On 16th March 2008, two important Members of the European Parliament, Jan MarinusWiersma and HannesSwoboda lead a debate on Democracy, Populism and Minority Rights, on the basis of the book they edited, published at the end of last year. The event was organized by the Committee on Human Rights in the Deputy Chamber of the Romania Parliaments in collaboration with the European Parliament, Roma Initiatives-OSI and the Aspen Institute Romania.
Organizers considered that such a debate was necessary as a reaction to recent events and the increase of racist incidents, both in Romania and abroad, concentrated especially towards Roma communities. The recent upraise in tensions between communities is worrying. Therefore, the goal of this debate was to offer an environment for a rational dialogue within the framework of an "European citizenship".
This publication engages in a continuous debate with experts and those directly involved. It deals with recent developments in new Member States but one should not overlook the threats to the so-called older democracies. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe have nevertheless in the last two decades gone through a democratic and socio-economic transition which is without precedent. Ten Central and Eastern European countries became members of the EU in 2004 and 2007 respectively. Given the fact that before accession all political energy was invested in the membership negotiations, it is no surprise that latent difficulties linked to the manifold transition processes came to the surface afterwards, culminating in expressions of extreme nationalism, the rise of populist parties and the reappearance of unresolved questions concerning minorities.
Johannes Swoboda is an Austrian social democratic politician. He has been a Member of the European Parliament since 1996. Within the Parliament, he represents the Austrian social democrats and is also vice-president and parliamentary manager of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. Since 1997, Swoboda has been the vice-president of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with south-east Europe. Much of his parliamentary work is focused on the Balkans, the Middle East, Turkey and the Maghreb.
Mr. Wiersma is a Dutch politician and Member of the European Parliament. He is a member of the Labour Party, vice-chair of the Party of European Socialists group, and sits on the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs. He is also a member of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence, a substitute for the Committee on Transport and Tourism, a member of the delegation to the EU-Romania Joint Parliamentary Committee, and a member of the delegation to the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Cooperation Committee.