Last week, the ALDE Group in the European Committee of the Regions (ALDE-CoR) invited political scientist Brian Klaas, author of “The Despot’s Apprentice: how the West is aiding the decline of democracy” and Washington Post columnist, to their group meeting.
He provided concrete suggestions on how to shore up democratic institutions at the local level, as well as explaining how local politics is being used to constrain Trump in the US and how that might offer lessons that are valuable for European democracies facing an onslaught of authoritarian populism, present or future.
Brian Klaas argues that today, democracies all over the world are under attack, and not just in faraway places but also in the United States or even closer here at home in Europe, with fundamentals such as the rule of law and press freedom among others being curtailed by autocrats in Poland, in Orban’s Hungary, or in the immediate neighbourhood in Turkey or Syria. Autocrats and despots chip away at one critical pillar after another, undermining public trust in institutions and therefore threatening entire democratic societies.
That is why what happens between elections is just as important as the elections itself, said Klaas during the group seminar. He urged our local and regional representatives to strengthen democracies also at their level of government.
"Make Europe the champion of democracy", says @brianklaas in his presentation to our members about how the pillars of democracy are being attacked around the world, and how the local level can set the example to the national level. pic.twitter.com/tgExUFR2fu— Renew Europe CoR (@RenewEuropeCoR) September 17, 2018
In response to today’s challenges for democracies, Klaas laid out this series of concrete actions to strengthen our democracies against upcoming or already established authoritarian leaders:
Ossi Martikainen, Chair of the ALDE-CoR group meeting, commented: "Democracy doesn’t mean just elections. It’s crucial that at citizens and politicians who want to maintain democratic culture respect the rules. And more than ever now we need citizens to maintain this democratic culture and that includes rights and obligations. As politicians, we need to promote the best political atmosphere possible, not just concentrate on getting a win in the elections and then forgetting about democracy until the next election."
Read more about this event on the ALDE-CoR's website.