Policy Monitor

European Union – European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles for the Digital Decade

The European Commission, European Council and European Parliament jointly signed the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles for the Digital Decade on 15 December 2022. The declaration sets out policy intentions for citizens, businesses, public administrations and policymakers. The principles included in the declaration are meant to be fundamental concepts, based on common European values. They serve to guide (the transformation towards) a human-centred, secure, inclusive and open digital environment where no one is left to his/her own devices.

What: Policy-oriented document

Impact score: 4 - declaration of principles

For who: citizens, public sector organisations, policymakers, businesses and sector organisations

URL: https://digital-strategy.ec.eu...

Short overview of the principles: https://www.consilium.europa.e...

Key takeaways for Flanders

The declaration is relevant to Flanders because it puts forward a number of principles and commitments that are important in the digital transformation of society. Thus, the declaration can serve as a reference for both public and private actors in Flanders when developing and applying new digital technologies or projects. In addition, the declaration should also guide policymakers in a concerted effort to define the European path towards a sustainable, people-centred and inclusive digital world, and to firmly anchor EU policy interventions towards Europe's digital transformation.


In 2021, the European Commission presented a vision and strategy for Europe's digital transformation up to 2030. This 'compass' for the digital decade revolves around four main points: digital skills, digital transformation of businesses, secure and sustainable digital infrastructure and digitisation of public services. The Commission aims to realise these EU digital ambitions for 2030 in a concrete way. It will do so using targets and expected pathways, as well as by developing a shared governance framework to monitor progress and address shortcomings. This vision assumes confident citizens and innovative businesses in a people-centred, inclusive, prosperous and sustainable digital society. Against this background, the European Commission proposes to adopt a set of principles and rights to guide this sustainable, people-centred and values-based digital transformation.

The declaration proposes a number of digital principles that (should) serve all Europeans, notably:

  • Putting people at the centre of the digital transformation;
  • Solidarity and inclusion;
  • Freedom of choice;
  • Participation in the digital public space;
  • Safety, security and empowerment;
  • Sustainability.

The purpose of these principles is to ensure that the EU's values and the rights and freedoms of individuals are respected both offline and online.

Besides a general description of each principle, the declaration also sets out a number of explicit commitments. For each principle, we highlight a few.

Putting people at the centre of the digital transformation

The institutions commit to e.g. taking necessary measures to ensure that the values of the EU and the rights of individuals are respected online as well as offline; and fostering and ensuring responsible and diligent action by all actors, public and private, in the digital environment.

Solidarity and inclusion

Commitments relating to the general principle relate to:

  • ensuring that the design, development, deployment and use of technological solutions respect fundamental rights, enable their exercise and promote solidarity and inclusion, and
  • ensuring a digital transformation that leaves nobody behind and which should benefit everyone, while also promoting cultural and linguistic diversity.

Furthermore, this principle is divided in four sub-topics: "Connectivity", "Digital education, training and skills", "Fair and just working conditions" and "Digital public services online".


This includes the commitment to ensure net neutrality and high-quality connectivity for everyone wherever in the EU.

"Digital education, training and skills"

This includes commitments to promote high-quality digital education and training and giving everyone the possibility to adjust to changes brought by the digitalisation of work through up-skilling and re-skilling.

"Fair and just working conditions"

This includes a commitment to ensure that everyone is able to disconnect and various commitments regarding the use of technology in the workplace (with some specific references to AI).

"Digital public services online"

This includes commitments to ensure the possibility for citizens to use a digital identity and facilitate access across the EU to digital public services, including electronic health records.

Freedom of choice

This principle has two sub-topics: "Interactions with algorithms and artificial intelligence systems" and "A fair digital environment"

"Interactions with algorithms and artificial intelligence systems"

Under this header, it is stressed that AI should serve as a tool for people and that everyone should be empowered to benefit from the advantages of algorithmic and AI systems. In that regard, it states a variety of principles that echo the requirements included the AI Act, but which haven't been made explicit in that context. Therefore, this is a welcome addition to the EU AI-framework. Moreover, it also stated that research in AI should respect the highest ethical standards and relevant EU law, which wasn't included in the AI Act so far.

"A fair digital environment"

Commitments are made regarding (i) ensuring fair competition in the digital environment, consumer protection and platform responsibility (as further substantiated in the Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act) and (ii) promoting interoperability, transparency, open technologies and standards (as further substantiated in e.g. the upcoming Data Act).

Participation in the digital public space

In relation to this principle, commitments are made vis-a-vis e.g. safeguarding all fundamental rights online, tackling illegal content online, countering online disinformation and limiting the use of targeted advertising. Some of these commitments have already been included in e.g. the Digital Services Act.

Safety, security and empowerment

This principle is further concretised in three sub-topics: "A protected, safe and secure digital environment", "Privacy and individual control over data" and "Protection and empowerment of children and young people in the digital environment"

"A protected, safe and secure digital environment"

Under this header commitments are made regarding the promotion of the traceability of products and cybersecurity requirements (cfr. Cybersecurity Act)

"Privacy and individual control over data"

Under this header commitments are made that mirror GDPR and ePrivacy-requirements. Interestingly, as a principle it is stated that "everyone should be able to determine their digital legacy, and decide what happens with their personal accounts and information that concerns them after their death" but this is not backed up by an explicit commitment, although this is one of the shortcomings of the GDPR.

"Protection and empowerment of children and young people in the digital environment"

The declaration includes commitments regarding (i) providing opportunities to minors to allow them to acquire the necessary skills and competences, including media literacy and critical thinking, but also (ii) to involve children and young people in the development of digital policies that concern them


The commitments under this header focus on the one hand on promoting the development and use of sustainable digital technology, and, on the other hand incentivising sustainable consumer behaviour.