EESC hosted The Speaker of the Riksdag – Dr Andreas Norlén

On September 4th, 2019, EESC had the privilege and the honour to host Dr Andreas Norlén The Speaker of the Riksdag since September 2018 and former Chair of the Swedish  Committee of the Constitution between 2014-2018.

The meeting was a great opportunity to discuss the situation of democracy in the Baltic region and throughout Europe and to reaffirm   the strong friendship between Lithuania and Sweden.

As Dr Andreas Norlén affirmed nowadays the national governments of all the European Countries and the institutions of the EU are facing noteworthy challenges to democracy and its values. New political movements, usually far-right populist parties, are advancing to adopt ‘new’ political regimes to solve the socio-economic matters that have been affecting Europe since the outbreak of the economic crisis of 2007. It is crucial for politicians and people to comprehend that democracy is not something granted and that new threats posed by movements aspiring to restore authoritarian regimes in Europe need to be faced and monitored accurately.

The anniversary of the 100 years from the approval of the women suffrage in Sweden and the anniversary in 2020 of the 100 years from the adoption of the first Constitution in Lithuania account for two moments of reflection about the significance of democracy and the necessity to protect its values. ‘Democracy makes the world a better and safer place’ said Dr Andreas Norlén:  it is decisive to make people understand that freedom, civil, political and social rights, gender equality, compromise, will disappear if authoritarian regimes are restored in Europe. To protect democracy is not only vital for defending our freedom and rights but to preserve economic prosperity and welfare state. Under totalitarian regimes, as historical evidences indicate, not only freedom and rights are not guaranteed but also living conditions are worse than ones offered by democracy and its institutions. Democracy fosters economic development, enhances human creativity and as Dr Andreas Norlén said democracy provide a better, safer and brighter future to us and to the next generations.

Politicians in all European nations are facing a vital watershed: they have the moral and political duty to protect democracy and its values against authoritarian renaissance. To accomplish this aim, national and European institutions have to re-establish people’s trust towards democratic institutions not only at national level but also at European one. National parliaments should become a mean to instil confidence in the people; the independence of the justiciary and public access to documents has to be assured; corruption of politicians has to be eradicated. These are necessary steps, according to Dr Andreas Norlén, to protect democracy and its values. In this regard, Baltic States, and in particularly the Republics that suffered soviet domination, might constitute a beacon for other European Countries. We do not have to forget people who fought and died in Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and in all the other ex-soviet republics to achieve freedom and democracy. We do not have to consider democracy as granted. Their struggles and sacrifices demonstrate the importance of democracy and emphasise the necessity to protect it against the revival of authoritarian tendencies.

The spread of fake news via social networks and the circumstance that foreign powers, especially Russia, try to influence general elections of European countries, using disinformation by funding anti-democracy movements, constitute a remarkable danger for democracy. Indeed, disinformation plays a crucial role in decreasing people’s trust towards democratic institutions at national and communitarian level. European and national institutions and politicians have to face resolutely this phenomenon. As in the case of Brexit referendum, the diffusion of fake news had a relevant impact on influencing people’s vote. As a matter of fact, the European Union has to stay united, to find a solution to shut down the spread of fake news and to show strength with regards to foreign powers that try to overturn European democratic regimes. In this regard, Dr Andreas Norlén welcomes the friendship between Swedish and Lithuania and hopes for a greater cooperation between European countries to defend democracy and to promote the spread of its values.

EESC thanks to Dr Andreas Norlén for his participation and speech that left to all the participants  noteworthy food for thoughts. It makes us stop and think about the significance of democracy, the necessity to not take it for granted and to fight to protect it against authoritarian revivals.