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Panel The Role of Local Government Authorities in the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Safety

8th European Congress of Local Governments

The panel, moderated by Mr. Aleksander Arabadzic, President of the Academy of European Human Resources (PL), tried to find answers how to find a balance between the principles of liberal democracy, protection of individual rights and ensuring security for citizens.

Mr. Francois Decoster, Member of the Committee of the Regions and President of the Renew Europe Group, Mayor of St. Omer in France, pointed out that the great achievement of local governments in European countries is ensuring their participation in the decision-making process and EU law-making. At the same time, this requires upholding democratic values and civil liberties and complying with the law in this respect. He reminded that the period of the pandemic was a big test for the observance of citizens’ rights in conditions of threat and crisis situation, and local governments are closer to the citizen in these matters than the central authorities, which imposed the same tightening and restrictions on citizens in different regions. He also pointed out that a good instrument for enforcing the observance of democratic values is the principle of conditionality of EU funds.

Ms. Magdalena Sroka, Deputy to Sejm and President of the Agreement Party, on examples such as the so-called “envelope elections” showed that there are many cases of persuading local governments to interfere with citizens’ rights, e.g. to provide personal data to institutions and unauthorized persons (post office and others) in the eventually abandoned envelope elections. She pointed out that it is a serious challenge to build a law-making system that could ensure the protection of citizens’ rights and democratic values. She also reminded that a serious violation of privacy and respect for individual rights have recently been used on an increasingly large scale by wiretapping and illegal surveillance of people using services without the necessary control mechanisms. An important role of local governments is to take care of civic education and to shape social awareness and to instil the belief that democracy and democratic values are the basis of a modern political system.

Mr. Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, Senator of the Republic of Poland, stressed that the best fuse and stabilizer for maintaining liberal democracy is a good legal system. He also pointed out that, as experience has shown (including his personal stay in Bucha, Ukraine), “the border of the civilization of liberal democracy is marked by geographical borders and ends in Russia and Belarus, which means that liberal democracy cannot be toothless. There must be mechanisms to protect it – the law. Therefore, security guarantee mechanisms for liberal democracy should be built at various levels”.

Mr. Patryk Wachowiec, The Civil Development Forum, stressed out that there exists no illiberal democracy, contrary to what Prime Minister Orban is trying to introduce in Hungary, where the majority imposes its rights and standards on others from outside the majority. Freedom and security – in this context, international law, including human rights standards, is also important. Other examples of violations of civil rights in the name of general security include ignoring the right to provide information by institutions, violation of personal data and expropriation for public purposes in violation of the rights of persons subject to these processes.

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