It is one of the EU’s fundamental aims to strengthen and consolidate democracy in countries that are now free from a totalitarian regime. First with Greece, Spain, Portugal, and since the great eastward enlargement and absorption in the European community has been the symbol of a democratic anchorage.
This role of the EU will become increasingly important in the coming years. Unfortunately, it is now the wrong way in some Member States – particularly in Eastern Europe. The European Commission suggests a new report on the major problems with the democratic rights in Romania and Bulgaria, and Hungary threatened democracy by the sinister swing to the right and power of government perfection.
A new survey of German corporate investment shows that confidence in Hungary has declined sharply since Viktor Orban’s right government came to power. His Romanian counterpart, Victor Ponta, who came to power in May, now accused of constitutional break in a power-struggle, which is about unpopular cuts. It is unacceptable that the countries of EU membership actually flout the so-called ‘Copenhagen criteria’ – the basic requirements of market economy and democracy, all new members must meet.
70 and 90 percent of citizens in the troubled countries want the EU to interfere, if democracy comes under pressure. But the EU enters cautiously after it 12 years ago for the first time imposed sanctions against a member, namely Austria, as Jörg Haider extremist party came into government. The sanctions had quickly dropped from the realization that they only benefited the extremists. The Austria case was wrongheaded, but the affair showed that the EU lacks effective tools against union problem children.
The EU must develop its sanction instruments in order to get out of the situation where a new political majority will roll back the democratic progress, which the country was busy once to establish until the membership was ensured. Of course, the EU did not condemn the democratic decisions of its member out. But we have the clear Copenhagen criteria for what members can and cannot do. And some have gone completely beyond the line so that their political leaders may be called to order, because they violate the framework for the community.
EU citizens are entitled to live in an entrenched democracy – and most want it burning. Recent polls show that between 70 and 90 percent of the citizens in the troubled countries want the EU to interfere, if democracy comes under pressure.
The historic role as the guardian of democracy – EU cannot avoid being in action.
Kurt Lykke Lindved
Culture and Development, UN