ALDA: Strengthening Local and Participatory Democracy in the European Union

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From 13 to 15 May 2024, ALDA’s General Assembly and Festival hosted a significant panel discussion on “Local Democracy & Participatory Democracy” which explored the Defense of Democracy Package, civil society’s role, and local participatory initiatives within the European Union.

Key stakeholders from diverse sectors gathered to assess the current state and future of democracy within the European Union (EU).

Defense of Democracy Package: An Overview

Vincent Vandersmissen, representing the Belgian Presidency of the EU, detailed the Defense of Democracy Package (DoDP), designed to protect democratic processes across member states and at the European level. The proposal underscores the necessity of transparency, especially in interest representation, to counteract foreign interference in EU and national policymaking. Vandersmissen stressed the directive’s focus on safeguarding democracy, despite concerns from member states about its implementation.

The directive has ignited debate due to its resemblance to “foreign agents” laws in countries like Georgia, Hungary, and Russia, which have been used to stigmatise NGOs receiving foreign funding. Vandersmissen noted that while 15 EU member states maintain transparency registers, none specifically target foreign organisations. This has raised fears of unjustly labeling NGOs as “foreign agents,” leading to potential discrimination. These concerns are under active discussion at Coreper, with the Belgian presidency acting as an “honest broker.”

The DoDP also includes recommendations to boost democratic participation by increasing funding for civil society organizations (CSOs) and promoting inclusive electoral processes, particularly for mobile citizens.

To read more about good practices and insights shared on citizen's particpation in the democratic process, read the full article here !