The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development generally welcomes the detailed report prepared by Mr Andreas Gross on behalf of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy. This deals with a very important and complex issue: the threat to democracy in Europe caused by the current economic and financial crisis.
The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development believes that, despite its sound analysis, in certain respects the draft resolution should be revised: for while some key issues do not appear in the draft resolution at all, others, which do, might still benefit from greater emphasis. The text could also include references to related Council of Europe standards and activities.
The committee therefore suggests amendments to the text as set out below. These amendments derive from this committee’s interpretation of some other texts on the current crisis. Three of these texts will also be debated at the third part-session of the Assembly in June 2012.
In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 2, add the following sentence:
“In 2012, some Assembly debates are on current “threats to democracy” posed by Europe-wide austerity programmes and their impact upon social and democratic rights, upon local and regional authorities, and in particular upon young people who stand to suffer most from the economic and financial crisis.”.
In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 5, replace the words “in the interest of the basic needs of the people and nature” with the following words:
“in the public interest and wherever such forces have a negative impact upon social and democratic rights or upon the environment”.
In the draft resolution, paragraph 13, after the words “Refinancing private companies from public budgets”, insert the words:
“and in an untransparent manner”.
In the draft resolution, paragraph 16, replace the words “investments in infrastructure” with the following words:
“investments in new infrastructure (e.g. housing and sustainable urban development)”.
In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 16, add the following sentence:
“Wherever appropriate, planning “red tape” should be reduced or removed in order to facilitate and stimulate sustainable development.”.
In the draft resolution, paragraph 17, after the first sentence, insert the following new sentence:
“Decision-making bodies, in particular those at European level, should be more democratic.”.
In the draft resolution, paragraph 18, in the second sentence, delete the first word “representative” (after “existing”).
In the draft resolution, paragraph 18, delete the following phrase at the end of the third sentence:
“as well as their social learning and their experiences to be able to determine – together with other fellow citizens – their life.”.
In the draft resolution, paragraph 18, delete the two last sentences.
In the draft resolution, paragraph 18, after the phrase “This is possible with the inclusion of direct democratic elements which have to be carefully designed in order to increase citizens’ participation,”, insert the following phrase:
“as well as with the promotion of active citizenship as suggested by the Assembly in its Resolution 1874 (2012) on “The promotion of active citizenship in Europe”.
In the draft resolution, after paragraph 18, insert the following new paragraphs:
“19. All tiers of government should serve the public rather than the interest of particular parties. States discharging their functions properly and thus worthy of respect should resist the abuse of political, administrative or judicial power, unethical behaviour such as corruption, favouritism as well as undue influence exerted by the media or by political lobbyists. At the same time, States should encourage economic growth and promote social cohesion. However, unless such balanced political directions are pursued in this way, then the disillusion of citizens with their decision makers will become further exacerbated.20. The “Twelve Principles of Good Governance at Local Level” provide useful guidance. They were adopted by the Committee of Ministers in March 2008 in the framework of its “Strategy for Innovation and Good Governance at Local Level”, the latter applying to all tiers of government, and to their current forms in Europe.”
In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 20.1, replace the words “by constituting it at the transnational level” with the following words:
“by reinforcing it at the transnational level”.
In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 20.2, delete the phrase “with a view to devising a concerted action plan” and replace it with the following new phrase:
“so as to consolidate the Council of Europe’s role as the “guardian” of democracy within the wider Europe, in particular combating extremist movements themselves partially arising from current European policies”
In the draft resolution, after paragraph 20, insert the following new paragraph:
“In particular the Assembly calls upon national parliaments to fulfil their key function to uphold representative democracy in Europe, to reflect and counsel on the best ways in which modern democracy might adapt, and in its own work and debates would also seek to facilitate that purpose within the 47 member States of the Council of Europe.”
In the draft resolution, after paragraph 5, insert the following new sentence:
“In order to win back the confidence of their citizens, States must meet challenges now confronting them. Such include diminished trust in representative democratic bodies and political parties, the movement of millions of people within the continent, or from outside it into Europe, the inability of the nation State to deal with certain problems beyond its control, as well as increased extremism across Europe, an issue already examined by the Assembly in its Resolution 1754 (2010) on the “Fight against extremism: achievements, deficiencies and failures.”.