RIGA - The definition of democracy and its limits is becoming more and more pluralistic, said Latvian President Egils Levits on the 100th anniversary of de iure recognition of the Republic of Latvia.
He said that almost every democracy in today’s world is tested by left and right-wing populism. Especially now when the pandemic threatens to cause major democratic fatigue syndrome. The European Union is also preoccupied with a debate on the correlation between democracy and the rule of law, and its meaning.
According to Levits, social media are increasingly becoming the main platform for people’s communication, becoming ever more important as a tool for influencing public opinion and various policies. It is an easy tool to manipulate. Social media can be easily used to intentionally spread false information or exert targeted external influence on domestic democratic processes taking place in another country.
The fact that some international monopolies are beginning to regulate which information reaches the public domain and which does not, is not acceptable from a democratic viewpoint, said Levits. There is a clear need to consider an adequate regulatory response to these challenges, especially at the European Union level. Efficient tools guaranteeing freedom of speech and regulating the rights and obligations of users in the digital space need to be established, including freedom from surveillance and digital tracking.
"These challenges go well beyond the national level and have a European and global dimension. In many cases an effective response to these challenges requires very close cooperation between countries," he said.
"That is why I like the idea of US President Joe Biden to bring the democratic heads of state and government together in a Summit for democracy. The decision of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to invite three other democratic nations with considerable economic influence – Australia, South Korea and India – to the forthcoming G7 summit is also a step in this direction. I firmly believe that it is time to make the global democratic community more visible," said Levits.
Clearly, all democratic countries and their concrete political and economic interests are quite different. Pluralism is one of the main features of democracy. Also, the definition of democracy and its limits is becoming more and more pluralistic.
However, despite different interpretations of democracy it is still centred around the same idea - people voting for their representatives in free elections that are guaranteed by the rule of law. We now need to find a way to secure the core concept of democracy in current circumstances, in the current geopolitical context. In a context which is becoming increasingly more complex because of growing global environment and climate challenges. In a time of technological progress, which has left us with no choice as we have to figure out how to politically and legally ensure that we are the masters of technology and not its slaves. In a time when public perception of the real value of democracy is becoming fragile and fragmented.
Latvia is ready to provide its constructive support in addressing these common democratic challenges.
The president said that today marks the 100 years since international recognition of the Republic of Latvia. The world back then was quite different. Challenges back then were very different from what we are facing today, he noted.
"But our state is still the same. We are still the same nation. As the Latvian nation and Latvian State, we keep marching through time. So, looking back at these hundred years as an uninterrupted period of time, we can proudly say: we have honorably come through these challenges and will continue to do so in the future – also thanks to our professional and dedicated diplomatic service. That is why today I would like to present a Presidential plaque to Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics and to the Latvian diplomatic service as a token of appreciation for their work and wish them strength and every success in the second centenary of Latvian diplomacy," Levits said.