A lack of “legitimacy and competence” in economic affairs across the EU has fueled a democratic crisis and led to a major loss of trust, President Michael D Higgins told the Council of Europe today.
The president will also this morning call for the European Convention on Human Rights to be strengthened and strengthened in order to cope with a number of crises, including the war in Ukraine and hunger in the Horn of Africa.
President Higgins will make the comments when he addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organization. It includes 46 member states, of which 27 are members of the European Union. Russia was expelled earlier this year.
While President Higgins will say that it was an understandable decision, he will also say that it should not mean “a permanent exclusion from the Council of Europe, in the hope that the Russian population of 144 million people, along with all the other peoples, will not return again to enjoy the necessary protection of the European system of human rights protection.”
President Higgins will also sharply criticize the economic mistakes made before and during the last recession and point to their impact on social cohesion.
“A narrow, blinkered economic paradigm was allowed to dominate politics, with disastrous consequences for social cohesion, one that challenged any human rights perspective. This paradigm ran counter to everything in the spirit of the Council of Europe, and in particular its values as expressed through the European Social Pact, that protects the socio-economic rights, rights in connection with employment, housing, health, education, social protection and welfare, “he will say.
“We have to ask why the Charter was not invoked when social welfare was cut and public services slashed across Europe in the name of austerity more than ten years ago, remnants of which remain with us today, manifesting in so many countries in the Union as underfunded public services and gaping inequality.”
“The crisis of legitimacy and competence in economic and fiscal matters, a crisis which has fueled the democratic crisis we continue to see unfold, not just in Europe but around the world, has accelerated the great loss of confidence that now appears.”
President Higgins must also point to the increasing influence of social media as a key driver of declining trust.
“We need to seriously reflect on the consequences of unregulated control of the spaces for public comment by a very small number of owners, owners who, by failing to accept responsibility or regulation, foster a culture of irresponsible comment far beyond normal limits or restraint of political and social commentary.”
President Higgins will also meet Síofra O’Leary, who will become the first Irish and first female president of the European Court of Human Rights when she takes up her post at the start of November.
Speaking about the war in Ukraine, President Higgins will say that “the gross violations of the European Convention on Human Rights currently being witnessed in Ukraine and the significant political, economic and practical challenges this situation has brought to the Council of Europe create an opportunity to advance issues that may have been put on hold or left for too long, an opportunity for the Council of Europe to assert a renewed commitment to its values.”
“The first challenge we face, to which the members of the Assembly are keenly aware, is how to end the appalling return to our continent of war, of an arms race as a result of which creates and deepens serious geopolitical rifts that have catastrophic human consequences. “