For decades, thousands of myths about the EU and what we do have persisted.
Sometimes these myths are crazy and we think that no one would believe them. But they can grow and spread like fungus and so we need to respond with truth. In the run up to the European Elections in May, we will be keeping a much closer eye on myths and their more worrying cousin, disinformation. This is important because we want European voters to have fair and accurate information before the elections that decide the future direction of the EU.
To protect its democratic systems and public debates especially around the European, national and local elections, the EU presented an Action Plan to step up efforts to counter disinformation in Europe and beyond. There are some myths, which are evergreen and never go away, no matter how often we correct the record. But for now, because it’s the season of goodwill, we’ve picked out four of our favourite myths from 2018 and here’s the truth about them.
The EU wants to ban the ‘Bolas de Berlim’ from Portuguese beaches
One of Portugal’s favourite snacks (pastries) are called Berliner Balls or Bolas de Berlim. They are tasty doughnuts with an egg-based cream in the middle. But someone got the idea that the EU wanted to ban these bolas from Portuguese beaches where they are especially popular during summer.
The truth is, of course, very different. The Portuguese food safety agency, the ASAE, wanted to ensure that the bolas are not contaminated during the manufacturing process. It had nothing to do with any EU rules and nothing to do with whether they could be sold on beaches. The usual rules for the sale of all food were in effect to ensure that people are not be sold expired doughnuts.
Santa’s wish list and GDPR
Did you get what you wished for from Santa Claus this year? Did you write to him? Millions of children do that every year and in Germany, they like to attach their wish lists (Wunschzettel) to the Christmas tree in the centre of their towns or villages. Only this year, there was a new myth going around that children would be prevented from doing so by the EU’s new data protection rules, known as GDPR.
Of course, this was not true. It’s accurate to say that the GDPR rules are designed to protect your personal details being used without your permission, but nowhere under these rules are children prevented from publicly telling Santa Claus what they want for Christmas. It is up to the parents to decide whether their kids can share their wish list publicly or not.
If you are not sure how GDPR rules might apply to you or your family, please contact your local data protection authority, or click here for our Q&A on the issue. For now, and we hate to break it to the those who are spreading these myths, but the EU does not want to ‘ruin’ Christmas. In fact, it’s our favourite time of the year!
Frohe Weihnachten und einen guten Rutsch
The EU is telling everyone whether to change the clocks every autumn
What time is it? Time for our third myth of the year. The EU is supposedly telling everyone whether to change the clocks every autumn. This was a popular one in Slovakia this year.
Let’s rewind a bit and clarify this. During his annual State of the European Union speech, President Juncker said each member state should be allowed to decide what’s best for them. At the same time, of course, we will help to find a coordinated approach so as not to disrupt the Single Market or the lives of Europeans. We still want to keep our time zones harmonised.
This clock change proposal is from the Commission but it will be your elected MEPs as well as your presidents and prime ministers who will end up deciding this issue. If you’ve time to read some more on this, click here.
Šťastný nový rok
The EU is banning memes!
No, no, no, we are not banning memes! The European Commission will not kill memes, online encyclopaedias or the way we use the internet. Images and other types of content used to make fun and have a laugh will not be affected by the new rules that we are proposing. Parody and pastiche enriches our culture, and makes the online world — as well as the offline one — much more enjoyable.
Memes are already legally protected in the EU. Our proposal introduces a further protection for authors of memes or any other parodic content. We proposed a compulsory mechanism to allow authors to ask social media platforms to republish blocked or removed content — it is called “redress mechanism”. The procedure is similar to the appeal processes already used by all major online platforms, such as YouTube and Soundcloud.
So, in reality our copyright proposal strengthens the rights of the author and reinforces freedom of speech online. Nothing will change your rights to publish content.
The Commission proposal is under discussion between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. The new rules will enter into force after the agreement is found and the Directive is officially adopted. The European Commission acts as an honest broker to help find a solution that is acceptable for all of us and which ensures a balanced outcome for all stakeholders, while maintaining the objective of the Commission’s proposal.
Stay informed, participate in European elections
As this year ends, let’s make a resolution to work together to fight disinformation and ensure that we are better informed, and most importantly, to vote in the European Elections taking place from 23 to 26 May 2019. #ThisTimeImvoting