The intervention of Ambassador Olof Skoog at the Bali Democracy Forum emphasised the fundamental values of the European Union, the importance of democracy as the best tool to create stability, security and prosperity and the aspiration of the European Union to achieve a life in dignity for all.
The Bali Democracy Forum has established itself as the key inter-governmental forum in Asia to discuss a deeper and more thorough democratisation of the region and of the world, and the Government of Indonesia should be commended for creating this meeting place.
It is particularly important that the voice of civil society and other stakeholders is heard to manifest this both as a democracy forum and a democratic forum. In this regard, I would like to commend the Bali Institute for Peace and Democracy – which the EU supports – for organising the Bali Civil Society Forum earlier this week.
The EU is constructed around some core values. A fundamental criterion for any country that wants to join the Union is that its institutions are set up to guarantee democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.
The same criteria form the basis of our foreign policy. Our treaty says that:
“The Union’s action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.”
These represent our shared values but also our interests. We seriously believe that democracy is the best tool to create stability, security and prosperity for citizens, for countries and for a functioning world order.
There are several interpretations and definitions of democracy around the world – in theory and in practice. However, there are some essential elements that define democracy, and they all centre on the idea of the empowerment of citizens. These include:
- the right to vote in genuine, free and fair elections,
- the right to stand as a candidate,
- the right to form and join political parties
- the right to express opinions and to access information, which requires a free and independent media that can scrutinize elected leaders ,
- rule of law
- and transparency and accountability in public affairs
Based on these elements, democracy aims for:
- the creation of peaceful and prosperous societies,
- where power change hands in peaceful transitions,
- where institutions serve the needs of the people,
- where public resources are used in a transparent, effective and accountable manner,
- where a mandate can be recalled in the following election, and
- where the majority respects the rights of the minority.
Human rights are a central dimension of democracy as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and further developed in the major Human Rights conventions.
The EU doesn’t just talk and lecture people about democracy and human rights but we put our money where our mouth is and – as the largest donor in the world – concretely support democracy in many ways:
- through election-related activities, like observation missions,
- through support to democratic institutions, like capacity building for parliaments or public sector institutions,
- through support to civil society organisations, such as the Institute for Peace and Democracy here in Bali
- and through numerous other projects not least in ASEAN
And through all this, we keep a gender dimension; at the core of democracy is one person – man or woman – and one vote.
We believe in the aspirations for a life in dignity for all, as recognised in the Millennium Development goals, and we believe that democratisation is an extension of the same aspirations, as President Yudhoyono said this morning.
We all know that democracy is not something given once and for all. It needs to be reconfirmed consistently. And sometimes fought for and protected by the citizens. There are occasional bumps in the road. Here as in Europe and other parts of the world. But elected leaders must be responsive and accountable to the citizens. We have seen how people here in the region respond if actions by elected leaders are seen to move away from promises or retract on democratic gains.
I wish to recognise the importance of Indonesia, our host country, as the largest Muslim-majority democracy in the world. A very living example that democracy and impressive economic development can go hand in hand.
The Indonesian people deserve respect for their ability to manage a vast country of astonishing diversity.
You have learnt important lessons from your history. The creation of the Bali Democracy forum shows your willingness to share these lessons with others – with your friends in the region but also with us in the EU.
We are honoured to be partners in these efforts.
Before ending let me remind you that today is not only the day the Bali Democracy Forum is taking place but also the European and World Day against the Death Penalty. We believe these issues go hand in hand. No country – even less so democratic ones – should put to death its citizens.