European support for democracy is at a crossroads. The next decade will have a major bearing on what democracy means for the European Union (EU) at a time of increasing awareness of fundamental technological change, climate risks, demographic adjustment and power shifts between and within continents. Democratic governance should no longer be taken for granted within Europe or in European foreign policy. Political choices will need to be made that determine how important democracy is for European states and what to do as a consequence.
It is with these choices in mind that we embarked, 18 months ago, on a participatory review of European support for democracy. This has included several stand-alone papers on democracy support and numerous multi-stakeholder meetings with academics, activists, civil society, donors, experts, policy-makers and think-tanks. The review looked at what European democracy support has achieved (the past), what can be improved today (the present) and where democracy support should be headed (the future). Our conclusions pointed at 5 key recommendations:
- Strengthen our understanding of democracy support
- Accord greater importance to democracy
- Develop a policy framework on democracy support
- Innovate to match current challenges
- Dedicate greater resources to manage coordination
2019: NOW IS THE TIME
2019 marks the 10th anniversary of EU Agenda for Action on Democracy Support. In the same year there will be European Parliament elections and a new EU budget (post-2020). At the same time, democracy is being challenged worldwide. In other words, now is the time for action.
There are numerous studies of the state of democracy and evaluations of individual programme, but very little in between.
A final paper was published on the basis of the conclusions from the participatory review, which offers insights for the European democracy support community.
EUROPEAN DEMOCRACY SUPPORT
The EU Agenda for Action on Democracy Support in the EU’s External Relations was agreed by EU MS on 17 November 2018. It marked the real beginning of what one might call a coordinated policy attempt at EU democracy support. Since that moment the EU has embarked on a series of policy initiatives and programmes designed to create a comprehensive and mainstreamed approach to democracy support. This includes two generations of the democracy pilot exercise, two EU Action Plans on Human Rights and Democracy, Communications on civil society, development and the new EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy.
- Article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty;
- The Council Conclusions on Democracy Support in EU External Relations of 2009, in particular the six principles of EU democracy support;
- The EU Strategic Framework and the second Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015-2019);
- The Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy;
- the New European Consensus on Development agreed upon in 2017;
- The Communication “The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe’s engagement with Civil Society in external relations”;
- The current Multiannual Indicative Programme (2014-2020) of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, in particular Specific Objective 3: Support to Democracy, and;
- The 2015 European Neighbourhood Policy, which is of crucial importance for the EU’s democracy support agenda.