For Schuman and Monnet, two of the founding fathers of the European Union, the idea that democracy as well as fundamental human rights and civil freedoms should extend to all its citizens was paramount.
Even today these values constitute the foundation on which everything else rests upon. But unfortunately negative values and expressions of nationalism, protectionism and xenophobia are particularly prevalent throughout our Member Statestoday.
Extreme parties are whipping up peoples’ fear of the unknown and their populist rhetoric and hate propaganda are heard in country after country. Furthermore we have many examples of Member States that are legislating laws that discriminate against ethnic groups or homosexuals as well as restrictions on freedom of expression.
The EU wants to be a strong voice for fundamental values and strongly criticises countries in other parts of the world when they break against fundamental human rights and freedoms. This is positive, but I also believe that we have a lot to clean up our own backyard.
Although Hungary is the country that has gone furthest with its gross violations of civil rights, it unfortunately is not alone. In Lithuania the authorities tried to stop the country’s first Pride Parade in 2012. In the Netherlands Geert Wilders extreme right party fuels citizens to incite against immigrants, even those from other European countries. In Romania a political inferno has passed by, where rules of democracy have been ignored by both the government and opposition.
Roma are the minority group that has suffered most trouble with forced expulsions both in France and Sweden.
Despite the many terrible developments that we face around Europe today, we liberals can rejoice in one certainty. Today we have the European Institutions that were missing in the 1920s and 1930s. We have a European Commission and a European Parliament that firmly speaks up when necessary. As liberals we must not forget that these reactions are unfortunately not yet automatic. It requires that liberals sustainingly push for clarity in respect for human rights.