The 2nd Principle: Liberal Democracy

The 2nd Principle Liberal Democracy

The PDU believes in the principles of liberal Democracy and the right of Europe’s citizens collectively to determine their own future and that of their continent. By Veronika Czina

In the Preamble of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) the Member States of the European Union confirm their „attachment to the principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and of the rule of law” and consider „the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law” to be universal values upon which the functioning of the European Union has to be built. This dedication to the founding values of the Union is a recurring element of the European Union Treaties. Whether one considers them constitutionally binding principles or just guiding values is secondary compared to the fact that they are all fundamental rules to be followed and protected in European governance and policy-making.

These excerpts from TEU are a clear manifestation of the need for liberal democracy to be a corner stone of Europe’s future. However, nowadays the Union is experiencing a wide range of phenomena which endanger the values of liberalism and democracy, such as governments approaching the path towards autocracy or parties following far-right, xenophobic or even nazi ideologies. Recent events of the European and world political scene, such as the Charlie Hebdo attack or the constant threats and violent deeds of terrorist organizations (e.g. IS), only deteriorate the situation because people tend to opt for extremist solutions to such problems. Nationalist sentiments are growing which also take citizens further and further away from the core European principles.

The current economic situation, still shadowed by a recovery from the Eurozone crisis, also makes the European Union’s situation difficult. The crisis has created financial insecurity and inequality among the people of Europe. The emerging social and economic divisions might undermine not only the economic performance of the continent, but democracy itself as well. Economic inequalities might translate into political inequalities very easily. Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz sees the possible solution in the conscious development of a learning society, which can only be achieved in a liberal democracy.

In order for the EU to be able to overcome these societal and economic difficulties, the key lies in the hands of the citizens of Europe, because, as the second part of PDU’s statement of principle says, only they can determine their own future and that of their continent. As Article 10 TEU states, “the functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.” Citizens’ participation in the European decision-making procedure appears mainly in the form of voting on the European Parliamentary elections. However, one the one hand, the participation rate of eligible citizens in the EP elections is usually low, and on the other hand, this small manifestation of the people’s power is not enough.

PDU believes that liberal democracy should not appear in the the Union only as a value or principle of its functioning, but also as a form of government. This is why, as our other principles show, the PDU calls for a direct popular vote in some areas and the creation of a proper Union government. A transparent, democratically elected government could lay down a firm foundation of a Democratic Union.

Image: “The European Parliament at Strasbourg, France” by Salim Shadid via Flickr. Published under Creative Commons License 2.0.