Secretary General 2017 Report: Populism - How strong are Europe’s checks and balances?

Strasbourg 20/04/2017
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© Council of Europe

© Council of Europe

As nationalist and xenophobic parties make gains in a growing number of countries, challenging elites and exploiting public anxieties over migration, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has invited Council of Europe member states to take a serious look in the mirror and take the lead in building trusted institutions and inclusive societies able to withstand populist assaults.

In his 4th annual report on the state of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe, the Secretary General assesses the health of the five building blocks of democratic security across member states: independent judiciaries, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, the functioning of democratic institutions, and inclusive societies; this time in the context of growing populism.

Defining populism and explaining the kinds of anti-pluralist, anti-democratic behaviour which constitutes populist politics, Mr Jagland looks at how this tendency threatens our democratic structures and culture. He assesses how resilient member states’ institutions are against populist attack, and asks, how strong are our checks and balances?

The report privileges the most recent data available, predominantly from 2016. It illustrates the challenges faced by member states with examples, based exclusively on Council of Europe texts – decisions and recommendations, Court decisions, Assembly reports, reports of the Commissioner for Human Rights, Venice Commission opinions and the findings of monitoring bodies and inter-governmental structures. The report also presents examples of good practice and positive developments in member states.

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