logo Council of Europe logo Council of Europe Human rights Channel - La chaîne des droits humains
International day of Democracy

How resilient are Europe’s democracies?
Civil liberties, free speech and the rule of law are under threat

"Democracy, human rights and the rule of law fit together to the benefit of citizens in Europe and across the world.  Democratic governance creates freedom, fosters opportunity and counters corruption in society.  It also supports fair political competition with outcomes and institutions that foster public trust."

Each day millions of Europeans exercise their civil liberties, from participating in elections to practising free speech and enjoying the benefits of living in societies governed by the rule of law. Europe remains, in many parts of the world, a beacon of democratic progress. Yet all is not well in our democracies.

Is democracy the worst form of government?
Does Democracy make us free? Does it subjugate the needs of the minority to the will of the majority?

Stable democracies are those which contain strong institutional checks on power. This means free and fair elections which allow citizens to choose their representatives. Parliaments must be able to scrutinise and shape legislation, with opposition parties able to hold government to account.

Functioning of democratic institutions

Free and Independent Elections


How efficient, impartial and independent are Europe’s judiciaries?Can courts really protect our rights and defend us against abuse of power?

An effective separation of powers is required in order to prevent conflicts of interest between the executive, legislative and judicial arms of the state.

Problems remain in Europe in the way legal standards of judicial independence and impartiality are applied, leaving national judiciaries open to political influence and fuelling public perceptions of interference in the judicial process and bias among individual judges.

In most cases the challenge is one of implementation and mind-set, with rules on independence not being sufficiently respected by the wider legal community and political actors.

Journalists are watchdogs for democracy
Propaganda and lies to protect powerful interests, or open, informed debate to improve society?

Freedom of expression and the free flow of information are the cornerstones of public debate and democracy.

Freedom of Expression on the Internet


Journalists ensure the right of the public to be informed on all matters of public interest. They contribute to forming an educated electorate that can hold democratic authority to account. 

Journalists and other media actors can only fulfil their important role only when they are able to work without interference and fear of violence, arbitrary detention and harassment.

Protection of Journalists


The Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists aims to improve the protection of journalists, better address threats and violence against media professionals and foster early warning mechanisms and response capacity within the Council of Europe.

Fighting corruption is an act of self-defence
Corruption harms economic growth and development, leads to pollution, instability, murders and violence.

Corruption destroys freedom and makes people poor. It erodes the rule of law, constitutes a denial of human rights and hinders social and economic development. It is estimated that hundreds of billions of Euros are paid in bribes every year.


12 Principles of Good Governance


Ethical conduct, the rule of law, efficiency and effectiveness, transparency, sound financial management and accountability are all part of good governance. Effective democracy and good governance are essential for preventing conflicts, promoting stability, facilitating economic and social progress, and hence for creating sustainable communities where people want to live and work, now and in the future.

Education for democracy and human rights
Do we know how to handle freedom?

How to address discrimination, prejudice and intolerance, prevent and combating violent extremism and radicalisation in a sustainable and proactive way? Education for democracy and human rights is key to building inclusive societies with effective democratic institutions and respect for human rights.

Education in democracy


Education for democracy and human rights in 10 steps


What’s the point of peaceful demonstrations?
Just a lot of noise?

The right to assemble peacefully, together with the freedoms of expression and of association, rests at the core of any functioning democratic system.

Public demonstrations and rallies are part of the routine that makes up a pluralistic democracy.

Protecting freedom to peacefully assemble is crucial to creating a tolerant and pluralistic society in which groups with different beliefs, practices or policies can exist peacefully together.

What is the will of “the people”?
Does populism damage democracy?





Council of Europe,
Avenue de l'Europe F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex, France -
Tel. +33 (0)3 88 41 20 00
Disclaimer - © Council of Europe 2020 - © photo credit - Contact - RSS - Report fraud & corruption