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EU leader calls on voters to help defend academic freedom

Image: European Parliament [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

European Parliament president warns of increasing threats to academia and democracy in Europe

The president of the European Parliament has called on EU voters to defend academic freedom and democracy more broadly in casting votes in the European elections later this week.

Roberta Metsola (pictured) made her call in a statement focused on not taking democracy and Europe for granted, which was published on 31 May by the Coimbra Group of long-established multidisciplinary European universities.

She warned EU citizens of the “urgent” need to protect European values including academic freedom, adding that the threat to them has been accelerated by digitisation.

Threats to European democracy and values include disinformation, cyberattacks and hacks from those who champion autocracy, she said.

“While academic oppression is nothing new, what has evolved are the methods by which academic freedom and institutional autonomy are being curtailed in a globalised digital world. This problem does not solely occur in autocracies. It is a broader problem of manipulating knowledge,” Metsola said.

‘Don’t take the EU for granted’

She urged people to use their vote to defend against these dangers in the elections to the Parliament taking place on 6-9 June.

“I believe that every citizen in the EU can play a part in shaping the future of Europe. We each have a voice…and Europe is worth speaking up for. That is why I call on all Europeans not to take Europe and democracy for granted. I call on all of you to vote,” she said.

She added that she was proud of the Parliament for its work to protect academic freedom, and stressed that the EU more broadly is working in the same direction, including via its 2022 Strategy for Universities. This includes “many new actions to push for European academic distinction while also standing for European principals of democracy and freedom”, she said.

Such actions include initiatives to enable cross-border education and encourage mobility for students and staff, as well as ones to protect academic freedom, she said.