The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Elvira Kovacs took part in the Global Conference commemorating International Day of Parliamentarism with the topic “Strengthening Parliaments to Enhance Democracy”, held 29 June – 1 July 2023 under the auspices of the Spanish Presidency of the EU Council in Leon, Kingdom of Spain.
The Conference was attended by the heads and deputy heads of parliaments of the EU Member States, EU candidate countries, as well as countries with special partnerships with the European Union and representatives of the European Parliament, who exchanged opinions on the challenges facing liberal democracy.
HRH Felipe VI, King of Spain, First Vice-President of the European Parliament Othmar Karas, Mayor of Leon Jose Antonio Diez Diaz and John Keane, professor at the University of Sydney and author of the book "The Life and Death of Democracy" spoke at the Conference.
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Elvira Kovacs thanked the presidents of the Senate and the Congress of Deputies of the Parliament of Spain for organising this event in honour of the International Day of Parliamentarism, wishing the parliamentary dimension of the Spanish Presidency of the EU Council success. She reminded the attending of the United Nations’ explanation why this day is celebrated: "Strong parliaments are a cornerstone of democracy. They represent the voice of the people, pass laws, allocate funds to implement laws and policies, and hold governments to account. They work to make sure that policies benefit all people, especially the most vulnerable." Kovacs said that, with full understanding of the current geopolitical, security and energy situation, she expresses support for the priorities of the Spanish presidency, with gratitude that the Western Balkans is once again recognised in the context of the enlargement policy, as well as an important pillar of European security and stability. It is of extreme importance that the countries of the region cooperate in harmonising national legislation with the EU acquis, taking common stances, positions and ventures before European institutions, especially in those spheres that will provide their citizens with a better quality of life. "It is up to us parliamentarians to work and explain to the citizens that the reforms are directly related to the EU, which is the largest foreign trade partner and investor in Serbia. On this occasion, I call on the European Union, the governments and parliaments of the member states to support Serbia's efforts and to understand the delicacy of the situation which we find ourselves in. We believe that Serbia, as a reliable partner of the EU, can considerably contribute to the future of Europe, achievement of peace, security and economic stability”, Kovacs concluded.
In her presentation, during the main session, on the topic “The defence of European values and democratic institutions faced with the new challenges and threats to Democracy”, Kovacs pointed out that we live in a world that is democratic in principle, but at the same time there is room for progress and the implementation of deeper and crucial social reforms. We cherish European values as part of the universal values that place the well-being of the individual at the centre and the right to life as the fundamental and inviolable right of us all, stressed Kovacs. “We expect the European Union to remain a credible partner that will, through various mechanisms of engagement and presence in the region, including financial support, enable the region to progress faster and more efficiently. Based on years of experience and best practices, Kovacs said that it is noticeable that the main areas of parliamentary activity in which we strengthen the democratic character of the institutions relate to the harmonisation of national legislation with the EU acquis, monitoring and supervision through regular submission of reports by competent institutions, interparliamentary cooperation and promotion of rights and obligations stemming from EU accession, that is, the promotion of basic European values. Kovacs pointed out that citizens of Serbia primarily associate the European Union with positive examples - in the first place, for them, the EU represents the possibility of free travel within the member states, then more employment opportunities and a path to a better future for young people. "It is important not to forget that the European integration process does not only include the efforts of the candidate countries, but of the Union itself as well. That is why I believe that the European Union and all of its institutions should work on strengthening the enlargement policy, because there is no integrity of the EU without the Western Balkans region. On the other hand, the EU would have to strengthen the credibility of the enlargement process and the conditionality policy. In order to make the accession process more credible for the candidate countries, the EU should deal with the issue of enlargement more openly in the member states themselves, especially those member states where public opinion does not support the EU enlargement policy. The combination of a credible membership perspective and assistance to the candidate countries is vital for the successful overall integration capacity of the EU", Kovacs concluded in her address.
At the end of the Conference, the participants adopted the “Leon Declaration on Parliamentarism”.