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2021/2036(INI) Strengthening Democracy and Media Freedom and Pluralism in the EU: the undue use of actions under civil and criminal law to silence journalists, NGOs and civil society

Progress: Procedure completed

RoleCommitteeRapporteurShadows
Joint Responsible Committee ['JURI', 'LIBE'] METSOLA Roberta (icon: EPP EPP), WÖLKEN Tiemo (icon: S&D S&D) ADAMOWICZ Magdalena (icon: EPP EPP), KOHUT Łukasz (icon: S&D S&D), TOOM Yana (icon: Renew Renew), RIBA I GINER Diana (icon: Verts/ALE Verts/ALE), TOUSSAINT Marie (icon: Verts/ALE Verts/ALE), FEST Nicolaus (icon: ID ID), DZHAMBAZKI Angel (icon: ECR ECR), AUBRY Manon (icon: GUE/NGL GUE/NGL), DALY Clare (icon: GUE/NGL GUE/NGL)
Committee Opinion CULT FOURLAS Loucas (icon: EPP EPP) Irena JOVEVA (icon: RE RE), Niyazi KIZILYÜREK (icon: GUE/NGL GUE/NGL), Diana RIBA I GINER (icon: Verts/ALE Verts/ALE), Predrag Fred MATIĆ (icon: S&D S&D), Elżbieta KRUK (icon: ECR ECR)
Lead committee dossier:
Legal Basis:
RoP 54, RoP 57, RoP 58

Events

2021/11/11
   EP - Decision by Parliament
Details

The European Parliament adopted by 444 votes to 48, with 75 abstentions, a resolution on strengthening democracy and media freedom and pluralism in the EU: the undue use of actions under civil and criminal law to silence journalists, NGOs and civil society.

Violations of fundamental rights

In recent years, journalists and media actors in Europe and abroad are increasingly being threatened, physically attacked and assassinated because of their work, particularly when it focuses on the misuse of power, corruption, fundamental rights violations and criminal activities.

Recalling that independent impartial, professional and responsible journalism as well as access to pluralistic information are key pillars of democracy, Members highlighted that SLAPPs are vexatious, a direct attack on the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms and aim to silence the diversity of critical public thought and opinion, including through journalistic self-censorship. They consider that SLAPPs are particularly worrying if they are funded directly or indirectly from state budgets and are combined with other indirect and direct state measures against independent media outlets, independent journalism and civil society.

Effects on justice systems

The resolution stressed that safeguards against SLAPP lawsuits are essential to counter the threat that this abusive practice poses to the implementation of EU law and policies. SLAPPs not only severely undermine the right of effective access to justice of SLAPP victims, and thereby the rule of law, but also constitute a misuse of Member States’ justice systems and legal frameworks.

Members also stressed the importance of adopting common European standards and a coordinated approach to dealing with hate speech , especially in the online environment, as women journalists are more often victims of sexual violence and harassment.

Current situation in the EU

Litigants that resort to SLAPPs mostly use and abuse criminal defamation laws, civil lawsuits for libel, protection of one’s reputation or intellectual property rights such as copyright. An imbalance of power between the claimant and the defendant, particularly in terms of financial resources, and unpredictably large damages award claims in matters such as libel are common features of SLAPPs.

Members pointed out that all Member States lack legislation on minimum safeguards which protect people from becoming SLAPP targets and ensure that their fundamental rights are upheld in all Member State jurisdictions. The Commission and the Member States are invited to ensure transparency of media ownership and to develop an ambitious, robust and complete legal framework in its future ‘Media Freedom Act’.

The Commission is invited to analyse anti-SLAPP best practices which currently exist in some US states, Canada and Australia, which could be a source of inspiration for EU-wide measures.

Need for legislative action

Members agreed with numerous civil society organisations academics, legal practitioners and victims who point to the need for legislative action against the growing problem of SLAPPs.

The Commission is called on to present proposals for:

- binding Union legislation on common and effective safeguards for victims of SLAPPs across the Union, including through a directive establishing minimum standards for protection against SLAPPs respecting rights and principles enshrined in the Charter;

- legislative measures to protect public participation, to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market by allowing corruption and other abusive practices to be exposed;

- measures to address SLAPP cases such as rules for the early dismissal of SLAPPs and other court actions that have the purpose of preventing public participation, which should include appropriate sanctions such as civil penalties or administrative fines, consideration of abusive motives even if the lawsuit or action is not dismissed, costs and damages suffered by the victim (economic, reputational, psychological or otherwise).

The Commission is also called on to raise awareness among judges and prosecutors across the EU about SLAPPs.

Possible soft law measures

Members underlined the urgent need for a robust fund for supporting victims of SLAPPs and organisations supporting them provided the funds are directly used for legal fees or the provision of legal aid and psychological support.

Complementarity with other instruments and policies

Parliament considered that the new anti-SLAPP legislative and non-legislative measures should complement other EU instruments and policies. Union level measures to combat SLAPPs should be complementary and consistent with other available tools, such as the mechanism for the protection of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, policies on combating corruption, and current financial programmes to support civil society and justice systems

Documents
2021/11/10
   EP - Debate in Parliament
2021/10/27
   EP - Committee report tabled for plenary
Details

The Committee on Legal Affairs and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs adopted the report by Roberta METSOLA (EPP, MT) and Tiemo WÖLKEN (S&D, DE) on strengthening democracy and media freedom and pluralism in the EU: the undue use of actions under civil and criminal law to silence journalists, NGOs and civil society.

Members highlighted that SLAPPs are vexatious, a direct attack on the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms and aim to silence the diversity of critical public thought and opinion, including through journalistic self-censorship. They consider that SLAPPs are particularly worrying if they are funded directly or indirectly from state budgets and are combined with other indirect and direct state measures against independent media outlets, independent journalism and civil society.

Current situation in the EU

The report stressed that SLAPPs are often meritless, frivolous or based on exaggerated and often abusive claims. They put psychological pressure on or consume the financial resources of those they target with the ultimate objective of blackmailing and forcing them into silence through the judicial procedure itself. Members stated that all Members States lack legislation on minimum safeguards which protect people from becoming SLAPP targets and ensure that their fundamental rights are upheld in all Member State jurisdictions. The Commission and Member States are invited to develop an ambitious, robust and complete legal framework in its future Media Freedom Act.

SLAPPs at global level

The report regretted that no Member State has so far enacted targeted legislation to provide protection against SLAPPs. It did however note that anti-SLAPP legislation is particularly well-developed in some states of the United States and Canada as well as in Australia. It encouraged the Commission to analyse anti-SLAPP best practices currently applied outside the EU which could provide valuable inspiration for Union legislative and non-legislative measures on the matter. Members underlined the importance of a common Union approach committing to the most ambitious legislation and best practices currently in force to discourage the use of SLAPPs in the Union.

Need for legislative action

Members agreed with the numerous civil society organisations academics, legal practitioners and victims who point to the need for legislative action against the growing problem of SLAPPs.

The Commission is called on to present proposals for:

- binding Union legislation on common and effective safeguards for victims of SLAPPs across the Union, including through a directive establishing minimum standards for protection against SLAPPs ;

- legislation that sets out common safeguards for persons investigating and reporting on or otherwise exposing these matters of public interest;

- measures to address SLAPP cases such as rules for the early dismissal of SLAPPs and other court actions that have the purpose of preventing public participation, which should include appropriate sanctions such as civil penalties or administrative fines, consideration of abusive motives even if the lawsuit or action is not dismissed, costs and damages suffered by the victim (economic, reputational, psychological or otherwise).

The Commission is also called on to raise awareness among judges and prosecutors across the EU about SLAPPs.

Possible soft law measures

Members underlined the urgent need for a robust fund for supporting victims of SLAPPs and organisations supporting them provided the funds are directly used for legal fees or the provision of legal aid and psychological support.

Complementarity with other instruments and policies

The report considered that the new anti-SLAPP legislative and non-legislative measures should complement other EU instruments and policies; welcomes the Union Strategy to tackle Organised Crime 2021-2025.

Documents
2021/10/14
   EP - Vote in committee
2021/09/07
   EP - Committee opinion
Documents
2021/06/14
   EP - Committee draft report
Documents
2021/04/29
   EP - Committee referral announced in Parliament
2021/04/29
   EP - Referral to associated committees announced in Parliament
2021/04/29
   EP - Referral to joint committee announced in Parliament
2021/04/12
   EP - METSOLA Roberta (EPP) appointed as rapporteur in ['JURI', 'LIBE']
2021/04/12
   EP - WÖLKEN Tiemo (S&D) appointed as rapporteur in ['JURI', 'LIBE']
2021/02/02
   EP - FOURLAS Loucas (EPP) appointed as rapporteur in CULT

Documents

Activities

Votes

Renforcer la démocratie ainsi que la liberté et le pluralisme des médias dans l’UE - Strengthening democracy, media freedom and pluralism in the EU - Stärkung der Demokratie, der Medienfreiheit und des Medienpluralismus in der EU - A9-0292/2021 - Tiemo Wölken, Roberta Metsola - § 1/1 #

2021/11/11 Outcome: +: 536, 0: 23, -: 5
IT FR DE ES PL RO NL CZ AT SE PT FI BE IE EL BG HR SK LT DK LV EE HU CY LU MT SI
Total
68
66
72
43
44
30
23
15
15
14
14
13
19
13
14
11
12
11
9
8
7
7
16
5
5
5
5
icon: PPE PPE
143

Sweden PPE

2

Finland PPE

2

Latvia PPE

2

Estonia PPE

For (1)

1

Hungary PPE

Abstain (1)

1
2

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2

Malta PPE

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2

Slovenia PPE

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Abstain (2)

3
icon: S&D S&D
121

Netherlands S&D

4

Czechia S&D

For (1)

1

Greece S&D

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1

Slovakia S&D

2

Lithuania S&D

2

Denmark S&D

2

Latvia S&D

2

Estonia S&D

2

Cyprus S&D

1

Luxembourg S&D

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1

Slovenia S&D

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1
icon: Renew Renew
84

Italy Renew

2

Poland Renew

1

Austria Renew

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1
3

Finland Renew

3

Ireland Renew

2

Bulgaria Renew

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1

Croatia Renew

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1

Lithuania Renew

1

Estonia Renew

3

Hungary Renew

2

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1

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1
icon: Verts/ALE Verts/ALE
55

Spain Verts/ALE

3

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1

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2

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2

Austria Verts/ALE

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1

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1

Portugal Verts/ALE

1

Finland Verts/ALE

3

Belgium Verts/ALE

3

Ireland Verts/ALE

2

Lithuania Verts/ALE

2

Denmark Verts/ALE

1

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1

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1
icon: ID ID
53
3

Finland ID

2

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1

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1

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1
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47

Germany ECR

1

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1

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1

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1

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1

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1

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1

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2
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33

Netherlands The Left

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1

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1

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1

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icon: NI NI
28

Germany NI

1

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1

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Abstain (1)

2

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1

A9-0292/2021 - Tiemo Wölken, Roberta Metsola - § 1/2 #

2021/11/11 Outcome: +: 444, -: 108, 0: 10
DE ES FR RO BE NL PT IE SE IT EL HR BG AT LT CZ FI SK LV PL DK MT CY LU EE SI HU
Total
72
41
68
30
19
23
13
13
14
68
14
12
11
15
9
15
12
11
7
44
8
5
5
5
7
5
16
icon: PPE PPE
142

Sweden PPE

2

Finland PPE

2

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2

Malta PPE

2
2

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2

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1

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3

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1
icon: S&D S&D
120

Netherlands S&D

4

Greece S&D

For (1)

1

Lithuania S&D

2

Czechia S&D

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1

Slovakia S&D

2

Latvia S&D

2

Denmark S&D

2

Cyprus S&D

1

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1

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1
icon: Renew Renew
83

Ireland Renew

2
3

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2

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1

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1

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1

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1

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3

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1

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1

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3

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1

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icon: Verts/ALE Verts/ALE
54

Spain Verts/ALE

3

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3

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2

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1

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2

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2

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1

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33

Belgium The Left

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28

Germany NI

1

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1

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2

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Against (1)

1
icon: ECR ECR
47

Germany ECR

Against (1)

1

Spain ECR

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1

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1

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4
3

Greece ECR

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1

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55

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A9-0292/2021 - Tiemo Wölken, Roberta Metsola - § 11/1 #

2021/11/11 Outcome: +: 502, 0: 37, -: 27
DE IT FR ES PL RO PT NL EL IE BE AT BG HR SK CZ LT FI SE LV DK MT CY LU EE SI HU
Total
72
68
66
43
43
30
17
23
14
13
19
15
11
12
11
15
9
13
14
7
8
5
5
5
7
5
16
icon: PPE PPE
143

Finland PPE

2

Sweden PPE

2

Latvia PPE

2

Malta PPE

2
2

Luxembourg PPE

2

Estonia PPE

For (1)

1

Slovenia PPE

For (1)

Abstain (2)

3

Hungary PPE

Against (1)

1
icon: S&D S&D
122

Netherlands S&D

4

Greece S&D

For (1)

1

Slovakia S&D

2

Czechia S&D

For (1)

1

Lithuania S&D

2

Latvia S&D

2

Denmark S&D

2

Cyprus S&D

1

Luxembourg S&D

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1

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2

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1
icon: Renew Renew
84

Italy Renew

2

Poland Renew

1

Ireland Renew

2

Austria Renew

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1

Bulgaria Renew

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1

Croatia Renew

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1

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1

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3
3

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1

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3

Slovenia Renew

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1

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2
icon: Verts/ALE Verts/ALE
55

Spain Verts/ALE

3

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1

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1

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2

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2

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3

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1

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35

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1

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1

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1

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2
icon: ECR ECR
46

Germany ECR

1

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1

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4

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1

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1

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1

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1
3

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2
icon: ID ID
53

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1

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3

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2

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1

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28

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1

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1

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2

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1

A9-0292/2021 - Tiemo Wölken, Roberta Metsola - § 11/2 #

2021/11/11 Outcome: +: 461, -: 99, 0: 8
DE ES FR RO NL BE PT SE CZ IE EL IT HR AT LT FI DK BG SK LV PL MT CY LU EE SI HU
Total
71
43
68
30
23
19
17
14
15
13
14
68
12
15
9
13
8
11
11
7
44
5
5
5
7
5
16
icon: PPE PPE
143

Sweden PPE

2

Finland PPE

2

Slovakia PPE

Against (1)

4

Latvia PPE

2

Malta PPE

2
2

Luxembourg PPE

2

Estonia PPE

For (1)

1

Slovenia PPE

For (1)

Abstain (2)

3

Hungary PPE

Abstain (1)

1
icon: S&D S&D
122

Netherlands S&D

4

Czechia S&D

For (1)

1

Greece S&D

For (1)

1

Lithuania S&D

2

Denmark S&D

2

Slovakia S&D

2

Latvia S&D

2

Cyprus S&D

1

Luxembourg S&D

For (1)

1

Estonia S&D

2

Slovenia S&D

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1
icon: Renew Renew
84
3

Ireland Renew

2

Italy Renew

2

Croatia Renew

For (1)

1

Austria Renew

For (1)

1

Lithuania Renew

1

Finland Renew

3

Bulgaria Renew

For (1)

1

Poland Renew

1

Luxembourg Renew

For (1)

1

Estonia Renew

3

Slovenia Renew

For (1)

1

Hungary Renew

2
icon: Verts/ALE Verts/ALE
54

Spain Verts/ALE

3

Netherlands Verts/ALE

2

Belgium Verts/ALE

3

Portugal Verts/ALE

1

Sweden Verts/ALE

For (1)

1

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2

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2

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1

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2

Finland Verts/ALE

3

Denmark Verts/ALE

1

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1

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1

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For (1)

1
icon: The Left The Left
35

Netherlands The Left

For (1)

1

Belgium The Left

For (1)

1

Sweden The Left

For (1)

1

Czechia The Left

1

Finland The Left

For (1)

1

Denmark The Left

1

Cyprus The Left

2
icon: NI NI
28

Germany NI

1

Netherlands NI

1

Croatia NI

Abstain (1)

2

Slovakia NI

Against (1)

1
icon: ECR ECR
47

Germany ECR

Against (1)

1

Spain ECR

Against (1)

1

Romania ECR

Against (1)

1

Netherlands ECR

Against (1)

4

Greece ECR

Against (1)

1

Croatia ECR

Against (1)

1

Bulgaria ECR

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1

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1

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2
icon: ID ID
55

Belgium ID

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1

Austria ID

3

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2

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1

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1

A9-0292/2021 - Tiemo Wölken, Roberta Metsola - § 17/1 #

2021/11/11 Outcome: +: 494, 0: 60, -: 14
FR IT DE ES RO PL NL AT PT FI IE BE CZ EL SK HR BG LT SE EE DK LV HU MT CY LU SI
Total
68
68
72
42
30
44
23
15
17
13
13
19
15
14
11
12
11
9
14
7
8
7
16
5
5
5
5
icon: PPE PPE
143

Finland PPE

2

Sweden PPE

2

Estonia PPE

For (1)

1

Latvia PPE

2

Hungary PPE

Abstain (1)

1

Malta PPE

2
2

Luxembourg PPE

2

Slovenia PPE

For (1)

Abstain (2)

3
icon: S&D S&D
122

Netherlands S&D

4

Czechia S&D

For (1)

1

Greece S&D

For (1)

1

Slovakia S&D

2

Lithuania S&D

2

Estonia S&D

2

Denmark S&D

2

Latvia S&D

2

Cyprus S&D

1

Luxembourg S&D

For (1)

1

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1
icon: Renew Renew
84

Italy Renew

2

Poland Renew

1

Austria Renew

For (1)

1

Finland Renew

3

Ireland Renew

2

Croatia Renew

For (1)

1

Bulgaria Renew

For (1)

1

Lithuania Renew

1
3

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3

Hungary Renew

2

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1

Slovenia Renew

For (1)

1
icon: Verts/ALE Verts/ALE
55

Spain Verts/ALE

3

Poland Verts/ALE

For (1)

1

Netherlands Verts/ALE

2

Austria Verts/ALE

For (1)

1

Portugal Verts/ALE

1

Finland Verts/ALE

3

Ireland Verts/ALE

2

Belgium Verts/ALE

3

Czechia Verts/ALE

2

Lithuania Verts/ALE

2

Sweden Verts/ALE

For (1)

1

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1

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1

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For (1)

1
icon: ID ID
55
3

Finland ID

2

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1

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For (1)

1

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Abstain (1)

1
icon: The Left The Left
35

Netherlands The Left

For (1)

1

Portugal The Left

4

Finland The Left

For (1)

1

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1

Czechia The Left

1

Sweden The Left

For (1)

1

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1

Cyprus The Left

2
icon: NI NI
27

Germany NI

1

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Against (1)

1

Slovakia NI

1

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Abstain (1)

2
icon: ECR ECR
47

Germany ECR

Abstain (1)

1

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Abstain (1)

1

Romania ECR

Abstain (1)

1

Netherlands ECR

4

Greece ECR

Abstain (1)

1

Slovakia ECR

Abstain (1)

1

Croatia ECR

Abstain (1)

1

Bulgaria ECR

Abstain (1)

1
3

Latvia ECR

For (1)

Abstain (1)

2

A9-0292/2021 - Tiemo Wölken, Roberta Metsola - § 17/2 #

2021/11/11 Outcome: +: 446, -: 106, 0: 12
DE ES FR RO NL BE PT IE EL IT HR BG AT LT CZ FI SE SK LV PL MT CY LU EE DK SI HU
Total
72
42
68
27
23
19
17
13
14
67
12
11
15
9
15
13
14
11
7
44
5
5
5
7
8
5
16
icon: PPE PPE
140

Finland PPE

2

Sweden PPE

2

Latvia PPE

2

Malta PPE

2
2

Luxembourg PPE

2

Estonia PPE

For (1)

1

Slovenia PPE

For (1)

Abstain (2)

3

Hungary PPE

Abstain (1)

1
icon: S&D S&D
121

Netherlands S&D

4

Greece S&D

For (1)

1

Lithuania S&D

2

Czechia S&D

For (1)

1

Slovakia S&D

2

Latvia S&D

2

Cyprus S&D

1

Luxembourg S&D

For (1)

1

Estonia S&D

2

Denmark S&D

2

Slovenia S&D

For (1)

1
icon: Renew Renew
83

Ireland Renew

2

Italy Renew

2

Croatia Renew

For (1)

1

Bulgaria Renew

For (1)

1

Austria Renew

For (1)

1

Lithuania Renew

1

Finland Renew

3
3

Poland Renew

1

Luxembourg Renew

For (1)

1

Estonia Renew

3

Denmark Renew

Against (1)

3

Slovenia Renew

For (1)

1

Hungary Renew

2
icon: Verts/ALE Verts/ALE
55

Spain Verts/ALE

3

Netherlands Verts/ALE

2

Belgium Verts/ALE

3

Portugal Verts/ALE

1

Ireland Verts/ALE

2

Austria Verts/ALE

For (1)

1

Lithuania Verts/ALE

2

Czechia Verts/ALE

2

Finland Verts/ALE

3

Sweden Verts/ALE

For (1)

1

Latvia Verts/ALE

1

Poland Verts/ALE

For (1)

1

Luxembourg Verts/ALE

For (1)

1

Denmark Verts/ALE

1
icon: The Left The Left
35

Netherlands The Left

For (1)

1

Belgium The Left

For (1)

1

Portugal The Left

4

Czechia The Left

1

Finland The Left

For (1)

1

Sweden The Left

For (1)

1

Cyprus The Left

2

Denmark The Left

1
icon: NI NI
28

Germany NI

1

Netherlands NI

1

Croatia NI

Abstain (1)

2

Slovakia NI

Against (1)

1
icon: ECR ECR
47

Germany ECR

Against (1)

1

Spain ECR

Against (1)

1

Romania ECR

Against (1)

1

Netherlands ECR

Against (1)

4

Greece ECR

Against (1)

1

Croatia ECR

Against (1)

1

Bulgaria ECR

Against (1)

1
3

Slovakia ECR

Against (1)

1

Latvia ECR

For (1)

Abstain (1)

2
icon: ID ID
55

Belgium ID

Against (1)

1

Austria ID

3

Finland ID

2

Estonia ID

Against (1)

1

Denmark ID

Against (1)

1

A9-0292/2021 - Tiemo Wölken, Roberta Metsola - § 23/1 #

2021/11/11 Outcome: +: 511, -: 30, 0: 15
FR IT DE PL ES RO NL CZ BE PT IE EL HR BG SK AT LT FI SE LV DK MT CY LU EE SI HU
Total
68
67
69
43
41
30
22
15
17
17
13
14
12
10
11
15
9
12
14
6
8
5
5
5
7
5
16
icon: PPE PPE
141

Finland PPE

2

Sweden PPE

2

Latvia PPE

2

Malta PPE

2
2

Luxembourg PPE

2

Estonia PPE

For (1)

1

Slovenia PPE

For (1)

Abstain (2)

3

Hungary PPE

Against (1)

1
icon: S&D S&D
120

Netherlands S&D

4

Czechia S&D

For (1)

1

Greece S&D

For (1)

1

Slovakia S&D

2

Lithuania S&D

2

Latvia S&D

2

Denmark S&D

2

Cyprus S&D

1

Luxembourg S&D

For (1)

1

Estonia S&D

2

Slovenia S&D

For (1)

1
icon: Renew Renew
82