Defending and strengthening democracy together

As movements of Christian workers from Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and South Tyrol, we have come together against the backdrop of a strong rise in right-wing populism across Europe to reflect on the democratic and constitutional reality in our countries and to describe common future perspectives for our commitment in Europe.

We strongly emphasise that for our movements, respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law are the fundamental prerequisites for a just and humane society. We are grateful to note that fundamental democratic processes continue to function in our countries and that these enable our fellow citizens to participate in politics. However, despite all our hope, we also view the current relationship between society and democracy with concern. On the one hand, the large number of grassroots democratic movements in our countries fills us with confidence. As the example of Fridays for Future shows, an entire generation is taking to the streets for a consistent environmental policy in particular. Many people are also paying close attention to economic and social developments and are speaking out in the form of initiatives or spontaneous organisations.

Our civil societies also benefit from the high level of voluntary commitment of large sections of the population to the common good. On the other hand, however, we are observing in our countries that in an overall mood characterised by aggression, political fatigue and even disenchantment with politics are becoming increasingly widespread. A large number of our fellow citizens feel that their worries about the future and everyday hardships are no longer recognised by politicians or are deliberately ignored. This, the lack of transparency in political processes and the growing gap between rich and poor are increasingly attracting the attention and electoral success of right-wing populist and nationalist parties. They benefit from a toxic mixture of frustration and protest, which is
further fuelled by the supposed inability of our governments to respond to the multiple major crises of our time.

Climate change, the permanent threat to the European and global peace order and far-reaching economic transformation processes are forcing tough political decisions that are rejected by parts of the population as unacceptable and perceived as unjust. The overall destructive consequences for the rule of law and democracy of the permanent takeover of power by right-wing populist governments and the "simple solutions" they practise can be seen in the erosion of the principles of the rule of law, particularly in Poland and Hungary. In our countries, we see a growing threat to democracy due to the recognisable neglect of the education sector and the pure profit orientation of the media world.

Our assessment of the worrying developments mentioned here is based on our understanding of the dignity of man, his life and his work, which is shaped by the Bible, Christian social teaching and our tradition as labour movements. Our vocation is to develop and shape a society in which every person can live with dignity, both individually and together with everyone else. Democracy and the reliability of the rule of law are indispensable prerequisites for this. We are convinced that a policy that serves democracy and its fundamental rights is based on a willingness to compromise, the ability to integrate and the will to overcome political differences and cultural divides. As Christian labour movements, we therefore devote all our energy to the protection and further development of democracy.

Together with all political and civil society forces of "good will", we are fighting for a democratic Europe that is committed to human dignity. With this in mind, we are involved in the current political debates on justice, human dignity and social prosperity in a diverse and colourful way. We actively seek an exchange of opinions and cooperation with individuals, grassroots groups, organisations and parties. In doing so, we are guided by the realisation that we can only achieve our goals through broad alliances. Trade unions and church organisations in particular are our natural partners. Our strength is based, among other things, on the diversity of social groups and realities reflected in the Catholic Church and their peaceful and productive coexistence. This enables us to treat people outside our movements with respect and to selflessly stand up for our values. In addition, the rediscovery of synodal decision-making processes in our church leads to a new appreciation of active listening and greater care in joint decision-making processes.

Our Christian faith and our basic orientation towards the healing message of the Gospel allow us to resist the temptation to break out in fear and panic when faced with the problematic developments and major challenges of our time. As hopeful people, we are wide awake to the strong growth of right-wing populism and its inhuman principles and messages. We are fighting with all our might against the creeping loss of solidarity in the society of our countries and against the erosion of democracy and the rule of law. As Christians, we have a duty to stand up for the rights and dignity of all people, especially those who have neither a reputation nor a voice.