European Union

Democracy is backsliding

Published on 26 September 2013 at 14:02

"A rise in xenophobic, populist parties, high abstention rates, an increase in corruption and a distrust of political elites [...] all bear witness to a democratic malaise in Europe, aggravated by the socio-economic crisis," says Belgian daily La Libre Belgique summing up the conclusions of a report on democracy in the European Union. The report, requested by socialist and democrat MEPs, was carried out by Demos, a British think tank, and published on September 26.

Focusing on the years 2000, 2008, and 2011, the report says that Europe's "position in the vanguard of democratic development cannot be taken for granted" and highlights some notorious backsliding –

Concerning corruption and respect of the rule of law, Hungary, Greece and Italy showed the most backsliding when compared with 2000. Regarding fundamental rights, Hungary (separation of powers), Italy (press freedom) and Spain (male/female wage inequality) lost the most ground.

Poor marks are also awarded to the EU because "intolerance towards minorities increased in the Netherlands and in Austria. Hungary, Greece and Cyprus are also of concern".

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Citizen involvement is declining in the EU, "notably in counties such as Sweden". Finally, confidence in the democratic system "has declined sharply" in recent years, compared to a "slight decline between 2000 and 2008".

In conclusion, lead researcher, Jonathan Birdwell, recommends that –

to be more credible as a protector of democracy, the EU must overhaul its structures and the way it functions.

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