Democracy is in decline.
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) latest Democracy Index 2016 shows 72 countries experienced a decline in democratic values last year. Countries with declining levels of democracy outnumbered those becoming more democratic by more than 2 to 1.
The EIU’s Democracy Index measures the state of democracy by rating electoral processes and pluralism, the state of civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture in more than 160 countries worldwide. The EIU’s ranking shows the average global democracy score in 2016 fell to 5.52, down from 5.55 in 2015 (on a scale of 0 to 10).According to the index, Norway leads as the world’s strongest democracy, followed by Iceland and Sweden. New Zealand comes fourth, with Denmark in fifth and Canada and Ireland in joint sixth place. Switzerland, Finland and Australia round off the top ten of “full democracies.”
I have written before about what I perceive to be a crisis in confidence among what are called the world's liberal democracies, but I do wonder about the value and validity of these types of indices. Do you think democracy is in global retreat? I have my doubts.
On 29 March 2017, the British Prime Minister signed a letter triggering Britain's withdrawal from the EU. That same day, the European Council released a very short statement in response. In supporting remarks, President Tusk said:
Brexit has made us, the community of 27, more determined and more united than before. I am fully confident of this, especially after the Rome declaration, and today I can say that we will remain determined and united also in the future, also during the difficult negotiations ahead.
This means that both I and the Commission have a strong mandate to protect the interests of the 27. There is nothing to win in this process, and I am talking about both sides. In essence, this is about damage control. Our goal is clear: to minimise the costs for the EU citizens, businesses and Member States. We will do everything in our power - and we have all the tools - to achieve this goal. And what we should stress today is that, as for now, nothing has changed: until the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, EU law will continue to apply to - and within - the UK.
Finally, I would like to say that we have just released an official statement by the European Council, in which leaders stress that we will act as one and start negotiations by focusing on all key arrangements for an orderly withdrawal. On Friday I will share a proposal of the negotiating guidelines with the Member States, to be adopted by the European Council on 29 April.The withdrawal process was always going to be messy. In addition to the purely economic aspects, there are the questions of Gibraltar, the Northern Ireland border, Scotland and the EU citizens in Britain, UK citizens living in Europe. While the EU will no doubt try to be rational in its approach, its own interests and the complexity of EU decision processes provide little incentive for it to provide concessions to the UK. The EU itself will survive the process. I wonder if the UK can?
Finally, the Australian Government has announced the development of a new Foreign Policy White Paper, the first since 2003, to guide Australia's international engagement over the next five to ten years. As part of the process, all ambassadors and high commissioners were summoned back to Australia for a round table session, something criticised on the grounds of cost but which seemed to me to make perfect sense.
What do you think should guide that white paper/
As always, feel free to go to whatever topic or any direction you like. You don't need to be constrained by these topics!