Statement on the Elections in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

The elections on December 11th provide the people of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.Macedonia) with the possibility of a new start, and the unification of all democratic forces. And foremost, it offers the people of F.Y.R.O.Macedonia  the possibility to choose the direction for the future of their country.

Free and fair elections are the cornerstones of robust democratic states. These principles are not negotiable and must be respected by all political forces. Ensuring clean electoral lists,  and preventing manipulation of the electorate must have absolute priority in order to secure not only transparency and accountability, but most of all legitimacy. It is crucial that citizens are presented with a variety of meaningful options from which they can choose what kind of lives and systems they consider to be the most desirable for their very own community. This means, free and open competition between different parties. Considering that the latest European Commission report on the F.Y.R.O. Macedonia mention the increasing risk of “state capture” and expresses serious concerns regarding civil liberties, it is crucial that these elections are conducted in a free and fair way so that the country can get back on democratic track and take action in order to give a more positive outlook for the next report .

Vivid discussions focussing on the political content and ideological differences do not only allow all people to enjoy their fundamental rights, such as the freedom of speech, freedom of association and assembly, and freedom of the press, it is also a tool which fosters deeper political participation and paves the way for the emancipation of both individuals and groups. We call on all the candidates to use their opportunities and participate in public debates, thus providing enough information, so that the public can make an informed choice.

The people of F.Y.R.O.Macedonia have lived in a polarized society for many years and they deserve to once and for all enjoy their fundamental rights and democracy. Everything else is not giving them the adequate respect they deserve.

As young people, who are not only living today, but who will also bear the consequences of today’s decisions in the future, we call upon all parties and all other relevant institutions and organisations to collectively ensure that all citizens can practice the democracy they are entitled to through the constitution.

EFAy- European Free Alliance Youth

FYEG- Federation of Young European Greens

IFLRY- International Federation of Liberal Youth

IUSY- International Union of Socialist Youth

JEF- Young European Federalists

LYMEC- European Liberal Youth

YDE- Young Democrats for Europe

YES- Young European Socialists

CETA, lessons to be drawn from a failure

CETA, the free-trade agreement between the European Union and Canada, has finally been signed on the 30th of October after several days of uncertainty due to the opposition of the Parliament of Wallonia. The Young Democrats for Europe welcome this conclusion but regret this episode that leaves the EU further weakened. Three lessons can be taken from it.

The need for democracy, openness and transparency should never be underestimated but rather answered. Donald Tusk himself admitted that the debate triggered by Wallonia had been “profitable” in disclosing “credible information” to the citizens. Indeed, the EC must shoulder its responsibility as “government of the EU” and explain its projects directly to the European citizens in the media, as every government would do when drafting national laws. Such a dramatic situation could have been avoided had the European Commission engaged in a dialogue with Wallonia earlier. This should be borne in mind for future negotiations.

However, this need for more open procedures should be primarily answered at the European level, by associating the European Parliament more closely to negotiations, and the public opinion as soon as possible. Each of the treaties signed by the European Union cannot have to be ratified by nearly 40 national or regional Parliaments, with one refusal risking to jeopardize the whole process. This goes with the credibility of the Union as a global actor. Stronger competencies must be given to the EU and to the European Parliament in trade policy.

The rejection of free-trade agreements does not only come from their lack of transparency, but also from a doubt in the benefits of free-trade itself. We believe that free-trade brings wealth and opportunities to populations but despite its benefits, free-trade also has its losers. A European trade defence instruments should be put in place. If Europe and its Member States do not build a more sustainable framework for free-trade, there will be a risk for the populist message to take over. Free trade cannot be the only political horizon given to European citizens.

Picture: European Parliament AudioVisual Department 

Hungary: A new blow to pluralism and democracy!

Nepszabadsag, the main independent newspaper in Hungary, has just been bought by a company linked to a friend and crony of the Hungarian Prime minister, Viktor Orban. It suspended its publication more than two weeks ago alleging officially financial problems whereas the editorial staff of the newspaper claimed government pressure.

This deal will harm press diversity in the country and increase the control of Orban’s government over Hungarian media. It is a new blow to pluralism and democracy, two values under strain since Viktor Orban came into power in 2010 pledging to establish an illiberal democracy.

For Europe, and especially Orban’s partners of the European People’s Party, it is time to react and to voice their criticisms towards the path backward that Orban is imposing to its country. It is time to defend the values we put at the forefront of our founding Treaties, democracy, diversity, and pluralism, at a time where they are being attacked across the continent.

For us Young Democrats, the European Union shall never and will never be only a club of economic interest, but a commitment towards more democracy and the protection of the citizens whose country is depriving them of their basic liberties.

Update – 31/10: clarification on the reason of the suspension of publication

Post-Brexit: towards a strong and unifying EU project!

These are sad times as we witness the older generation of British people deciding the outcome for future generations. We, the YDE were against Brexit from the start until the very end, but it is now time to move forwards and we must also be prepared to support those of our British friends who want to remain within the European Union.

It is also a time of reflection regarding the future of the EU – we need to change the current system, tighten collaboration and tackle the democratic deficit while building a more attractive and democratic union. Let’s use this momentum to foster European integration and work together towards a strong and unifying project.

We must not shun the political activism and aim towards a better future and reengage our societies while remembering the virtues of dialogue and civility, and the benefits of the EU that brought peace on a war torn continent.

Democracy: the cornerstone of a free society

// Text already published on the 3rd of June in YO!Mag, online magazine of the European Youth Forum.

Nowadays, who is not democrat? Raise your hand. You may ask: What is it today to declare yourself to be a democrat when everyone is a democrat? We, Young Democrats for Europe, put democracy at the core of our engagement. Democracy is not, and shouldn’t be, a punctual event in our citizenship. Democracy isn’t a regular exercise to maintain power for a few, but a constant way of life, a constant effort, for all of us. Democracy is a shield to protect our way of life. A shield we should protect in return when it’s being attacked.

“The pacific and daily fight”

For us, democracy is more than a simple method of government, it is a spirit embracing the values of liberty and humanism. Democracy is to be governed by rules you decide upon, it is equality, equal participation of all, and human dignity. It is the possibility of enlightened deliberation and decision-making. Democracy, autonomy and human rights go hand in hand.

Therefore, democracy should be preserved and defended. When populism is playing with our fears, when politicians are overreacting to crises and issues which should be approached with seriousness, ethics, and professionalism, it revives the destructive idea that democratic regimes are weak, that a strongman is needed in order to govern a society. In Europe, the rise of authoritarianism is worrying. Our fears work like a time machine which can only send us back in time. We are on the frontline of democratic defence. And we are calling on all citizens to be part of this pacific and daily fight for democracy.

But democracy should not only be defended, it should be enhanced. There is more to do to increase political participation, democratic control and direct decisions from citizens, especially with the new possibilities offered by the digital age. Education plays a key role in giving citizens the ability to take part in civic life.

We apply this aspiration for democracy, to the entity that we seek to defend and to expand, the European Union. We want a more democratic union and we want the union to protect democracy. We do not mingle our voice with those who picture the EU as an undemocratic institution. Democracy is undoubtedly present in the EU, in the Parliament, directly elected by the people, the Council, gathering members elected by the people, and in the Commission, whose leadership is decided by the former two institutions. Nonetheless, the EU still has progress to make in terms of increasing transparency, strengthening the role of the Parliament, and opening new channels for grassroots participation. We strongly support these developments.

Furthermore, we want a tougher EU when it comes to democracy in its own land. Countries that threaten the rule of law, constitutionalism or freedom of opinion should be quickly monitored and, if needed, sanctioned. It is important to our credibility and the promise we made to the people of Europe and the rest of the world.

Far from being an overrated value, we believe democracy to be the cornerstone of a free society and a peaceful world, and its defence to be of paramount importance.

Mathieu Camescasse and Vincent Delhomme

Young Democrats for Europe (YDE)
Jeunes Democrates Europeens (JDE)
YDE is the youth wing of the European Party.We embrace the key role of democratic principles, underlined in the Lisbon Treaty and shrined in our political belief: democracy, freedom, equality, participation, sustainability and solidarity.

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