On the occasion of the International Day of Democracy, the European Union reaffirms its commitment towards democracy as a fundamental right of every human being. Every woman and every man has to be free to participate in the political, economic and social life of her or his country. No one should fear to speak up, to demonstrate peacefully, to go to vote or to expect fair and inclusive policies from a government. Democracy can only function if participation and trust between democratic state institutions, governments and citizens are guaranteed.
In Europe and elsewhere in the world, the erosion of civil liberties and different kinds of manipulation and disinformation, especially during electoral campaigns, are on the rise. Numerous pro-democracy movements and whistleblowers continue to lead the way in standing up for democracy and to claim their civil and political rights. Their courage and determination are an example and inspiration to us all.
Through its external action, the EU is supporting partner countries to put in place and preserve participative, representative and accountable democratic and electoral institutions. EU electoral assistance has amounted for more than €250 million in the last five years, delivering capacity-building, technical and material support to electoral processes in 50 countries. EU actions also focus on the access to information, freedom of media, support for party systems and accountability of state institutions, including via the support to investigative journalism in Armenia, Kosovo, Montenegro or Peru, and the “Media 4 Democracy” and “Protect Defenders” programmes on freedom of expression and human rights activists at risk.
The EU has been at the forefront in unveiling disinformation and taking action against the risk of interference and malicious manipulation of the public debate, online and offline. In 2018, the EU adopted measures aimed at ‘Securing Free and Fair European Elections’ and agreed the Action Plan against Disinformation, to set standards to defend and safeguard democracy. The Rapid Alert System is active since March 2019 to help address foreign disinformation campaigns.
Everywhere in the world, work for democracy remains our top priority. Only by promoting and supporting resilient democracies, hand in hand with local authorities and civil society representatives, we can contribute to more equitable and prosperous societies globally.