Opening an international conference in Cologne today on “Money and democracy – an uneasy relationship”, PACE Secretary General Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis emphasised that the undue and untransparent influence exerted by money on the democratic functioning of state institutions had “harmful consequences” on democratic decision-making, political pluralism, civil society activity, media freedom, independence of the judiciary, and electoral process.
While excessive influence of money can be countered and remedied through “corrective and repressive approaches based on regulations” – which always comes after the damage has been done – Ms Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis evoked a “preventive approach”, that could be the subject of work within PACE.
In this context, she mentioned citizens’ participation in the financing of political life as a possible way forward. “If the problem is the excessive concentration of financing, should we encourage the contribution of each citizen to the financing of political/citizen life? And could we also imagine media financing more widely open to citizens, capable of reducing the influence of a few actors ready to invest in the media?” she said.
Faced with new threats, “member states adopt, sometimes hastily, pieces of legislation to prevent the undue influence of money, oligarchs or organisations, while it is needed to find the proper balance between legitimate objectives and the respect of our standards,” she added.
“The fight to expose, contain and prevent undue influence of ‘big money’ on democratic decision-making, can only be won if we – all Council of Europe institutions and bodies – join efforts and work together,” Ms Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis concluded.
This conference, organised by the Venice Commission and the Academy for European Human Rights Protection is a follow-up to a PACE hearing organised by the Monitoring Committee last September to discuss the anti-oligarchs’ legislations that had been drafted in several countries and assessed by the Venice Commission.
The conference explored ways in which undue influence exerted by money on democratic decision-making could be monitored and countered. It brought together Venice Commission members, politicians, academics, representatives of international organisations and journalists from various countries.