After the Cold War, scholars were quick to proclaim the end of history and the triumph of liberal democracy over its ideological rivals. A wave of democracy was washing across the world and, by 2002, the number of democracies outnumbered the number of autocracies for the first time in history.

In 2022, however, the tide seems to have turned. Liberal democracies around the world are now struggling to respond to increasing levels of disinformation, polarisation, erosion of political norms, lack of media plurality, and even full-blown democratic backsliding (including the undermining of civil rights and rule of law).

Is it time to start experimenting with democracy? Does democracy have to resemble the post-war democratic systems we are all familiar with? Can Europe institutionalise the “deliberative wave” of democratic experimentation represented by national citizens’ assemblies, mini-publics, and the Conference on the Future of Europe?

Debating Europe convened our own citizens’ panel, with a mix of citizens and civil society representatives, to discuss the future of democracy. You can watch the panel in the video above.

What should democracy look like in the 21st century? Should participatory and deliberative processes be better connected to representative democratic bodies, such as the European Parliament? Can citizens’ panels support instruments of direct democracy, such as referendums? Should Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash
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11 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    EU-Reform Proactive

    Thank you for asking!

    DE: “Does democracy have to resemble the post-war democratic systems we are all familiar with?”

    A: Not at all!

    Definitely not the kind of entrenched and present “EU democracy”- propagated & fixed by its Treaties, the EU Council, the EU-Parliament, all the slumbering head of states (=EU Council), their pro-EU experts & pro-EU think-tanks. A next disaster in the making!

    E.g.: refer to the current Russia/East vs. Ukraine/West crisis which has relevance. Let’s start with:

    How many are aware that the EPP is supporting an EU army? Please read the EPP 2019 Manifesto or ask its president.
    https://www.epp.eu/commitments

    Such “decision(s)” or “fait accompli” have never been derived “democratically”! Neither campaigned on national levels nor voted on (“referendum”) or approved before reaching EU level.

    How many (all?) other important EU issues were similarly “undemocratically” decided in the past?
    https://www.epp.eu/papers/epp-manifesto/

    While the EU champions their treaty evolution, adherence to the rule of THEIR & international laws- Russia’s Mr Putin probably has similar beliefs. Especially after having legally lost the USSR Empire through dramatic events in 1990- before becoming President.

    “On December 8, 1991, the leaders of the Ukrainian and Belorussian SSRs, and the RSFSR met to agree on the annulment of the 1922 USSR treaty. 4 days later, the Russian parliament adopted a relevant resolution,[8] effectively dissolving the USSR.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belovezh_Accords

    Mr Putin singlehandedly initiated to amend the Russian Constitution several times- however, every time “managing” the Duma to approve. Such a “democracy” is surely top-down, managed & assertive- resembling a one-party, rather than a free multi-party system. An “executive President dictating to resurrect the 1991 dissolved USSR. By “changing” the present one surely cannot change the past!

    It reminds & reflects on the similarities with the EU supranational democratic system. Both are believed & called “democratic”.

    The latest 2020 amendments by Mr Putin of the Russian Constitution became “Russian LAW”. Due to its haste, its constitutionality is questionable & maybe internationally flawed? Quote:

    ……..“Other changes are recognition of Russia as a successor to the Soviet Union in relationship to international organizations, treaties, and assets of the USSR stipulated by international treaties outside the territory Russian Federation, banning ceding Russian territory, diminishing the accomplishments by the “defenders of the fatherland” and their role in World War II is no longer allowed, and enshrining God and heterosexual marriage in the constitution.

    Other amendments would enshrine the role of the Russian language as that of “state forming people”, a constitutional reference to God and giving statutory backing to the State Council.

    From 25 June to 1 July 2020, a nationwide vote took place, with 78 % of voters voting in favor of the amendments with a turnout of 65 %, according to official results.

    Putin signed an executive order on 3 July 2020 to officially insert the amendments into the Russian Constitution – they took effect on 4 July 2020.”

    Another “fait accompli”! Ukraine reneged on its “neutrality” promise after becoming independent – OTAN expanded, Russia grew weary, bold & desperate. Anger on both sides. A diplomatic failure on all fronts! No referendum or voters were involved- dangerous.

    I consider both “democratic systems” being suspect- because both lack voter participation. The art of ethical/factual diplomacy has to become “law” to replace strong-arm tactics, bullying & senseless political rhetoric.

  2. avatar
    Lili

    Very difficult to say, because people are very devided regarding their opinions reffering to democracy! Democracy= well-being should be in focus, so people must learn to value themselves and live much more than before!

  3. avatar
    Carlos

    Frozen bank accounts and police visits, like Canada👍🏻 Democracy= do whatever elected overlords say. …right?

  4. avatar
    Yannick

    I think the only way forward is going to have to be more democracy, and here I am thinking about more citizen assemblies, which have proven to be quite adequate in dealing with complex problems, better than governments themselves who are often reluctant to implement diffucult policies. The trend for ‘living labs’ at smaller scales in cities is also a good example of more democracy. Both tools could be well placed to give credibility back into governance and organised society, but also to confront the trend for populism. That’s what I think.

  5. avatar
    JT HK

    As democratic election is overwhelmingly being manipulated by capitalist supported politicians to fight for public power, democracy become a lip service to cheat votes. As we have seen that democracy is creating more social inequality and more military conflict for politicians have been using foreign policy to divert attention of the people so that domestic problem would hand from one government to another without really resolved. So, do not use “democracy” to justify evil, bad government, social inequality and even war … Those shouting loudly democracy like Trump and Biden are actually collapsing the America.

  6. avatar
    Julia

    Well, I don’t think accountants should be running the Ministry of Health, and making health-related decisions. Like the incompetent anti-science and obviously corrupt Minister of Health (A.K.A accountant) in EU-member country Cyprus. I guess he is good at counting his money from all his personal pandemic product investments. Especially the unnecessary rapid tests being forced onto EU citizens for no logical reason, as the virus is mild and endemic. And the vulnerable groups have their magic quacksines. There is an abuse of power in Cyprus regarding the arbitrarily decided unecessary measures and forced rapid tests. These corrupt politicians are destroying the economy, destroying businesses, destroying jobs, destroying our childrens education, destroying tourism, destroying social connection and access to social outings. They are stopping our family members from abroad from visiting us because we are the only country with measures, that cost a small fortune btw, as we have to pay for these unecessary rapid tests out of our pockets. And risk our health with frequent exposure to ethylene oxide which has been proved [in a lab in Cyprus] to be at dangerously high levels and toxic when frequently exposed to it. The previous Bovid Minister of Health resigned because he got on the PCR test gravy train and made millions from these forced PCR tests (it was proven in credible media). There is zero transparency and zero accountability for corrupt politicians who abuse their positions of power to accumulate wealth by imposing unnecessary measures that they profit from.

  7. avatar
    Georg

    Can Europe become a democracy? There are a whole lot of countries with their own histories. There are big countries and small countries. How can there be an All-European vote without one of them being piffed up? We will have to find a way of representing all countries in the same way. Yes, I know there is the EP. Its powers are not really what one wants to call parlamentarian. Where is a deeper democracy which can help people participate in political processes? European proposals directly from the EP come to mind.

  8. avatar
    Tony

    Democracy, we have none of it. We vote our politicians in every 4 years based on what ever BS they spew during campaigning, then they do the total opposite. Politicians are in it to fill their pockets. No one is in it for the bettering of citizens lives. The last two years have been a perfect example of it. If we want democracy, we the people need to start holding politicians accountable. We need smaller government, decentralization, sovereignty of the people and communities to make decisions at a local level, where it affects them and not by some cronies out of touch with citizens real problems.

  9. avatar
    Yannick

    Now this is an interesting question. We call our democracies democracies because we get to vote and decide on something every four years, but aside from that, we stand furstrated at the decisions being made along the way. From the evidence I have gathered on stakeholder engagement and the so called quadruple helix in transportation planning projects (my field of research), citizen assemblies and engaging with youth (16 to 19 years old) seems quite promissing in getting some real sense and fresh perspectives in decision-making, something referendums cannot garantee. But my main problem is this: with slow unfolding crisis like climate change, how do we renew democracies so that the interest of future generations is also considered? It is not for sure that citizen assemblies can deliver, although they did in France with their Citizen’s Convention on Climate, the problem there was that politicians refused to implement all their recommendations.

  10. avatar
    JT HK

    Democracy has been turned to a political process without substance in Europe as politicians lip servicing values rather then well being of the people.

  11. avatar
    JT HK

    According the Gustave le Bon’s study on the psychology of the crowd, which behave like a herd of animal which has no independent and rational thinking but following the call of the more vocal one(s), which is, the one holding the loud hailer. So, who are the people? The people are only backdrop of a show business.

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