I have the honor of addressing you on behalf of the European Union. The Central and Eastern European countries associated with the EU, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the other associated countries, Cyprus, Malta and Turkey and the EFTA country belonging to the European Economic Area, Iceland, endorse this statement.
First allow me to convey the sincere congratulations of the European Union to the Secretary-General and the Organization of the United Nations for the Nobel Prize they received. We listened very attentively to the speech the Secretary-General made at the official ceremony, which took place in Oslo yesterday. Mr. Kofi Annan stated that promotion of democracy is one of the priorities, which should mark the action of the ONU in the beginning of this millennium. The EU shares this vision entirely and will fully support the Secretary-General in its realization.
So far, there have been four meetings of the International Conference on New or Restored Democracies. The fourth was held in Cotonou, Benin, about a year ago. It was the first Conference of its kind that was hosted by the African continent. It was also the first time that all of the United Nations Member States were invited to the Conference. The Cotonou Conference illustrated that there is growing support for strengthening democracy in all regions of the world. The participants at the Conference reaffirmed that it is the will of the people to establish the authority of governments and that this will must be voiced in the form of free, fair, pluralist, orderly and transparent elections. The participants also condemned all anti-democratic forms of acceding to and staying in power. Moreover, they recognized that development and the eradication of poverty were factors that promoted and preserved democratic development.
The Cotonou declaration, adopted at the end of the Conference, contains recommendations, including the designation by the UN Secretary-General of a coordination “focal point” within the United Nations system. The purpose of this focal point will be to support the efforts made by the Member States to consolidate democracy and assist the mechanism for following up the Fourth International Conference on New or Restored Democracies. With its universal dimension and its experience, and through its various programmes and activities, the United Nations Organization can play a major part in promoting democracy. It is for this reason that the European Union is supporting such an initiative.
Democracy is not only a universally recognized ideal and objective, but also a fundamental right of citizens.
Democracy is a process, which cannot be summarized as the holding of elections. Any democratic system must also offer the population, men and women on an equal footing, the possibility of participating fully and effectively in all spheres of society. It is in the essence of democracy that civil society be reinforced.
Democracy is first and foremost the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, enshrined in international instruments. Tolerance and respect of diversity, the fight against all forms of discrimination, equality between men and women, are also fundamental parts of democracy.
Democracy and the rule of law are inseparable. Measures that foster the creation of the rule of law, such as by: promoting good governance; adopting and applying laws, procedures and mechanisms that guarantee representation and accountability and that protect individuals and groups of individuals from arbitrariness and injustice; guaranteeing an independent judiciary; and training State officials are extremely important factors in bolstering and consolidating democracy.
Democracy is undeniably linked to sustainable development. The aim of democratization is to offer a wider choice to the population, and this helps to create a socio-economic environment, which encourages development.
The European Union supports, and will continue to support, the efforts of States involved in the process of democratization. Consolidating democracy is one of the key objectives of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, and of the European Community’s cooperation policy. Through its cooperation programmes, the EU supports third States to assist democratization in numerous areas: in the strengthening of the rule of law (in particular in the field of justice), in the effective participation of the population, in the strengthening of civil society and in the development of a human rights culture. Support for elections also represents a considerable share of the EU’s overall contribution towards democratization and sustainable development in third countries. As an ever-growing number of countries commit themselves to democracy, Community aid for supporting the transition also increases. The main part of the appropriations committed (nearing EUR 180 million over the last five years) goes to supporting the holding and observing of elections. Since the Commission Communication on EU Election Assistance and Observation in April 2000, EU policy on elections has become more coherent and homogenous.
There is no pre-established and authoritative formula for democracy. There is more than one road to democracy: each country will get there via its own route and at its own pace. But this does not mean that States cannot learn from the experience of others. The United Nations continues to be the forum specially suited to exchanging information and best practices on the promotion and consolidation of democracy.
A democratic culture is the best safeguard against conflicts and terrorism, as it guarantees the peaceful and equitable settlement of disputes. Over the last decade, an increasing number of countries across the globe have adopted a democratic system. Even if some of them have suddenly reverted back to autocracy or have been plunged into civil or regional conflicts, we are optimistic, since the countries in which the representatives of the people derive their authority from free, democratic and pluralist elections are now in the majority in the world.