State of the Union

The times they are a changing”. Currently, we witness that democracies are at multiple risks. One existential threat is, of course, war of external origin. Democracies have been perceived as often to slow to mobilize military forces sufficient to resist “Blitzkrieg”. What Nazi-Germany applied successful at the beginning took a long time and millions of dead persons to rectify. Similarly, the threat to Ukraine’s independence and liberal aspirations are threatened by Russian imperialism. The other existential threat is that of “the enemy within”. This is the conclusion by Canova (2011, p.213) when he writes on “democracy’s disappearing duties”. Whereas he has primarily in mind, that citizens need to participate more actively in the duties to democracy’s survival. These are “the duty to become informed and to vote, as well as rights and duties related to civic and/or military duties. The discussion, whether we need an army of the many or an army of specialists has shifted largely in favour of the need for specialists, simply think of cyber or drone war technology. However, the threat of the enemies from within becomes clear if we remember terrorist attacks targeted at democracies practice of free movement, free speech or art. Another centuries-old threat has come to our attention again. Corruption. The slow-motion erosion of democracies is hard to fight against as it operates not with visible tanks and weapons, but with clandestine and psychological ways of slow corrosion of organisations and institutions. Combatting corruption is even more tricky in cross-country settings like the European Union. Reference to cultural practices and exclusive or inner circles as cultural exceptionalism make it hard to introduce non-discriminatory monitoring and controlling mechanisms in democracies. Only a well-equipped security, police and judicial system can stem the risk to democracies from corruption and organized crime. It is not only a matter of state responsibility, but our democracies rely on an alert public to stand up continually for our basic values. Just singing the national and European anthem is not enough, fighting corruption is laboursome and cumbersome, particularly as corrupt circles do not refrain from using brute force and weapons (Reichsbürger, Mafia, etc.). Addressing inner and outer enemies at the same time remains high on the agenda for the surviving and thriving of democracies. The foundation ideas of the European Union were constructed by Monnet and Schuman on a sustainable democracy.  Let’s not endanger this through a sluggish response on corruption.
inspired by Canova, T.A. 2011: Democracy’s disappearing duties. In: Democratic Citizenship and War. Peled, V. et al. (eds.) pp. 199-216.