1. The Committee on Culture, Science,
Education and Media welcomes the report prepared by Mr Jean-Charles
Gardetto for the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy. It
is very timely, given the persistent problems underlined in past
election observation reports and tendencies to political radicalisation
in some member States in the wake of economic crises. The recent
democratic movements in Arab countries and other parts of the world
remind us that the right to free and democratic elections is a universal
human right aimed at ensuring good governance, the rule of law and
peace. Also for Europe, self-criticism and innovation are necessary
approaches with respect to democratic elections.
2. Democracy and individual freedom are ancient philosophical
concepts, which are deeply rooted in European culture. Parliaments
must enact domestic legislation which guarantees democratic elections,
but laws alone do not suffice. In order to implement philosophical
concepts set in legislation, people need awareness and understanding
which is achieved through adequate education and training.
3. Democratic elections provide legitimacy to parliaments and
governments. The media have a key role in disseminating information,
opinions and political discussions, in particular during election
campaigns. Freedom of political debate and the access of political
candidates and political parties to the media are fundamental requirements
for any democratic election.
4. The committee wishes to underscore that democracy cannot exist
without strong institutions and sound legislation, but it also cannot
work without being based on democratic culture. Education – including
higher education – and participation in civil society initiatives
are decisive forces shaping the democratic development of societies.
5. Democratic participation, however, depends on both citizens’
capacity and willingness to engage in democratic processes, such
as elections. Whilst the capacity can be enhanced through adequate
support policies, the willingness to engage depends largely on citizens’
confidence in democratic institutions. Confidence in democratic
institutions is therefore key to preventing voters’ absenteeism
and to ensuring sustainability of democratic systems at local, regional,
national and European levels.
6. The committee aligns itself with the draft resolution adopted
by the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy. Therefore,
the following amendments are proposed in support of the objectives
of Mr Gardetto’s excellent report.