We’re glad to see you made it to the other side of 2023. It was quite a year!
Turning towards 2024, we’re just a few weeks in and change is already in the air. Here at Liberties, we anticipate that democracy will face a period of transition in the coming 12 months. Heralded as the biggest global election year in history, it is predicted that half the world’s population will vote in elections. The outcome of elections in over fifty countries is expected to shape democracy in ways that will have lasting consequences.
As usual, Liberties promises to keep you updated about our efforts to protect democracy and human rights within the EU. Our newsletters will help you make sense of EU political developments, so you can make up your own mind.
Farewells and new faces
Before we dive into what’s happening on the EU stage, we’ll start in-house.
Liberties wishes heartfelt congratulations to Linda Ravo who is leaving her role as Senior Advocacy Consultant to take up a new position with the United Nations. Following her almost 4 years at Liberties, Linda leaves an impressive legacy of work behind her. Linda was the mastermind behind our annual Rule of Law reports since 2020 and also the advocacy lead on our SLAPP and civic space advocacy work. We will miss you dearly!
To take up her mantle, Liberties welcomes two new colleagues to the team. Kersty Mccourt will join us as senior advocacy expert on civic space, litigation and lead our Charter Training series. Kersty is a human rights lawyer with over 18 years’ experience working for civil society organisations and national human rights institutions, including more than a decade in Brussels for the Open Society Justice Initiative – always with a focus on access to justice and civic space.
Liberties welcomes two new colleagues to the team
Kersty Mccourt will join us as senior advocacy expert on civic space, litigation and lead our Charter Training series. Kersty is a human rights lawyer with over 18 years’ experience working for civil society organisations and national human rights institutions, including more than a decade in Brussels for the Open Society Justice Initiative – always with a focus on access to justice and civic space.
Viktor Kazai will take up the role of rule of law expert working on our Rule of Law Report 2024. Viktor is a constitutional lawyer and postdoctoral researcher at Université libre de Bruxelles who has experience in several international projects focusing on the challenges to constitutional democracy in the EU. Viktor is the author of several academic publications with significant experience also in editing, teaching, and science communication.
We’re delighted to bring both Kersty and Viktor on board. In other news, some internal reshuffling has seen Liberties’ Jonathan Day bid adieu to the Communications Team and move across the hall in his new role as Advocacy Officer. We are also warmly welcoming seven new interns to the team, who will learn the ropes of advocacy and research. Check out our website to meet the whole team.
Some good news to start the year
Liberties has had an auspicious start to the year in more ways than one.
We are pleased to announce that we have been awarded the EU CERV Action Grant for our project to help civil society organisations in Sweden, Croatia, Italy and Hungary to build public support. Using evidence based research and audience tested messages tailored to their country, we will train selected organisations how to communicate effectively with the public. Thank you to the EU for trusting us, we’re excited to get started.
Liberties also had the huge honour of being selected as one of the civil society beneficiaries of Proton’s Lifetime Account 2023 Fundraiser. Aimed at supporting movers and shakers fighting for online privacy and freedom of expression, we find ourselves rubbing shoulders with the likes of Bellingcat, Tactical Tech and Freedom of the Press Foundation. Many thanks to the Proton community for nominating us, we will use the funds to ensure fundamental rights are respected online.
On the agenda over the coming months…
After taking a few weeks off for the holiday break, Liberties is back in the swing of things. Here’s a sneak peek preview of some of our projects in the pipeline, which will be released over the coming months.
Make the internet safe again: First up is a paper on the enforcement of the Digital Services Act that we’ve been working on together with European Partnership for Democracy. It breaks new ground by providing a structured approach to identify risks to civic discourse and elections on very large online platforms, as well as recommendations to the European Commission to tackle these threats. This will be our first release of the year, so keep an eye on your inbox later this month.
Liberties’ Rule of Law Report turns five: For us at Liberties, the first quarter of the year is synonymous with the rule of law. Preparations are already well under way for our rule of law report, which will take stock of how EU governments fared upholding the rule of law during 2023. This is our fifth rule of law report, which we produce annually in collaboration with our members. Boy, don’t they grow up fast?
How’s Your News? We’ve all become a bit wary about where we get our news these days, and with good reason. Liberties’ annual Media Freedom Report takes a health check of media freedom and pluralism in the EU, and our past reports show it is in dire need of resuscitation. Will 2023 show an improvement, or has media freedom in Europe flatlined? Stay tuned for our Media Freedom Report 2024 due later this year.
The new year will also see Liberties’ advocacy work throughout 2023 come to fruition as the AI Act, the European Media Freedom Act and the Anti-SLAPPs Directive are expected to be formally adopted by the EU Parliament and Council following political agreement.
Winds of change blow through Brussels
Now let’s have a look at the big picture and turn to the EU stage, where an institutional shake up is on the cards. European parliamentary elections are due to take place in June, a new cohort of EU Commissioners will be appointed shortly thereafter, and the EU’s top jobs are also up for grabs.
Charles’ Michel has already ruffled feathers by throwing his hat in the ring to seek election as an MEP. Assuming he’s successful, this will see him leave his current position of European Council President prematurely.
What happens next is unclear, as Michel’s move plunges the EU into unchartered waters. His departure will coincide with Hungary’s term of the EU’s rotating presidency and some have voiced their concern that the Council Presidency will default to Viktor Orbán. Unflappable diplomats are confident there is plenty of time to find an interim leader before summer.
The prospect of a bumpy transition as Europe inches closer to the right
In an election already fraught with predictions that Euroskeptics are set to make significant gains, Michel’s announcement makes the prospect of a transition even more fragile and complex.
This falls in line with general electoral trends. In recent years Europe has reckoned with numerous destabilizing events and the spiralling cost of living has fed a deepening sense of disillusionment with the political establishment. Far-right parties are seeking to capitalise on the desire for change by promising to overhaul the current status quo. Sensing the public’s dissatisfaction, mainstream parties are beginning to mimic some of their more radical policies.
Throughout the year and in the lead up to Parliamentary elections in June, Liberties will follow these developments closely to see what they could mean for human rights in the EU. We’ll bring the latest news directly to your inbox.
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