A call to defend democracy – 10 priorities for the EU

On 6-9 June 2024, European voters representing nearly 450 million European citizens will participate in the European Parliament elections. These elections will reaffirm the European Union’s foundational commitment to democratic values and its vital role as a pole of democratic development in an increasingly authoritarian world.

Today, democracy faces an array of grave challenges, globally as well as within the EU’s own borders. EU institutions, custodians of the most successful multi-national project ever attempted to uphold the values of democracy, peace, sustainable development, and multilateralism, bear a historic responsibility at this critical juncture.

We, leaders from different countries and walks of life, thus call upon the next EU leadership to consider these ten priorities to place democracy, at home and abroad, at the top of the policy agenda in the Union for the

There is abundant evidence that democracy is, by far, the preferred form of government by most people in the world, as the best guarantor for human development and a vibrant and pluralist civic space. Yet, growing socio-economic inequalities, corruption, polarization, disinformation, and the acute uncertainties created by the climate crisis and disruptive digital technologies have eroded satisfaction with democratic institutions in many countries. This process has coincided with large geopolitical shifts in which the influence and boldness of some authoritarian regimes, as well as the coordination among them, have visibly grown.

The global weakening of democracy has gone hand-in-hand with a rise in global conflict, which has intensified migration flows, energy shortages, and trade disruptions, while imposing large defence investments for many years to come. For most countries in the world –certainly for the EU—the global erosion of democracy has become a pressing threat to their security.

These converging challenges have created a real risk that in this global election year, EU member states as well as some of its key partners may see the ascent of anti-democratic political actors. This has already happened in some EU countries, where basic tenets of democratic governance, fundamental rights, and the rule of law have been steadily declining for several years. These pressures undermine not only the EU’s founding democratic values, but also the credibility of its efforts to strengthen democracy around the world.

The EU has emerged as a global leader on democratic support. For decades, the EU’s external policies have advanced democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in all continents. Today, the EU and its member states are the biggest provider of democracy support globally. Despite the Union’s internal challenges to the rule of law, citizens around the world still consider the EU an indispensable actor to defend universal democratic values, such as human rights and accountable governance. Moreover, the EU’s role as a global norm-setter on new democracy areas such as data protection, digitalization, and the governance of digital platforms and technologies (e.g. Artificial Intelligence) has further strengthened its ability to support citizens fighting autocratic control. The EU has demonstrated a laudable appetite for trialing democratic innovations to better connect its institutions with European citizens, as well as encouraging the involvement of citizens in policymaking among its member states.

The publication is available to download on the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) website in English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Ukrainian.