COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Nearly 300 signatories have signed an open 10-point letter before next month’s European Parliament election, saying lawmakers should be putting democracy at the top of their agenda in an increasingly authoritarian world.

The letter, which was released on Thursday, calls for widening powers to uphold the rule of law, ensuring new digital technologies safeguard human rights, and to place democracy at the heart of the European Union’s security, migration, energy, and trade agendas.

“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,” according to the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, which initiated the open letter.

Last month, International IDEA said in a report that voters in 19 countries, including in three of the world’s largest democracies, are widely skeptical about whether their political elections are free and fair, and that many favor a strong, undemocratic leader.

The letter listed 10 proposals covering two main areas:

1. the strengthening of democracy and rule of law within the EU to combat challenges such as extremism, election interference, the spread of manipulative information and threats to journalists.

2. the EU must uphold its founding values in the face of security, migration, energy and trade pressures, and to mainstream democracy in EU external and enlargement agendas, protecting electoral integrity and securing adequate resources.

The letter said that there is “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.”

“As we know, there are challenges to democracy within the borders of the European Union,” Kevin Casas-Zamora, the 35-member International IDEA’s secretary-general, told The Associated Press.

“It is important that they pay attention to dealing with those challenges in an effective way so as to protect the credibility of the EU’s message on democracy, which I insist is key, given the very unpromising winds that are blowing when it comes to democracy globally,” Casas-Zamora added.

Titled “A Call to Defend Democracy: 10 Priorities for the EU,” it was signed by pro-democracy institutions, and political and civic leaders. Signatories also included Nobel Peace Prize laureates, the former European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and several former prime ministers, including Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain and Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine.

It comes before the European Parliament election of June 6-9 vote in the 27-member bloc of 450 million people who will be picking 720 lawmakers for the next five years.


David Keyton contributed to this report from Berlin.

Brought to you by