Defending and strengthening democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Europe

Amidst growing Euroscepticism, we believe that fundamental rights and the rule of law are the main features of what makes the EU unique and are essential in order for citizens to identify with the Union. Indeed, the limitation of the powers of public officials by the law, the fact that laws are public, general and apply equally to all, and that they will be upheld by an independent, impartial and neutral judiciary are the DNA of our democratic contract with citizens.

A strong European Democracy. We stand for an EU that is more independent from national governments and directly empowered by European citizens, who make informed choices about their lives. S&D will cement the “Spitzenkandidaten” process, so that the citizens have a say on the political orientation and agenda of the President of the European Commission. We fight for the transparency, integrity and accountability of the decision making process, institutions, European parties and representatives of the EU citizens. We wish that the reform of the European Citizens Initiative will foster debate and participation at European level, including of young people.

Standing up for our “togetherness”. We are together in a community, the bedrock of which is the shared foundation of European values:  human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law.  We are therefore deeply concerned by recent developments in Hungary and Poland, which pose serious threats to fundamental rights. Our democracies must preserve constitutional checks and balances. We are sensitive, in particular, to the separation of powers and the key role of supreme courts and constitutional courts in upholding the EU’s common values. We have been at the forefront of calling on the Commission to establish a comprehensive Union Pact for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights (EU Pact DRF) that is objective, impartial, and evidence-based and applied equally and fairly to all Member States as well as to the institutions of the Union and which includes both a preventative and a corrective dimension.

Fostering media diversity and press freedom. The role of the media is critical in safeguarding democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. The Socialists and Democrats are committed to ensure that the role of the press is respected and high-quality journalism is allowed to flourish. Therefore, we need to promote and strengthen quality investigative journalism, improve protection for journalists when they are under attack and reinforce co-operation between journalists and trade unions. We must ensure media pluralism and transparency on media ownership across the EU.

An information society protecting privacy and personal data. The Socialist and Democrats lead the way in shaping European rules on information society, to ensure that no EU citizen is exposed to abuses. National reforms on surveillance should be transparent and include all international and European safeguards. We remain committed to reinforce the rule of law in digital societies, ensure that victim support services are strengthened in criminal proceedings and effective legal remedies are in place along with effective oversight.

For a rights-based Union. Mismanaged globalisation has left whole sections of the population with no benefits, across countries and regions. We must ensure that welfare states, social cohesion, equality and inclusiveness are strengthened to cope with the multiple challenges posed by globalisation. We believe strongly that fundamental rights must take precedence over economic freedoms and that a strong Social Europe develops in the near future as it is the safety net of our democracy.

Against all forms of discrimination. We are pushing for an ambitious EU legislative agenda that ensures equal rights and opportunities for all citizens, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, gender or sexual orientation, social or ethnic origin. Full equality of women and men is an essential principle of the Union. The S&D Group demands that the Council unblocks the Anti-discrimination Directive and that the Commission uses its competences to the full to act on the Council of Europe recommendations on the fight against discrimination of LGBTI persons in the EU. See:

“Defending and strengthening democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Europe” is one of the priorities part of the “Building the Progressive Future Together” statement, debated during our event in Brussels on October 18-19. But the debate goes on. We’re counting on your input, so each of you can play a part in shaping our common future. It’s easy – just sign in add your thoughts to this topic.

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We should promote democracy within our own parties and organizations. We should invest in creating new forms of participatory online and offline engagement with our activists, and have citizens have a greater say on the political priorities and choices of our political family and of the European Union in general. The progressives must reach out to the people, and become the European front-runner in creating new forms of political engagement and systems of mutual feedback between citizens and elected politicians.

We cannot leave our progressive brothers and sisters in Hungary and Poland alone. We need to work closely with civil society, and create networks between the young people of Europe to raise awareness in all EU member states, and to jointly fight right-wing nationalism. If political pressure will not stop governments from limiting the social and civil rights of citizens, then we need to make sure that public opinion does!

Nowadays, we have completely forgotten the true meaning and purpose of democracy. We have altered it entirely and gave it a new perverted form due to irresponsible management. Supposedly, democracy is the regime where the authority emanates from the people, it is run by the people and it serves the people’s interests. However, the last decade the people have faced countless crises of various natures. And like Aristotle foresaw thousands of years ago, the modern version of demagogues have risen. They have been installing fear, hate and anger in people, which has lead to many of the internal and external problems Europe faces. The greatest force in society, the people, need to take action and remove from themselves the false mentality they have been unknowingly given and walk towards progress with a fresh and positive mindset.

Many European citizen complain about the so-called “democratic deficit” within the EU, but what does this actually mean and how can we handle this problem? The European Parliament (EP) is the only supranational institution whose politicians are directly elected every five years. The Parliament is composed of 751 members, who represent the second-largest democratic electorate in the world and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world. In the last decades, especial after the Lisbon treaty, the EP gained more power. This means, that the EP in now part of the legislative process (ordinary legislative procedure) together with the Commission and the Council. Furthermore, EU citizen have the right to join the political debate when using the European Citizen’s initiative, which aimed at increasing direct democracy. However, many citizens still don’t feel a number of European institutions actions. They are scared that their worries are not heard in the bubble of Brussels. So, what can be done to target that institutional crisis? First, transparency is needed to increase the EU’s efficiency and credibility. It must be easier to understand the EU’s working process. This also means that a lobby register is finally needed to make EU’s decision making more transparent. Second, Brussels should decentralize some of the decision making since member states are closer to the everyday life of people. The EU should always respect results of democratic elections, even these means that the decision-making processes can take longer. A good example is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a free-trade agreement between Canada, the European Union and its Member States. All 28 European Union member states approved the final text of CETA for signature, with Belgium being the final country to give its approval. Even in that case Belgium finally supported that agreement, democratic decisions must always be accepted by the EU. Third, the European Parliament needs to receive the power for legislative initiative, what currently alone the Commission has. Since only the Parliament is directly elected by the EU’s citizen, it is not acceptable that it has not this significant right. Finally, it can be seen that the latest treaties decreased the EU’s democratic deficit with shifting more power to the Parliament or the implementation of the European Citizen’s initiative. However, it needs to be pointed out that it is still a long way to completely end the democratic deficit. Events like “Europe Together” are a good way to involve more citizens in this political debate and it makes the EU more attractive for the youth. I would be very delighted to support this S&D vision in October 2017 and hope that it will be a great event for all participants.

The only reason in the history of mankind that people gave up(partially or totally) their freedom was because of fear. And today the Europeans feel fear which is created because of the “European insecurity”. The latter is consisted by both economic and lack-of-safety factors . This “European Insecurity” makes people afraid and as a result they support extreme political parties which have a myopic perception of Europe and promote a “Euro-break”. It makes them be able to give up fundamental liberties such as personal data and the restriction of access to personal communication. Fear also can lead to discriminative state policies against particular ethnic groups and social marginalization of this groups. All of the above in the name of “security”. But what is the answer, one might wonder, if not the application of above-mentioned measures in order to solve the problem of insecurity that Europeans face nowadays? The answer must be Democracy. More democracy for all the EU with more political processes. All of that will be provided for by a single European Constitution whose core will be Democracy, Social Rights and all of our core values. The answer must be our vision for the European future.

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