“As we prepare to mark International Day of Democracy on 15 September, we are drawn to reflect on the state of democracy worldwide and within Europe.
The renewed democratic momentum, which we have witnessed in the course of this past year, has confirmed what we in the European Parliament have always held to be true: People around the world want to live in a democracy. They want to choose their government, be able to express their opinions, and have opportunities to participate in economic and political life. They want elected representatives that hold those in power to account. They want a framework that ensures the rule of law and justice for all.
We see it so clearly in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya with the first fair, genuine elections for decades, and in gradual reforms in many of the countries of the region. We see it in the civic mobilisation, each time democratic principles are ignored or violated – be it in Europe, in the European neighbourhood, or elsewhere around the world. The European Parliament is reaching out to parliaments in our neighbourhood and beyond, helping build strong parliamentary institutions which are necessary for public debate and for people’s representatives effectively to do what citizens expect from them.
Our citizens expect to have their interests and needs duly reflected in the responses we offer to the economic crisis. Power of the people must always prevail over the power of the markets. The response to the crisis has been a challenge, not only in economic and social terms but also for democracy and more particularly parliaments in Europe. Europeans want their elected representatives to be more closely involved in developing the response to the crisis. Citizens expect the European Union to deliver. They expect bold steps from strong European institutions. In that, more than before, our citizens count on us, Members of the European Parliament, to make their voice heard.
‘Dialogue and inclusiveness’ is the theme of this year’s International Day of Democracy. These are the key ingredients of a political culture based on tolerance and mutual respect. Dialogue between different political forces and dialogue between politicians and citizens are essential in finding effective solutions. Democratic parliamentarians must not avoid controversy and debate. But democratic politicians must also be ready to cooperate beyond the dividing lines between different parties or between government and opposition. And democratic politicians must ensure that conflict and competition amongst us respect basic rules and do not erode the institutions and the trust that citizens put in them.
The European Parliament stands committed to ensure that all voices are heard, that all citizens have the civic right to contribute to the well-being of their community. Our strength, and the strength of the European Union, is built on dialogue and inclusiveness, and falters when these are neglected.
I would like to encourage all Members of Parliament and all Europeans to take the International Day of Democracy, which we celebrate this Saturday, as an invitation to engage in dialogue about the state of democracy and how we can jointly overcome the problems we are currently facing. We should remember that democracy thrives on participation and is threatened by apathy, fear and intolerance as much as it may be by economic challenges. We must not take democracy for granted.”
Martin SCHULZ, Président du Parlement européen
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