Globalisation and the digital revolution are the new context in which democracies move and it is in this reality that they have to be re-founded. Contrary to what the heir parties of Plato think, there is no other reality than the one in which we live. It is within this framework, assessing all the consequences of this new paradigm that politicians and civil society must reflect and act. In the EPP Group, we have a realistic approach based on solid values and always with the person at the centre of our political action so we are in the best position to find balanced and sustainable solutions.
A vibrant civil society plays a vital role in a mature democracy. And an active civil society committed to building the common good only exists if the citizens have consistent and solid levels of education and civic participation habits. A stronger middle class and the development of an entrepreneurship spirit should be an EU priority. We shall not forget that democracy is a regime that owes the least to its founders. Democracy is conquered, strengthened or weakened on a daily basis, depending among other things on the way in which power is exercised, the way that different powers manage to maintain independence from each other, the quality and the freedom of information, etc. It depends on us.
At the origin of democracy, the problem is not populism, nationalism, China or Russia. These are consequences. Our vulnerability to those threats are a consequence of our weaknesses, our failure to adapt to this new digital paradigm and different political mistakes made in the past. We should have in mind Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
This diagnosis of the State of the Union should not be a reason to be pessimistic. On the contrary. Facing the reality as it is should allow us to tackle the problems in a more efficient way. In the times we live in, all forms of mediation are being challenged and put to the test by groups and individuals who believe that in a digital age no more intermediation is necessary. Social media, for example, is a strong threat to credible information and self-regulation exercises have already proven not to work. For that reason, it is crucial to develop a protective legal and institutional environment and also a financial framework to promote independent journalism.
One of the main attacks on democracy has been on representation: the attack on the parliamentary system. It is obvious that there is an urgent need to re-establish the identification of voters with the elected. Without this identification, without the recognition by citizens of the legitimacy of political representation, the democratic regime does not work. It is necessary to analyse whether existing conditions - the institutional framework, the electoral law and communication methods - are adequate or should be reviewed. This is a reflection to be done without prejudices.
We, in the EPP Group, have already started this debate and we will continue with it. Moreover, the European Union must reinforce its connection with Europeans on a daily basis. One of the best ways to do this is to bring concrete solutions to what people need. Europeans easily accept EU intervention when Member States face common challenges and common threats. Only common solutions are effective.
This is why it is so important, for example, to reform the governance of Schengen - to guarantee uniformity of criteria in the 27 EU Member countries. States should be able to apply restrictions whenever justified, but only according to common standards and not designed on a case-by-case basis. This would strengthen legitimacy. A similar example could be given regarding the health crisis. If we agree to have common health indices this would reinforce the confidence of Europeans and the legitimacy of the EU and credibility of our institutions and leaders. These are just two examples that result from the experience we had over these last 18 months. To reflect on all these issues, the Conference on the Future of Europe is an important moment in our history.
It is above all a particular time and space to stop and think that can allow us to decide and act. But it is also an opportunity to reconnect with Europeans. For this purpose, the communication must be perfect; we have to count on the will of all actors involved and we should avoid getting stuck in bureaucratic discussions. I am confident that citizens’ pools chosen by the methods used by focus groups can bring interesting ideas and that this huge “brainstorming exercise” in the framework of the Conference could bring us all new breath and a renewed ambition.
The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 179 Members from all EU Member States