The EU just signed its Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles - but what is it?

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By Sarah Palmer
Ursula von der Leyen has just signed the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles
Ursula von der Leyen has just signed the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles   -   Copyright  AP Photo

The European Union on Thursday concluded its work on a declaration to enshrine its commitment for a secure, safe and sustainable digital future.

"The Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles", signed by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, is part of what institutions in Brussels have called the bloc's "digital DNA". 

The aim, they say, is to place people at the centre of an increasingly digital world.

"This Declaration makes it crystal clear that the rights we have offline, we also have online," Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, said. 

What will the declaration mean for EU businesses and citizens?

The declaration features six chapters that aim to guide policymakers and companies working in new tech especially, as well as outlining the rights European citizens can expect to have online.

These include:

  • Inclusion through connectivity, digital education, training and skills, fair and just working conditions and access to digital public services;
  • Restating the importance of freedom of choice and a fair digital environment;
  • Fostering participation in the digital public space;
  • Increasing safety, security and empowerment in the digital environment, in particular for young people;
  • Promoting sustainability.

The declaration covers a range of ways in which these values will be implemented from affordable and high-speed connectivity and well-equipped classrooms to providing easily accessible information on the environmental impact of our technology, and on how personal data, how it is used and where it is shared.

"The signature of the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles reflects our shared goal of a digital transformation that puts people first," von der Leyen said. 

“The rights put forward in our Declaration are guaranteed for everybody in the EU, online as they are offline. And the digital principles enshrined in the Declaration will guide us in our work on all new initiatives.”

In March 2021, the Commission laid out its vision for Europe's digital transformation by 2030 in its Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade Communication. A "Path to the Digital Decade", a framework to reach these digital targets, was then unveiled six months later. 

The Declaration of Digital Rights and Principles was meanwhile proposed in January 2022 with the agreement reached between EU countries and the European Parliament last month.