Forum Topics Started
Since 1993 the Copenhagen criteria establish the conditions for membership in the European Union. These countries need to have: – stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for protection of minorities – a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competition and market forces in the EU – the ability to take on and implement effectively the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union. These criteria reflect the values of the European Union that every new country should comply with. Values like democracy, equality, freedom, solidarity and diversity form the core of the European Union and they shouldn’t be negotiable. Unfortunately, in recent years we have been seeing that some EU countries aren’t complying with some of the values they swore to defend. In Poland and Hungary right-wing governments with authoritarian and populist characteristics are undermining the democratic institutions there including, the judicial system. In Turkey, a country that wants to join the EU, a similar authoritarian streak is happening with political opponents behind jail and freedoms suppressed. Anti-democratic forces are also arising in other regions of the globe like in Brazil. In addition to this, several European countries are choosing the ignore the millions of migrants that try to reach the Mediterranean shores. Europe faces now unprecedented challenges like the large influx of migrants, the economic difficulties in certain countries (that include a rise in inequality and in poverty), the emergence of populism and extremism inside our own borders and climate and environmental changes that put our ecosystems and even our own lives at risk. European Union should be able to address and face these challenges while presenting a united front that is able to give all European citizens a decent living standard while maintain intact the European values that gave Europe its biggest period of prosperity and peace in history. In order to do this, it’s of paramount importance to be tougher with the member states or potential candidates whose policies go against the European values and to listen more to what the European citizens have to say including the ones that are critical of the EU. Better integration is required to regain the trust of these people in the European institutions. Because most of these challenges that Europe faces are global, It is also important for EU to use its privileged position in the international stage to build bridges with other countries in order to find common solutions for those problems, defend democracy and to help their social and economic development.
Living in a democratic regime give us the opportunity of expressing ourselves without fearing persecution for doing it. Democracies should also have separation of powers, respect human rights and promote the active civic and political participation of all its citizens. In my country (Portugal), the memory of the Estado Novo dictatorship that lasted from 1933 until 1974 and the political arrests, poverty and war in Africa, that it brought still lives in many people’s minds. When in 1986, Portugal entered in European union the country entered a new era of development and progress and that is why here, democratic institutions are widely respected just like the European Union itself. Nowadays, democracy is consolidated in Portugal and the country is recovering well from the crisis and a hard Austerity program supported by the former right-wing government, however unfortunately that is not the case in other parts of Europe in which democracy is under threat, with anti-democratic and far-right forces rising up not just in Poland and Hungary, were they hold the government, but also in Germany, Austria, Italy or France. These forces are a threat to progress and European values because they don’t respect the rights of minorities and political opponents promoting a divided society in which people start distrusting or even hating each other for differences like gender, race or religion. This strategy may be pure demagogy but it is effective because their anti-establishment and anti-EU speech is shifting many working class people from left wing parties (socialists or social democrats) towards those right-wing populists or even far-right parties. That is why it is of paramount importance for S&D parties to regain the support of the working class in those countries because they are the key to keep the far-right out of the power and to ultimately save democracy in the EU.