UN rings warning bells on erosion of democracy in Europe

The United Nations Tuesday issued a stark warning that democracy and rule of law are under peril in Europe and urged the leadership in the European Union (EU) to take measures to stop the further backsliding of human rights.

This warning came from the regional representative for Europe for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Birgit Van Hout, at a press conference in Brussels Tuesday.

She said that inter-governmental regional organisations, EU institutions, academia, think-tanks, and civil society met in Brussels yesterday, Monday, in a meeting organsied by OHCHR to discuss the human rights and rule of law challenges in Europe, particularly in Hungary and Poland.

“Why we want to ring the alarm bells and convey a sense of urgency is because for us this is about the erosion of democracy in Europe. This is bigger than these two countries. There is domino effect here. Are we going to let this happen?. It is time to stop this domino effect,” she stressed.

Across Europe, human rights defenders are under serious pressure and feel increasingly isolated, said the UN official and added that “when media, civil society and public freedoms are curtailed and institutions weakened, how can electoral processes be credible? When human rights and the rule of law are abandoned, we are all at greater risk.” “We therefore call on the European leadership, citizens, and the business community to denounce the erosion of democracy, stop the further backsliding of human rights,” she added.

Van Hout also expressed concern about the rise of Islamophobia in several parts of Europe.

On his part, Paul d’Auchamp, OHCHR deputy regional representative for Europe, told the same press conference that they met with representative of the Muslim community in Warsaw recently where their cultural centre had been attacked and vandalised and that the authorities were slow to react.

They raised the issue with the Polish government and they promised to follow up the issue which they did and it was something positive, he noted.

But he said that Muslims are not given adequate time in the media in Poland to speak about Islam.

“Everybody is given time to speak, but when it comes to the Muslims representative to say something, the programme is over,” he said.

He said that in Hungary, Islamophobia is on a “completely different scale.” “There, senior government officials have openly alluded to fears of a Muslim invasion of Europe and framed this debate as a clash of civilisations,

Source: Kuwait News Agency