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'Democracy requires constant action'

Marking 2013 International Democracy Day, the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Jean-Claude Mignon, have issued the following statement:

“Europeans, and people all over the world, want to live in a deep democracy. They want to choose their government, be able to express their opinions freely, have their voices heard, and be able to shape economic and political life through their active citizenship. They want a framework that ensures the rule of law and justice for all. Citizens want elected representatives to be accountable to them. They want to be able to elect, re-elect or change politicians when election time comes.

Democracy needs civic engagement, inclusive, transparent and effective mechanisms and institutions, mutual trust, a sense of collective responsibility and the courage to work for the common good. Democracy requires daily vigilance and constant action.

Even in Europe, where democracy has a long tradition, we need to constantly guard against those who threaten democracy with their extremism and populism. As politicians, we must strive to make the meaning and salience of democracy clear to all. We must succeed in reducing the room for rampant absenteeism.

2013 has been a difficult year for democracy around the world. We need only to think about the fate of the Arab Spring, followed by a bumpy transition, great polarisation and weakened economies. For too many citizens around the world, from Minsk to Pyongyang, democracy remains a chimera.

But 2013 has also given us reason for optimism, for example in Mali which successfully held presidential elections after the risk of disintegration, or in Burma/Myanmar which made tangible steps on the road towards reconciliation and democracy. Europe must continue to nurture the global call for greater democracy, offering support for those who seek it, standing by those who want to make their voices heard, their votes count and their passion for greater freedom prevail."