Democracy in Europe group calls on NATO to protect democratic institutions

ICWA Executive Director Gregory Feifer joined the bipartisan Democracy in Europe Working Group—including more than 60 foreign policy experts, former US government officials and members of Congress—calling on NATO to recommit to protecting democratic institutions and the rule of law in Europe. The call comes ahead of this month’s summit in Brussels, one of the most consequential in the alliance’s history.

The statement reads:

An Urgent Bipartisan Request for the 2018 NATO Summit: Protect an Alliance Founded on Shared Democratic Principles

As members of bipartisan group confronting the erosion of democratic institutions in Europe, we are deeply concerned about rising illiberalism in certain states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a collective defense alliance founded “on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.”

As NATO’s 29 members meet in Brussels on July 11-12, they will consider how to strengthen transatlantic bonds, deter and respond to cyberattacks and hybrid threats, improve counter-terrorism efforts, and enhance the organization’s Black Sea presence. The ability of NATO member states to address each of these issues, and to share the burden of common security, is contingent on a shared understanding of the ideological and political commitments at the heart of the alliance. Yet, with several NATO members actively undermining democratic institutions in their nations, and in some cases deepening relations with Russia, this common understanding is increasingly in doubt, which threatens the long-term viability, security, and cohesion of the alliance.

Given this reality, and as a starting point toward upholding the rights of all of their citizens, it is critical that heads of state of the NATO alliance use the upcoming summit to recommit to protecting democratic institutions and the rule of law through the official leaders’ communiqué.

We strongly urge that the following language be included in that document:

“NATO’s essential mission remains unchanged: to ensure that the alliance remains an unparalleled community of freedom, peace, security, and shared values, including individual liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Backsliding on these values constitutes a challenge to the unity and cohesion fundamental to robust collective defense. We pledge to enable free and independent media; to empower civil society; to safeguard democratic checks and balances on power; and to confront racism, antisemitism, and other forms of discrimination. We are united in our commitment to the Washington Treaty, the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and a vital transatlantic bond.”

The U.S. government must continue to lead the alliance in reaffirming the necessity of our shared principled to our security alliance. That is only as first step in holding members accountable to upholding their founding commitments.

The Democracy in Europe Working Group, made up of former government officials, faith leaders, scholars, and representatives of the human rights community, is committed to the protection of transatlantic democratic institutions in defense of collective security.

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