The EU Commission issued guidelines in 2021 for its employees on how to use inclusive language in official communications, but then quickly withdrew them again in the face of a backlash in media and social media in several languages where the message was misrepresented. A screenshot of an article dating from that time is circulating again in many languages in December 2023, but the 2021 publication date is not visible. Contrary to what posts in Serbian sharing the screenshot claim, the EU does not “want to ban the vast majority of the population from using certain words connected with Christianity.” The guidelines explained how to reflect a fair representation of the entire population of the EU, including people who do not celebrate Christmas on December 25.
In the summer of 2023, Serbia faced an outbreak of African swine fever among domestic pigs, which forced the authorities to euthanise tens of thousands of animals. In late November, Belgrade announced a wave of avian influenza among wild birds. Despite the facts, a false claim circulated on social media in Bulgarian that these and other animal diseases do not exist in Serbia, which is not a member of the European Union. The posts promote a false narrative suggesting that Brussels has concocted fictitious animal diseases and that they are therefore only found in EU countries.
In July, the European Commission proposed revising the existing legislation on end-of-life vehicles — vehicles that are no longer usable due to age or accident. Some social media posts claimed that this “new law” would allow the European Union to “seize and scrap your car if it doesn’t meet their criteria”. But that is false, according to AFP’s interviews with the European Commission and an expert in environmental law. In terms of obligations on vehicle owners, the proposed regulation only recalls the existing requirement that they deliver their end-of-life vehicles to registered scrapyards, known as authorised treatment facilities. All of the other obligations concern manufacturers and the member states. The goal there is to improve the quality of the collection, treatment and recycling of the vehicles.
In the run-up to next year’s European Parliament election, the question of EU enlargement has been the subject of political debate. It is against that background that some lawmakers and other social media users claimed in November 2023 that the European Parliament had abolished “the right of veto” of the European Union’s member states by replacing unanimous voting with qualified majority voting in several areas. This however is inaccurate for several reasons. The claim refers to a resolution recently adopted by the European Parliament that proposes increasing the number of areas where decisions are taken by qualified majority voting, which would prevent any one country from blocking decisions. However, a resolution does not have binding value, several experts in EU law told AFP. For now, the voting process remains unchanged. Furthermore, for the proposed change to come into force, a revision of the European treaties would have to be made — a complex process requiring unanimous approval from the member states. In other words, the European Parliament cannot force the change on its members.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA), an EU body that monitors pharmaceutical safety, approved Covid vaccines in late 2020. During a press conference in Strasbourg in November 2023, a member of the European Parliament claimed that the EMA had just admitted that mass vaccination had been “illegal” because the jabs had only been authorised for “personal protection” and not for preventing transmission from one person to another. The claim was shared hundreds of times on social media in various languages. It is however false. The EMA had indeed authorised the vaccine for protecting the vaccinated individuals only, but that did not make mass vaccinations illegal. We also know more now about the effectiveness of Covid vaccines at preventing transmission compared to when they were first introduced in 2020.