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Declaration ‘In Defence of Democracy’ combines high principle with electoral politics

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Four political groups in the European Parliament have issued a joint declaration ‘In Defence of Democracy’. The declaration from the Socialists, Renew, the Greens and the Left is undoubtedly sincere statement of concern about the threat to democratic freedoms. But it should be read in the context not just of the European Elections but of what might come afterwards, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.

An expected shift to the right in the elections might give the largest group, the EPP the choice of cooperating with the group to the right of it, the ECR. Neither the EPP nor the ECR have signed the declaration, but it is supported by the centre and centre left groups with which the EPP has traditionally cooperated to find a majority for crucial votes. This includes the appointment of candidates to key roles within the Parliament itself and also the ratification of the European Commission President and Commissioners.

The declaration can therefore be seen as a challenge to the EPP in particular to sign up as well and rule out any dalliance with the ECR. When the ECR’s largest member, PiS, was in power in Poland, that country was frequently accused in the Parliament of backsliding on the commitment to European values which is meant to be part of EU membership.

The declaration reads as follows:

The European Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.

Europe will celebrate its 75 years of peace. It is a historic project of progress that has brought shared prosperity to our continent over the past decades and that gives us common strength to shape our future together as Europeans.

The European Union is the world’s most advanced project to build a transnational democracy with a strong parliament at its heart, the European Parliament. A series of recent attacks against politicians and political gatherings in our Member States show clearly however that we cannot take this for granted.

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We are facing a crucial moment in the history of our European project, where once more the far right is attempting to bring back the darkest pages of our history, challenging everything we built and poisoning our democracies. The European Union has always stood firm against the threats of extremism, from all sides of the political spectrum.

The rise of the far-right and radical parties in Europe is a threat to our common project, its values and to the civil liberties and fundamental rights of its citizens. In clear contrast, we, leaders representing pro-European forces, share a history of fighting to

bring people together, not set them against each other. We fight inequalities, division, and intolerance.

We proudly stand for ensuring equal rights, for the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights, for civil society and freedom of press, for women's rights and gender equality, and we stand firm against all forms of discrimination, hate speech and hate crime.

Recently, millions of citizens have taken to the streets to protest against the far-right in Europe. We, European leaders of the different political Groups stand with them.

Together we strongly condemn the recent brutal attack against MEP Matthias Ecke, MP Kai Gehring, and to other political families, the acts of violence by far right supporters in Stockholm, attacks against party headquarters in Spain and the targeting of politicians’ homes in Belgium.

We strongly condemn the constantly growing cases of harassment, vandalism, spread of disinformation, defamation and hate speech by far right parties across all Member States to threaten politicians, activists, journalists and European citizens every day. This has no place in Europe and we will never be silenced. We will never allow for any citizen to be threatened in the exercise of their democratic rights.

We also deplore the increasing reports of politicians, including MEP’s, being paid to disseminate the spread of Russian propaganda, and reiterates the European Parliament’s previous condemnation of past cases of political partnerships between far-right parties and radical parties in Europe and the Russian leadership.

For our political families, there is no ambiguity:

We will never cooperate nor form a coalition with the far right and radical parties at any level. We call on the President of the European Commission and all democratic European parties to firmly reject any normalisation, cooperation or alliance with the far-right and radical parties. We expect them to include this formally and unequivocally in their election manifestos and party declarations.

As European leaders, we will remain vigilant and will fight for a democratic, inclusive, free and equal society where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. These values are the foundation of the European project and principles that we will always defend.

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