The Council of Europe’s acquis (a complex base of knowledge that has emerged over time and through a sophisticated process of debate) in the field of democracy has been summarised as follows
- 1. Parliamentary democracy – the formal structures of democracy that enforce a separation of powers and a range of means through which opinions can be formulated and articulated. The existence of elected assemblies, in the form of parliaments, remain fundamental to this institutional structure.
- 2. Representation – for parliaments to realise this ambition it is necessary for them to be truly representative of the communities they serve, supported by:
- the principle of a plurality of political parties as forming the foundation of effective democratic politics, with the need to prevent corrupt funding of political parties by private interests is significant in this respect.
- good practice in electoral matters through both the definition of standards and the monitoring of procedures, focusing on disenfranchisement among ethnic minorities and on promoting gender equality as a fundamental feature of democracy.
- 3. Transparency, responsiveness and accountability – three main areas.
- the ethical standards that all public servants, whether paid functionaries or directly elected, should be expected to observe
- tackling corruption at all levels, from local government through to international crime and corruption
- a free and active media as one of the building blocks of democracy – media pluralism as the best way to ensure freedom of expression.
- 4. Sub-national democracy and subsidiarity – the European Charter of Local Self-Government has defined the role of local government in a broader democratic polity, based on the principle of subsidiarity, which requires that decisions be taken at the level closest to the citizen, has not always been observed.
- 5. Participation and civic society –focused especially around encouraging the engagement of otherwise marginalised groups: young people, ethnic minorities, immigrants, and the need for balanced gender representation. Support for civic society has focused upon how NGOs can receive official recognition for their contribution to democracy and gain some degree of political legitimacy.
The Venice Commission provides the following resources:
Role of the opposition in a democratic Parliament CDL-AD(2010)025
Report on the Role of Extra-Institutional Actors in the Democratic System (Lobbying) – CDL-AD(2013)011