The 7Ds – Democracy in Depth

Democracy is the beating heart and core of the EU’s identity, along with peace. From its inception in the aftermath of the Second World War, European integration has been open only to democratic countries that respect the rule of law and fundamental freedoms. It has also played an essential role in democratising, stabilising and integrating new countries, from Greece, Spain and Portugal in the 1970s and 1980s to the post-Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s and 2000s.

As the EU acquires new powers and competences to manage new challenges in the most diverse fields, it will be necessary to improve the quality of EU democracy, the legitimacy of its institutions, and their responsiveness to the needs and preferences of the EU member states and citizens. Moreover, democratic values and institutions face new challenges, such as disinformation, polarisation and a lack of trust in political elites—all in a world of systemic rivalry.

In 2023, the Martens Centre published its 7Ds for Sustainability strategy document. This text comprised 175 proposals for the next legislature to future-proof EU policy in the areas of debt, decarbonisation, defence, democracy, demography, de-risking globalisation, and digitalisation. Sustainability was chosen as the guiding principle to ensure that the policies reconcile the needs of both the present and the future, and systematically include the interests of the next generations.

The 7Ds document has already inspired reflection on what to do over the next five years. These discussions are based on Christian Democrat and conservative thinking and the available in-house expertise of the Martens Centre. For the next phase of intense discussions about the programme to be implemented during the 2024–9 legislature, the Martens Centre has invited renowned external experts to put forward their own, more extensive proposals based on the original document, thereby deepening the available expertise. It is hoped that these proposals, published at the beginning of April 2024, will help to clarify the way forward at a critical juncture, when the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council are negotiating on and finalising their strategic priorities.

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