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Democracy means to me that everybody is involved and has a chance to take part in making decisions, on certain levels of the society. People should not be frozen out of taking part in making decisions, modern democracy cannot be elitist to let decisions be only made by privileged circles. Masses have to be involved, we have to reduce the distance between masses and decision makers at the highest levels. Democracy has to be formed to be as direct as it is possible, decision makers have to keep a constant contact with ordinary people, the voice of the people. This is how everyday problems can be solved, when everyday problems can be communicated via a constant channel between politics and the masses. This is how the information of the existence of problems can be delivered to decision makers efficiently and problems can be solved as soon as possible. Most of the voters care about the everyday problems. This is why left-wing has to make local levels of the democracy stronger. Supporting trade unions and civil organizations is inevitable. By supporting trade unions, we can step up for the rights and the interests of the employees and can accomplish social achievements. Going local and dealing with the everyday problems of the people, involving people to politics and letting them raising their voice will help us to solve problems, to make democracy stronger and to make people believe in democracy by providing the opportunity for them to be involved. I firmly believe that making democracy more direct and social will make people trust and appreciate the democratic values much more, since they experience that they can take part in it and they can add their voice. This is the alternative of the far-right politics that is only about identity politics without really caring about the everyday problems of the people. Supporting trade unions and civil organizations is thriving. For instance, unions are keeping on fighting out their demands in the United States lately, from teachers’ unions across the country to Disneyland workers, NYC airport workers, hotel workers in Chicago etc. Bernie Sanders gives a huge boost to this tendency, encouraging people to form unions, helping and stepping up for them, making more and more people believe in social democracy, making progressive tendencies unstoppable as an alternative of the politics of Trump. This is the way in my opinion, representing the interests of the employees, the solution of the everyday problems of the people, going local, initiating communication and channels between politics and people, being active on local levels, in local governments, supporting trade unions and civil organizations. I believe that this is the alternative of far-right based on only hate and identity politics.

1 day, 3 hours ago in What does Democracy mean to you?
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As a Hungarian citizen and young social democrat activist I can say without any doubts, that the situation in Hungary nor the way the EU is handling int recently is good. I think I tell nothing new if I say, that the damage of the democratic state, the liberal rights or the independence of press is below critical level. It isn’t an exaggeration at all to say, that nowadays we live in an illiberal anti democratic country with a corrupt and power thirsty government, lead by a populist leader.
In the beginning of this post I feel it important to state, that we cannot identify the mindset of the Hungarian government with the mindset of the people of Hungary. They don’t approve the antidemocratic actions of the government. And this is the point when you could ask…”the why do you vote for them?” It is a fact that the party of Viktor Orbán (Fidesz) is in power for 8 years by now despite the fact, that three elections were held since then…The problem is, which is both the source of the weak performances and growth of the opposition parties and the people believing the lies of the government, that there are no more than a handful of independent media products in Hungary. Since most of the printed and broadcasted media products are owned by either the goverment or oligarchs close to the governing parties, most of the people among lower social classes can’t reach any source of independent media, they can only inform themselves from the government’s propaganda, which produces nothing but fake news. This way the government can manipulate dozens of people, and make it nearly impossible for the opposition to appear in any kind of media. Therefore, one of the few things the EU, or any aspiring state could do in favor of the Hungarian democracy and people, moreover for the whole EU is, to finance the remaining independent sources of media in Hungary to even the odds regarding the distribution of fake news and real news. This way the EU (or specifically any country which desires) could gain more influence in Hungary and would weaken the position of the government and also help the struggling opposition a great deal. Which takes me to the next point… The opposition in Hungary is fragmented and divided. (For now let’s just focus on the left wing parties) The major left wing party the so called Hungarian “Socialist” Party (MSZP) (Which is a member of S&D) is discredited and widely rejected because of it’s neoliberal governing and past scandals. The party lacks any kind of political innovation and is rejected by not only the majority of voters, but also by the left wing supporters. On the other hand the smaller left wing parties, which have trustworthy politicians and true left wing programs can’t break in to first line politics because of the lack of money and appearance in mainstream media. That is why, from my point of view the S&D Group should focus more on managing their members, helping them and in the times of need encourage them to learn from other members. In my opinion our parties would profit really much from sharing experiences with practices with successful fellow members of the S&D Group such as the Swedish Social Democratic Party or the Portugal Socialist Party. As I mentioned exchanging experiences and learning new practices would be really useful we can’t forget to mention that the S&D Group (or again any country which seeks to gain influence, or interested in having a west minded democratic Hungary) could also finance the innovative and promising but yet weak left wing parties of Hungary. Whereas forming opinion and criticizing the processes in Hungary is necessary, forming a unit and acting together as I proposed above would help to solve our common problem more easily, thus helping both our common cause in Europe as well as freeing Hungary from it’s current wannabe dictator.

1 day, 3 hours ago in What does Democracy mean to you?
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Profile photo of Balazs Balazs

With the onset of the economic crisis since 2008, a new term, the working poor, has emerged at European level. This new “class” features a portion of the population that, although working, is paid below the relative poverty line. The working poor is closer to the European poverty indicator, the relative poverty which is assessed at an income below 60% of the national average national. One of the main reasons for the growth of this phenomenon was the sharp increase in unemployment, the rise in part-time working and austerity measures as a repercussion of the economic recession. The working poor issue requires more attention not only for the amelioration of living standards but also for the fight against social exclusion which is one of the biggest threats posed by poverty. The problem of working poor in the European Union is crucial with the countries of the Balkans and South Europe showing the biggest percentage:For this reason EU should devise effective measures and tailor-made policies to erase the issue of working poor in its member states and meet their needs. EU should undertake policies and initiatives to tackle the phenomenon of working poor Within this context, EU has set the target, through the Europe 2020 Strategy, of reducing the numbers of poor people by 20m, paying particular attention to employment, education and training. Both the European Social Fund and the European Strategic Investment Fund seek to create new jobs and reintegrate young people into either education or training programs. However, in order to improve the standard of living of that section of the population that while working is on the poverty line and cannot fulfill its basic daily needs and activities, these tailor-made measures and initiatives could include some of the following: Digital skills are crucial for employees Since one of the variables affecting working poor is education, more emphasis should be given to improving the educational attainment of the working poor. Education plays a fundamental role in the fight against social exclusion. For this reason, access to lifelong learning and vocational education programs according to the needs of the labour market, with emphasis on digital skills, will enhance the skills of employees to adapt to more and different working environments. It should be mentioned that estimates show that around 40% of people in the EU workforce do not have adequate digital skills; 14% have no digital skills at all. Given that the digital economy will dominate in the upcoming years, those skills are crucial for the employees. European Social Rights Pillar Furthermore, strengthening the welfare state with the guarantee of a living wage, access to healthcare, better working conditions, social benefits and the protection of part-time, temporary, precarious and undeclared workers should be a priority. The EU, through the European Social Rights Pillar, aims to build a fairer and more socially inclusive EU. The three main categories are: equal opportunities and access to employment, fair working conditions and social protection and inclusion. Under this framework, the fight against the phenomenon of working poor should be driven institutionally. Sustainable Development Goal 8 The EU should also act in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goal 8: “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”. Within this framework, the EU should boost investments in areas that could assist growth, depending on the specific needs of each individual country but based on the above-mentioned employment criteria. Single-earning households Another great issue is single parents or families with children and one employee in the household that are at risk of poverty. In these cases a proper work-life balance plan is needed (including childcare services) to facilitate access to work for these parents. In some cases, the lack of childcare services reduces the job-seeking opportunities or the full working day of single parents, and increasing the risk of poverty for them. Consequently, it may be inferred that job creation is not the only pathway to tackle and reduce the poverty or unemployment rate as the sheer scale of the working poor indicates that a series of measures and policies are still needed to ensure quality, stable and decent work. In order to reduce social exclusion and improve the standard of living of working poor, urgent measures and tailor-made policies should be taken by EU both at institutional and individual level.

6 days, 2 hours ago in What does Democracy mean to you?
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With the onset of the economic crisis since 2008, a new term, the working poor, has emerged at European level. This new “class” features a portion of the population that, although working, is paid below the relative poverty line. The working poor is closer to the European poverty indicator, the relative poverty which is assessed at an income below 60% of the national average national. One of the main reasons for the growth of this phenomenon was the sharp increase in unemployment, the rise in part-time working and austerity measures as a repercussion of the economic recession. The working poor issue requires more attention not only for the amelioration of living standards but also for the fight against social exclusion which is one of the biggest threats posed by poverty. The following graph from Eurostat depicts with clarity the problem of working poor in the European Union, with the countries of the Balkans and South Europe showing the biggest percentage.For this reason EU should devise effective measures and tailor-made policies to erase the issue of working poor in its member states and meet their needs. EU should undertake policies and initiatives to tackle the phenomenon of working poor Within this context, EU has set the target, through the Europe 2020 Strategy, of reducing the numbers of poor people by 20m, paying particular attention to employment, education and training. Both the European Social Fund and the European Strategic Investment Fund seek to create new jobs and reintegrate young people into either education or training programs. However, in order to improve the standard of living of that section of the population that while working is on the poverty line and cannot fulfill its basic daily needs and activities, these tailor-made measures and initiatives could include some of the following: Digital skills are crucial for employees Since one of the variables affecting working poor is education, more emphasis should be given to improving the educational attainment of the working poor. Education plays a fundamental role in the fight against social exclusion. For this reason, access to lifelong learning and vocational education programs according to the needs of the labour market, with emphasis on digital skills, will enhance the skills of employees to adapt to more and different working environments. It should be mentioned that estimates show that around 40% of people in the EU workforce do not have adequate digital skills; 14% have no digital skills at all. Given that the digital economy will dominate in the upcoming years, those skills are crucial for the employees. European Social Rights Pillar Furthermore, strengthening the welfare state with the guarantee of a living wage, access to healthcare, better working conditions, social benefits and the protection of part-time, temporary, precarious and undeclared workers should be a priority. The EU, through the European Social Rights Pillar, aims to build a fairer and more socially inclusive EU. The three main categories are: equal opportunities and access to employment, fair working conditions and social protection and inclusion. Under this framework, the fight against the phenomenon of working poor should be driven institutionally. Sustainable Development Goal 8 The EU should also act in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goal 8: “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”. Within this framework, the EU should boost investments in areas that could assist growth, depending on the specific needs of each individual country but based on the above-mentioned employment criteria. Single-earning households Another great issue is single parents or families with children and one employee in the household that are at risk of poverty. In these cases a proper work-life balance plan is needed (including childcare services) to facilitate access to work for these parents. In some cases, the lack of childcare services reduces the job-seeking opportunities or the full working day of single parents, and increasing the risk of poverty for them. Consequently, it may be inferred that job creation is not the only pathway to tackle and reduce the poverty or unemployment rate as the sheer scale of the working poor indicates that a series of measures and policies are still needed to ensure quality, stable and decent work. In order to reduce social exclusion and improve the standard of living of working poor, urgent measures and tailor-made policies should be taken by EU both at institutional and individual level.

6 days, 2 hours ago in Social Europe
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The frontier between personal and professional life is getting blurry. The time we dedicate to work as well as where we work are getting confused. You might not be always working, you might be working intensively for a few months in a year, you might work for 10 years in your life. Paths of life are now far from unique. We cannot disregard the fact that flexibility is crucial to our modern world; wether it is forced or chosen for better or worse this flexibility became for many of us a way of life. For some it creates de facto a fluctuent and unreliable income, which is everyday’s headache as soon as you are looking for a flat, paying your taxes or social contributions. For others it encourages to choose a path “risk free”, following the safer path of life, out of fear. At the same time many activities essential to a functioning society are not gratified by any remuneration. When we invest time to take care of our community, your social contribution needs to be rewarded. I’m not contending there should be a remuneration there, but that we should, as social democrats recognise the social contribution made. That is why I believe that as progressives we should provide “law” to this new reality. It is important to adapt to this urge for flexibility in a part of the society but should not get abused by people confusing flexibility with legal insecurity; communities need legal safety to flourish and show their full potential. Legislations favouring involvement at the European level, with the definitive aim to provide for a minimum wage and an European Universal Income coupled with the recognition of harmonised rights; all are not just about fairness, it will simplify life of businesses and administrations all across the EU, by making sure that one internal market really means one.

2 weeks, 1 day ago in Social Europe
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When I had to write the other day some words on democracy on a whiteboard at an exhibition. We learned in school many times that the word democracy came from the Greek and literally translates to that the power belongs to the people. But what is the problem that we simply can’t understand the importance of it when we look around? We see people not being able or hindered to vote in other countries and we feel bad because they have to live with leaders, that were not the choice by the majority but on our skin we, my generation in Austria, has never experienced it. We were encouraged to go to vote as soon as we can from different institutions since we can remember but only in recent years the awareness about how important it really is showed in numbers when we had to face the chance of having Norbert Hofer as our president. The increased number of voters didn’t happen because we were just acting by what we have been told, it was because people didn’t want to live with a right wing president or earlier at the municipal election with a major called HC Strache. Also now, in the recent election 2017, more and more younger people went to vote and we had 80 percent turnout of voters. So that’s the thing with democracy and maybe thats the best thing: in good times we can’t even imagine what it would be without it! Democracy is something that makes us believe that we are so far away from all the absolutistic tyrants and atrocities that we can actually forget about it in our life of wealth and chances. But as mentioned, slowely the number of people who are getting to the polls in times of chance will be raising again because I believe, my generation will not accept any more inequality that the recent government is spreading into peoples mind and we will feel importance of democracy on our skin again until a future generation has to think back to the Greek when they will be asked to write the meaning of it on a whiteboard.

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Profile photo of Mavie Mavie

I am both European and Pole. It hurts me every time I see what the far-right governing party is doing in my country. The politicians are not only breaking the fundamental values of the EU or the Polish constitution – they are destroying our European community in cooperation with Hungarian Viktor Orbán. Probably many of you are wondering why did it happen, why the one of the most promising European democracies is heading into direction of authoritarianism and oligarchy. That’s because people don’t believe into politicians any more. The previous center-right coalition did not accomplish any major success. Of course our economy was progressing, the new roads were build etc. But during all those years the people in power forget about the most important thing – the people. The Government did not do anything in such areas as social protection. They forgot that the nation does not consist of numbers and empty buildings. After that everything rolled out into the situation which we can see today. The only question is how to change it? How to make our citizens believe in their representatives, believe in democracy? First of all, the EU should make firm steps to influence politicians. We need to remember them that their duty is to serve the community not destroy it. However we all see that they do not care about our values. That’s why it it good that the European Commission decided to start the procedure of article 7. But it is not the end. The article might stop the populists from destroying their regions but after that we need to show people that the safe, bright future is called the EU. How? Well, it won’t be easy but personally I have several ideas. First of all, we need to show the citizens the presence of the biggest European parties in their everyday life. When it comes to me – I have never seen any European parties to be present in my city, district or even country. All I see is only the meetings in Brussels. That’s mistake – because we need to restore confidence in politicians. People should come to the offices of parties or local authorities with belief that those people actually represent them, that they care about their fate. I think that S&D should also create more initiatives like Europe Together. I mean that now it looks like the European parties are financing the local ones. Meanwhile I think that the S&D should look for young, energetic people itself. By the local initiatives which would govern them. I believe that there are many young people like me – on this platform – for whom the fate of the Europe is an important topic. Unfortunately they do not have money to promote themselves, so they lose to the more popular candidates (like populists), or give up at the beginning and choose the job which will provide them money to live. I also think that harmonisation of the EU structures plays a major role in this topic. We need to create the same standards of social protection, healthcare system, education system, law, taxes etc. across all of the EU. This would align standards of living between the rich regions ant those which are still developing. At the end we all need to remember about one thing – we cannot ever leave the Eastern Europe. We need to defend it with all our strength, we need to protect our citizens because this is what the EU is all about – unity, equality, freedom.

Hungary and Poland – the governments of these countries are purposely and consciously breaking the fundamental rights of the EU. For me as a Pole it is something unbelievable – not only because it is a hit in our unity but because the politicians should never be able to do so. We had special structures like the Constitutional Court or Supreme Court. However a few months after the present governing party PiS won the elections it has appeared that they can do anything. First of all they changed the law about the Constitutional Court to put their party colleagues inside its structures. The court was against it, it was clearly going far beyond the borders established by the constitution. But the prime minister – Beata Szydło did not publish the court’s judgement. Now the party is trying to take over the courts, beginning with the supreme one. Why? Because they want more power. They’re changing law so dramatically to avoid the consequences. Still, no matter all of this, PiS has a big support in the polls. It is not like the citizens of our country want to live in authoritarian country. The truth is that many Poles do not participate in elections because there’s no alternative. Everywhere we have the same candidates who have nothing to propose to the society. Meanwhile PiS is spreading the money to everyone (except those who are actually in need, like disabled people). There’s only one problem. The budget doesn’t have money for it. The public debt is growing dramatically. The only question is “What’s the antidote?” The rest of the EU should act fast and firmly. The politicians should know that nobody is inviolable. But we cannot finish at article 7. We need to show the people, especially young, that the future lies in their hands. We should finance the local young politicians and non-governmental organizations, not the big parties which have money to promote themselves. The key to success is in the young, motivated, energetic people – like those in Europe Together. They’re the ones we need to focus on because they’re the future of the nation, the future of our continent.

4 weeks, 1 day ago in Hungary
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