The events we have been witnessing over the past year are a stark reminder of the threats that democracy faces across the globe, including on our European continent. They have however also unequivocally proven our citizens’ strong conviction to the values and ideals that underpin democratic societies.
By launching a brutal war against Ukraine, President Putin unleashed an unjustified aggression against a free and sovereign democratic European country, and a violent attack on the international rules-based order. The EU has reacted firmly against Russia´s aggression, demonstrating our unambiguous commitment to defend democracy, in the European Union and beyond. We are offering Ukraine comprehensive support: humanitarian, financial, political and military. Ukraine’s European perspective and its determination to carry out the necessary reforms will also help to win the peace. We imposed on Russia the largest sanctions packages in the EU’s history.
Globally, we are working with our partners around the world to defend more assertively democratic values and human rights. We stand with all the courageous people around the world who fight for their civil liberties on a daily basis, for human rights, for the rule of law, for free and independent media, often at great personal risk. Within the EU, we need to shield ourselves from malign interference.
The Conference on the Future of Europe concluded its deliberations in May 2022. It was a unique exercise in deliberative democracy, held on a scale never seen before, which provided the opportunity to European citizens to make their voice heard and make a lasting impact on policy-making in the European Union. In response to the Conference on the Future of Europe, President von der Leyen stated in her State of the Union address, that European Citizen Panels will now become a regular feature of our democratic life. Citizens are not an object of democracy. They are primarily participants, across all generations.
2022 is also the European Year of Youth. The present and future of democracy is in the hands of young people. The EU is committed to empower them and to enable them to have this important space to make a difference, to inspire positive change and to shape and steer the future of democracy, everywhere.
Democracy itself evolves constantly. We too must evolve with it. Each year on the International Day of Democracy it is useful to take stock of how far we have come in building an ecosystem of democratic innovation and where we want to go. Together, we can build a democracy fit for the future.