1. The Delegation of the Catalan Government to the EU organized a debate on the role of European institutions in promoting and defending democracy, the rule of law, and human rights.

The Delegation of the Government of Catalonia to the EU hosted a debate today on the role of the European Union in promoting and defending fundamental European values. Titled “Empowering Europe: How can the EU strengthen Democracy, Human Rights, and Rule of Law after the elections,” the event focused on the mechanisms and actions needed to defend democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in light of the new European Parliament legislature.

The event featured the participation of Adam Majó, Director General for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights of the Government of Catalonia, who emphasized continuing to work to defend the priorities and fundamental values of all European citizens, despite the rise of the far right across Europe. “As a progressive government, we are not satisfied with the results of the European elections. But the Parliament we have now is not that different from the one we had a month ago, so the challenges and opportunities are more or less the same. The rise of the far right cannot be an excuse for not doing what needs to be done,” Majó stated.

Catalonia as a Proactive Actor in Defending Democratic Values

Adam Majó also highlighted the initiatives of the Government of Catalonia, led by the Department of Equality and Feminism and Minister Tània Verge, aimed at defending human rights and democracy both in Catalonia and globally. Specifically, Majó presented the "Action Plan to Support Human Rights Defenders in Catalonia," aimed at ensuring that human rights defenders, including those defending sexual and reproductive rights, can carry out their work.

Regarding the Government's measures to combat discrimination, Adam Majó also highlighted the creation of the Equality and Non-Discrimination Office, which is already operational, to ensure equality and combat discrimination by offering legal advice and support to victims to resolve conflicts, including mediation.

Additionally, Government Representative Ignasi Centelles called for "raising our voices and continuing to promote democratic values at all levels of government," given "the rise of positions that do not support the rule of law, democracy, and human rights."

The Rise of the Far Right and the EU's Role in Defending Democratic Values

Other speakers joined Director Majó's call to defend EU values. Rafael Benítez, Director of Social Rights, Health, and Environment at the Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe, warned that we are currently living in "critical times, and we must act together" to protect the pillars of the European Union against "autocratic forces." "Together, we can ensure that the promise of 'never again' is not just a historical commitment, but a call to protect future generations," Benítez asserted.

Cecilia Rizcallah, Professor of European Law and Human Rights at UC Louvain, highlighted the need to "fight against the illiberal trend by supporting civil society and media freedom." She also conveyed to European institutions that "the EU should not be afraid to legislate on the rule of law, democracy, and human rights."

Civil Society as a Key Actor in the EU's Future Challenges

The debate also included members of civil society from across Europe. Liza Saris, Project Manager of Connecting Europe at the European Policy Center, warned that "many democracies like the EU are not understood by citizens. And for civil society, it is very difficult to share information on how decisions are made." She advocated for providing civil society with tools to facilitate their work, emphasizing the need for "a European platform for civil society to collaborate across the Union."

Regarding the future challenges of the European Union and the relationship with democratic values, Ivana Randjelovic, Head of Programme Unit for the Europe Department at Civil Rights Defenders, emphasized the role of civil society in the Balkans in spreading European values and building democracy. "All the democratization results in the Balkans are thanks to the work of civil society," she stated. She also criticized the EU for not viewing civil society as "allies in European integration, despite being essential actors in ensuring European democratic values."

The event was moderated by Sam van der Staak, Director of International IDEA’s Regional Europe Programme.



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