Leading the Free World Together
One of the campaign promises of US President-elect Biden is ‘to host a Global Summit for Democracy’, in order ‘to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the Free World’. In his first year in office Biden vows to ‘bring together the world’s democracies to strengthen our democratic institutions, honestly confront the challenge of nations that are backsliding, and forge a common agenda to address threats to our common values’.
The European Union should join this great initiative from the start, and help shape the agenda for strengthening democracy. In Europe too, we are grappling with democratic backsliding and assaults on our democracy from the inside. The European Parliament has been in the frontline fending of these assaults. More so than the other institutions, it has been the champion of European values and the rule of law. Parliament has been the prime architect of the new European rule of law toolkit, and it should embrace the proposal of President-elect Biden, by taking the lead once again on behalf of the European Union.
One aspect that has made both the European and the American democracy vulnerable, is that in recent years power has been concentrated in the executive branch. This vulnerability must be addressed. A durable global democratic revival is closely tied to a revamping of parliamentary politics. The European Parliament should connect with its counterparts in the US Congress and discuss joint arrangements for debate, exchange and cooperation in the run up to the Summit. The Transatlantic Legislators Dialogue traditonally focuses on technocratic policy debates, but the exercise of jointly elaborating common standards and values relating to the democratic rule of law, will be an exciting new dimension to the transatlantic parliamentary relationship. Of course this initiative should not be limited to legislators in the US and Europe. A set of vibrant democracies has emerged in a region dominates by authoritarian China. There is much to learn from a country like Taiwan. Not just from its pandemic response, but also it still recent transition to a full democracy. Any succesful democratic initiative with intercontinental reach should look beyond the Atlantic and should include the widest possible range of countries willing to join in.
If this Summit will take place in 2021, it will largely run in parallel to the Conference on the Future of Europe, the other major event dealing with the fundamental issue of reshaping our European democracy. This speaks to the fact that on both sides of the Atlantic earnest democrats have the same worries and are eager to find solutions. Wholeheartedly embracing democracy will be the key to answering most questions that come up.