Tuesday

19th Jan 2021

Opinion

How MEPs can help Biden's 'Global Democracy Summit'

  • Nowhere was Trump's defeat mourned more than in Poland, Hungary or - increasingly - Slovenia, where the prime minister Janez Janša seemingly endorsed Trump's conspiracy theories about vote-rigging (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

One of the campaign promises of US president-elect Biden is "to host a Global Summit for Democracy", in order "to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the Free World".

In his first year in office, Biden vows to "bring together the world's democracies to strengthen our democratic institutions, honestly confront the challenge of nations that are backsliding, and forge a common agenda to address threats to our common values".

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The European Union should join this great initiative from the start, and help shape the agenda for strengthening democracy and fundamental rights globally.

This is urgently required, because in every region of the world, democracy is under attack by populist and nationalist leaders and groups that reject pluralism.

Let us be frank, in Europe too, we are grappling with democratic backsliding and assaults on our democracy from the inside.

Nowhere was Trump's defeat mourned more than in Poland, Hungary or - increasingly - Slovenia, where the prime minister Janez Janša seemingly endorsed Trump's conspiracy theories about vote rigging.

Despite some progress - for example the recent agreement to link the receipt of EU funds to fundamental democratic values - the EU has failed to adequately address, let alone stop or reverse, rule of law backsliding in Hungary and Poland.

The European Parliament has been in the frontline fending off these assaults.

More so than the other institutions, it has been the champion of European values and the rule of law.

Parliament has been the prime architect of the new European rule of law toolkit, and it should embrace the proposal of president-elect Biden, by taking the lead once again on behalf of the European Union to bring together free nations to pursue a strategy to rejuvenate liberal democracy globally.

This should include active support for civil society organisations and media pluralism, who have suffered the most at the hands of a resurgence of populist nationalist authoritarianism.

One aspect that has made both the European and the American democracy vulnerable, is that in recent years power has been concentrated in the executive branch. This vulnerability must be addressed.

A durable global democratic revival is closely tied to a revamping of parliamentary politics. The European Parliament should connect with its counterparts in the US Congress and discuss joint arrangements for debate, exchange and cooperation in the run up to the summit.

The Transatlantic Legislators Dialogue traditionally focuses on technocratic policy debates, but the exercise of jointly elaborating common standards and values relating to the democratic rule of law, will be an exciting new dimension to the transatlantic parliamentary relationship.

Of course this initiative should not be limited to legislators in the US and Europe.

Taiwanese example

A set of vibrant democracies has emerged in a region dominated by authoritarian China. There is much to learn from a country like Taiwan. Not just from its pandemic response, but also it still-recent transition to a full democracy.

Any successful democratic initiative with intercontinental reach should look beyond the Atlantic and should include the widest possible range of countries willing to join in.

If this summit will take place in 2021, it will largely run in parallel to the Conference on the Future of Europe, the other major event dealing with the fundamental issue of reshaping our European democracy.

This speaks to the fact that on both sides of the Atlantic earnest democrats have the same worries and are eager to find solutions. Reinvigorating and wholeheartedly embracing democracy will be the key to answering most questions that come up.

The defeat of Donald Trump will not mark the demise of populist nationalism, as some have suggested.

But Joe Biden's victory it is a blow to authoritarian minded leaders, including in Europe, who admired him and mirrored his behaviour and tactics.

In a continent and world where liberal democracy is in decline, we must use this opportunity to reinvigorate democracy and stand up for the increasing number of citizens who are losing their freedoms.

Author bio

Sophie in 't Veld is a Dutch MEP with the Renew Europe group.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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