What is democracy, EU values and Human rights?
Democracy is a government of the people, for the people, by the people.
Тhe Greek word demokratia meaning demos – people and kratos – rule, is a form of government which depends on the will and authority of the people. Ultimately, democracy is a form of government in which state power comes from the people. Its main characteristics are the freedom and equality of citizens before the law and their equal access to power.
There are different forms of democracies around the world – direct, representative, constitutional, monitory democracy and others, however, democracy is best understood as what it is not. Democracy is not totalitarian or authoritarian in nature. It is a form of government in which state power derives from the people through “consensus” (consensus democracy), referendums (direct democracy) or elected representatives (representative democracy). As a form of government, in democracy ordinary citizens can participate directly in the decision-making process (unlike monarchy and dictatorship).
Нowadays, almost all countries claim to be democratic and practice government in two forms: direct and representative democracy. In a direct democracy, citizens do not elect representatives to govern on their behalf, but directly deliberate and decide on legislation or policy to implement. In a representative democracy, citizens elect representatives to deliberate and decide on legislation and policy, such as in parliamentary and presidential democracies.
Democracy and Human Rights
There are different definitions of the specific content of democracy, but since ancient times it was believed that equality and freedom are its most important characteristics.
- Individual autonomy: The idea that no-one should be subject to rules which have been imposed by others. People should be able to control their own lives (within reason).
- Equality: The idea that everyone should have the same opportunity to influence the decisions that affect people in society.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), drafted in 1948 is a milestone international document on the rights and freedoms of all human beings. The values of equality and autonomy are among the human values within the Declaration, additionally, the right to take part in government is itself a human right. So the connection between democracy and human rights is vibrant and no democracy can exist without the respect of human rights.
Article 1 (UDHR) All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Article 8 (UDHR) Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Article 9 (UDHR) No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 19 (UDHR) Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Article 20 (UDHR)
- Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association
- No one may be compelled to belong to an association
Other human rights include freedom of assembly and speech, inclusiveness and equality, membership, consent, voting, right to life and minority rights.
The European Union’s fundamental values are respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law. These values unite all the Member States – a country that does not recognise these values can belong to the Union. The main goal of the Union is to defend and respect these values as well as to promote peace and the well being of its citizens.
The European Union is founded on the treaties that have been approved voluntary and democratically by all Member States. The treaties lay down the objectives of the EU and set out the rules for how the EU institutions operate, on how decisions are made and on the relationship between the EU and the Member States.
The Treaty of Lisbon is the latest treaty of the EU that came into force in 2009. It simplified working methods, voting rules and policy reforms, created the President of the European Council, and permanently included the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
For the first time in the history of the Union, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union brings together in a single document the civil, political, economic and social rights of European Union citizens and all persons residing in the Union.
These rights are broken down as follows:
- Citizens’ rights
The Chart of Fundamental Rights is a legally binding document that contains a list of human rights, forbids discrimination based on gender, race, the colour of the skin, religion or sexual orientation.
Council of Europe. (n.d.) COMPASS: Manual for Human Rights Education with Young People. Media. Council of Europe. https://www.coe.int/en/web/compass/media
European Commission, Directorate-General for Communication. (n.d) AIMS AND VALUES. European Union. https://european-union.europa.eu/principles-countries-history/principles-and-values/aims-and-values_en