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A new website enables the promise of stronger European rights

flagsBy Simon Davies

In less than three months Europe will undertake one of its most interesting – and potentially destabilising – elections in its recent history. Many analysts are predicting an outcome in which political extremes become more prominent and Euro-scepticism becomes a core political driver.

Screen-Shot-2014-02-11-at-15.54.49-300x256The election comes at a critically important moment for fundamental rights. With the economies of several countries in turmoil, a backslide on the protection of rights in others and the paralysis of Europe-wide initiatives such as data protection reform, the outcome of these elections could trigger a negative shift in emphasis on the protection of rights.

The next five years will be important for online digital rights, with legislation expected on copyright, cybercrime, data protection and surveillance as well as resolution of key international agreements.

In response, the EU-wide member organisation European Digital Rights (EDRi) has launched a strategically important site called “We Promise” that aims to motivate both voters and candidates to make a commitment of support for those rights.

the campaign is a chance to move voters from being spectators in the run-up to the election, to actively setting the agenda.

The site sets out a charter of ten principles that identify specific elements of civil liberties. Ingeniously, the aim of the initiative is to create a double-lock; binding voters to a commitment to support candidates that embrace these rights, and then publicly binding candidates to the protection of rights. The site publishes the names of these candidates so voters know precisely who to support.

45 candidates from ten member states have currently signed up to the charter. This figure may rise steeply in the days ahead as both the leader of the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament and the parliamentarian in charge of digital policy in the German Parliament recently called on Socialist candidates to support the initiative.

EDRi’s Executive Director, Joe McNamee says the campaign is a chance to move voters from being spectators in the run-up to the election, to actively setting the agenda.

“It is about empowerment and grabbing the democratic potential of the information age.”

The promises listed in the charter cover many of the key rights, including transparency, privacy, access, copyright, surveillance, anonymity, the rule of law, export controls, governance and free software.