Democracy is being extinguished across Europe by German leader

German leader Angela Merkel

News from Ireland

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Perhaps we should not be surprised: Democracy is only viscerally prized by relatively few European states. Merkel herself, for example, only tasted democracy for the first time in 1990.  It’s frequently forgotten that most EU countries have been dictatorships within living memory. Here’s a list of some EU nations, next to the date when they most recently became democracies: Spain: 1982; Germany (West); 1952; Germany (East) 1990; Portugal: 1982; Italy 1946; Poland 1990; Latvia: 1991.
 
These facts alone show, at best, a very short history of uninterrupted democracy in many EU states. Perhaps, for some nations, democracy has not been around long enough for a deep culture to develop that instinctively resents a government that ignores the will of its people. Indeed, when speaking to my Italian family about the deposition of Berlusconi, most seemed utterly unconcerned about the implications for their democracy. Quasi-dictatorships and monarchies, “benevolent” or otherwise, are historically common in Europe. A ferocious and long-standing commitment to liberty and democracy is historically only seen in some EU nations such as Ireland, Britain, Sweden, France and a few others.
 
The Frankfurt Group is becoming more hostile to basic democratic principles by the day. Yet Europe is not becoming stronger, it is becoming weaker: Obama's decision not to attend last year’s EU-US summit in Spain underlines this fact. The fact that the single currency remains under constant threat also demonstrates the folly of pretending that precisely the same laws and currency are good for Greece, Spain, Ireland and Germany.
 
The EU began as a bright promise of co-operation and peace in Europe but - like so many other utopian political visions  - it is becoming dangerously anti-democratic. It has achieved many great things, but it now needs to go back and submit itself to the basics of democracy: government of the people, by the people, for the people. What is a people? History has shown repeatedly that an enduring “demos” can only comprise a natural, largely culturally homogenous unit such as a nation state. From the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the British Empire to the Soviet Union, centrally governed, undemocratic multi-national entities have always eventually failed.
 
The principles of democratic consent must be urgently renewed in Europe. In Ancient Greece and Rome, democracy was born in Europe. Yet, as ordinary Europeans now see every day, Europe's leaders are ignoring the sovereignty of our nations and the democratic will of our peoples. If we don't speak out, the cradle of democracy may soon become its grave.

Rory FitzGerald is an Irish writer and commentator based in Cork

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