote the public service value of the Internet.
3 Political Declaration and Action Plan adopted at the 1st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and New Communication Services (Reykjavik, Iceland, 28-29 May 2009).
4 The Granada Ministerial Declaration on the European Digital Agenda was agreed on the occasion of the Informal Ministerial Meeting in Granada, Spain, 18 and 19 April 2010.
5 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions: “A Digital Agenda for Europe”, COM(2010)245.
6 Political Declaration, Action Plan and Resolution “Critical Internet Resources and Internet Governance”, adopted at the 1st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and New Communication Services (Reykjavik, Iceland, 28-29 May 2009).