On the International Day of Democracy, it is a great pleasure for me to address this important conference on “Democracy in an Era of Geopolitics”.
Democracy matters. Not only as a set of procedural rules to take collective decisions but as the most effective political system to promote peace, stability and prosperity. We know this well in the European Union. ln recent history, our continent witnessed the most appalling crimes against humanity. Yet, from the ruins and ashes of war, we were able to uphold our freedom, rebuild democracy and ensure a brighter future for generations of Europeans. The European Union maintains that the fundamental rights of its citizens can only be fully respected if democracy prevails.
Populist politicians want us to feel fear, to doubt our democratic institutions. They devalue the importance of the stability and resilience of our inclusive decision-making processes by portraying them as inefficient and weak. They promote radical change, and the breaking away from what we have achieved together as the solution to all societal problems. They claim that they alone can magically fix everything. Consensus building politics takes time and effort but it is the only way to preserve the rights of citizens. lt is the only way forward.
The road populist politicians point to ends in deception, poverty, oppression and conflict. The brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s regime is the tragic living proof of this.
Ukrainians are experiencing first-hand the consequences of authoritarian politics. Defending Ukraine means defending democracy in Europe and in the world. This is why we stand with Ukraine in the midst of this terrible and unjust war. Ukrainians are showing immense courage and commitment in defending democracy.
The European Union owes its success to the courage of our founding fathers that promoted reconciliation rather than perpetuating discord and conflict. I have the honour to preside over the only directly elected transnational parliament in the world. The European Parliament’s elected representatives work hand in hand to improve the lives of European citizens. The European Parliament, as an institution, gives me hope in the future. Hope that Europeans have learnt lessons from 20th century wars and have the courage to defend values of equality, democracy and freedom. Values under which humankind can thrive.
Today’s conference on “Democracy in an Era of Geopolitics” is proof of this. Working with civil society and with national or European institutions in promoting human rights and individual freedoms, capacity building strategies and stronger democratic practises and standards are some of the activities your organisations carry out. ln many of these endeavours you work side by side with the European Parliament and for this I thank you. This year marks ten years of the European Parliament’s Democracy Support and Election Observation Group. We look forward to continue working together to further support and promote democracy worldwide.
I wish you a successful conference and best of luck in the important work you have ahead of you.