Reclaiming the European Public Space: A call for a trustworthy information sphere

On June 27, 2024, an impactful event titled “Reclaim the European Public Space” was hosted by MEP Dr. Christian Ehler (EPP) and his team, along with the Council for a European Public Space (CfEPS), at the European Parliament. Over 30 attendees, including MEPs from EPP, S&D and the Greens, European Commission representatives, journalists, and NGO members, gathered to discuss the urgent need for a reliable European information infrastructure. The event marked the start of a new cross-party initiative in the European Parliament aimed at building the infrastructure for a trustworthy European information sphere.

The need for action

Dr. Ehler opened the event by highlighting the dual challenges facing the European public sphere: the proliferation of fake news and disinformation, and the dominance of information control by a few major platforms from the US and China. He proposed the creation of a European TV and Video News Platform, financed by EU institutions and operated independently, to provide all Europeans with access to trustworthy news in their national languages. The platform would provide access to existing serious news, ensuring independence from state influence and adherence to European values and laws. 

Diverse perspectives and shared goals

Following Dr. Ehler, MEP Kim van Sparrentak (Greens) emphasized the importance of European digital sovereignty, while Gerard Oosterwijk from FEPS discussed the theoretical potential for digital technology to enhance social interaction, he underscored that realizing this potential requires collective effort and action.
Matthias Pfeffer, founder of CfEPS, presented the project in detail, advocating for an intergroup in the European Parliament dedicated to public news infrastructure and outlining a 10-point plan to bridge the European public divide. The event also featured the presentation of the EU Commission-funded project Display Europe, a decentralized media platform involving around 30 media outlets from over 10 countries, translating content into 15 languages.

Engaging discussions and future steps

A dynamic exchange followed, with contributions from various participants. MEP Hannes Heide (S&D) underscored the timeliness of creating a European alternative platform and stressed the need to engage with young people about their information sources. Karen Melchior (Renew) highlighted the importance of alternative models for content creators, while Danielle Turkov Wilson of Think-Film emphasized that the responsibility of making the right decisions should not rest on the shoulders of content creators but should be addressed through regulation.
Andre Wilkens, Director of the European Cultural Foundation, questioned what is necessary to foster a safe public sphere, calling for creativity to match contemporary challenges. While Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield (Greens) and Renate Schröder, Director of the European Federation of Journalists, emphasized fair pay for journalists and the importance of considering context and cultural background in translating journalistic content. Slawek Blich from Display Europe added the need to incorporate factors like trust and diversity representation in the planned platform.

A united effort

In his closing remarks, Dr. Ehler reiterated, “It will only succeed if we work together.” The event concluded with initial support from Kim van Sparrentak and Hannes Heide for a bipartisan initiative to build a trustworthy European information sphere. This marked the initial steps of a new cross-party effort to reclaim the European public space, aiming to ensure it serves the needs and values of all Europeans.

Moving forward

The “Reclaim the European Public Space” event was not just a presentation and discussion but the launchpad for tangible action towards a reliable, independent, and inclusive European information sphere. As Europe faces the challenges of the digital age, collective and strategic efforts like these are crucial in shaping a public space that upholds democratic values and promotes a well-informed citizenry.

Supported by grants from the European Cultural Foundation.

The Council for European Public Space is registered in the Transparency Register of the European Commission.