New report warns of ‘worrying degree of democratic backsliding’ across Europe

Council of Europe chief Marija Pejčinović Burić, says European governments need to work together to reverse democratic deficit.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

18 Jun 2021

The 47-nation Council of Europe’s secretary general Marija Pejčinović Burić has highlighted a “clear and worrying degree of democratic backsliding” in her new annual report on the state of democracy, human rights and the rule of law across the continent.

Publication of the report comes with mounting concern about the rule of law and perceived rights abuses in several EU nations, including Hungary and Poland.

Outlining the report’s findings, Pejčinović Burić said, “In many cases, the problems we are seeing predate the Coronavirus pandemic but there is no doubt that legitimate actions taken by national authorities in response to Covid-19 have compounded the situation. The danger is that our democratic culture will not fully recover.”

“Our Member States now face a choice. They can continue to permit or facilitate this democratic backsliding or they can work together to reverse this trend, to reinforce and renew European democracy and to create an environment in which human rights and the rule of law flourish.”

“This is the right option for the 830 million people who live in the Council of Europe area.”

Commenting, Socialist group leader in the European Parliament, Iratxe García Pérez told this site, “European values must be respected everywhere in the EU. It is totally unacceptable, for example, that some towns declare themselves as LGBT free zones”.

“That is why whenever a beneficiary of the EU cohesion policy funds adopts a discriminatory policy, EU funding should be interrupted. We must strengthen the link between EU money and EU principles. The European Union is not a cash dispenser, but a community of values, let’s not forget that.”

“In many cases, the problems we are seeing predate the Coronavirus pandemic but there is no doubt that legitimate actions taken by national authorities in response to Covid-19 have compounded the situation. The danger is that our democratic culture will not fully recover” Council of Europe secretary general Marija Pejčinović Burić

Meanwhile, a new poll says that Cyprus and Lithuania are rooted at the foot of a league table of EU nations on LGBT+ rights in the workplace.

Lithuania is bottom of the pile, receiving zero points for workplace representation while Cyprus takes 26th place with 1.7 points out of a possible 10.

The poll organisers said that although Cyprus has changed some of its human rights legislation since joining the European Union, its low ranking for workplace equality “suggests that LGBT+ Cypriots still face discrimination in the workplace.”

Lithuania’s ranking “probably reflects the limited rights that LGBT+ Lithuanians encounter such as non-recognition of civil same-sex partnerships or same-sex marriage.”

Belgium is crowned the best European country for LGBT+ workers with 8.7 points out of a possible 10. Despite LGBT+ workers having a low employment percentage rate - 17 percent less than non-LGBT+ Belgians - they still score 10 points out of a possible 10 for workplace representation.

Luxemburg claims second place with a total of 8.3 points out of a possible 10. Luxemburg has a 19 percent difference in the employment rate of LGBT+ workers - versus non-LGBT+ workers - which places the country behind Belgium in terms of workplace representation (9.3/10).

"Whenever a beneficiary of the EU cohesion policy funds adopts a discriminatory policy, EU funding should be interrupted. We must strengthen the link between EU money and EU principles. The European Union is not a cash dispenser, but a community of values, let’s not forget that” Socialist group leader in the European Parliament, Iratxe García Pérez

Data analysis reveals that more than 70 percent of LGBT+ Luxembourgers are "either selectively open or hide their sexuality" at work, resulting in 7.2 points scored for openness at work (7.2/10).

Coming in at third place is Denmark with 8.1 points out of a possible 10. Despite scoring the highest rate for most of the factors analysed, Danes, said the poll organisers, “still seem to face a lack of diversity in the workforce.”

LGBT+ workers, it says, face a 30 percent lower employment rate than other professionals, placing Denmark behind countries such as Hungary with 2.4 points for workplace representation.

The poll was carried out by a digital PR company which said it sought to apply its data know-how to discover which European countries offer the best workplace prospects for LGBT+ professionals.

Based on figures from Eurostat and the Fundamental Rights Agency, the company said it analysed factors that contribute to workplace inclusivity to create a points-based index that determines which country comes out on top and bottom.

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