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Home » Elections and Governance, electoral

Promoting democracy: Today Europe, tomorrow the world

Submitted by on 30 Nov 2010 – 14:52

By Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament

The European Parliament is committed to foster and consolidate democracy worldwide and to make our efforts in promoting democracy more effective and consistent. It is our belief that democratic values have universal appeal and that democracy is a system of governance to which people the world over are entitled.

We are convinced that people around the world want to live in a democratic order and that they are entitled to choose their government and contribute to the decision-making within their society. We know from our continent’s experience that democracy can contribute to lasting reconciliation, to material well-being and solidarity.

Germany has just celebrated the 20th anniversary of its unification. The yearning of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe for freedom and democracy, coupled with their rejection of despotism, has helped Europe to unite peacefully and democratically. I am proud to be the first President of a European institution to come from Central and Eastern Europe. The position brings with it great responsibilities.

Only 20 years ago no one would have believed that a Pole would become President of the European Parliament or that Lithuania would hold the presidency of an organisation such as this. Ten years ago we were already halfway along the road towards the European Union. Today, we are part of that Union.

Some may say that we have achieved our goal. I believe, however, that this success has brought with it a shared responsibility for promoting democracy throughout the world.

I am the President of the most democratic of all the European institutions. Our resolutions and our diplomatic efforts help to support democracy wherever it is in need of support. The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which we set up more than 20 years ago, backs up those efforts. The Members of the European Parliament play an active part in promoting democracy around the world.

This history of a once divided continent and the experience of generations of Europeans living under dictatorship and ultimately triumphing over it, underpins our commitment to support peaceful democratic change and also to assist those committed to democracy, human rights and good governance beyond the EU’s borders.

We believe that while social justice is never a certainty, democracy contributes significantly to achieving a fair balance between different peoples and nations and between different groups within individual societies, to prevent and resolve conflict.

We recognise that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside, which is why our support should focus on assisting – in cooperation with other democratic nations – existing and emerging local efforts and at strengthening the capacity of governments, parliaments and other state institutions, together with civil society organisations and other actors committed to democratic values.

We value and support the essential oversight role of democratically elected citizens’ representatives and thus are dedicated to enhancing the involvement of parliaments in developing more inclusive societies, eradicating poverty, building functioning public services and creating a more democratic and peaceful international order. EU democracy support is aimed at democratisation, as well as at sustaining democracy and making it work for the people.

Institution building remains an essential element in transferring the rhetoric of democracy and human rights into practical reality.

The democratisation process is not only about holding elections. What is equally important is to ensure that an entire society – associations, trade unions and, most important of all, parliaments – has a real say. Without strong representative institutions, able to carry the aspirations and expectations of the citizens into state’s policies, democracy will remain weak and incomplete. Parliaments have a unique role to play in this. It is in the parliaments that different political groups, different political visions, come together. It is in the parliaments, where the democratically elected representatives of different social groups, from different regions, come together. It is the members of parliaments who are the voice of the entire society.

I must also repeat the European Parliament’s commitment to improving the credibility, coherence and effectiveness of the EU’s democracy support and call on all actors within the EU to quickly implement the Agenda for action on Democracy Support in EU external relations.