George Papandreou, President of Socialist International and former socialist Prime Minister with PASOK, discussed the many threats facing democracies today at the Delphi Economic Forum on Wednesday.
He stated that one of these many threats is the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a democratic country. He also spoke of the terrible consequences of the ongoing war, focusing particularly on the revelations of potential war crimes in the city of Bucha. He also touched on the unfolding energy crisis caused by Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, and the developing foodstuff crisis, that may even lead to an exacerbation of other ongoing difficulties.
“Democracy was created to check and control the abuses of power,” he said and shared his belief that one of the main root sources of threats to democracy is unbridled capitalism. “Capitalism has created great wealth, but also great inequalities. It has created great wealth but damaged the environment.”
Papandreou also discussed the role of social media in democracy and their failed potential, where instead of giving everyone a voice they have now distorted political discourse. Whereas citizens in the past had to debate each other, today people have the ability of behind armies of bots and Papandreou stated that algorithms play a role in polarizing society.
The former prime minister also stated that there is a growing sense of frustration and injustice due to inherent societal inequalities. This has allowed societies to become vulnerable to demagogues and even mob justice. Papandreou spoke of the need to trust the citizens and allow for direct and immediate citizen participation even if we do not always like the result.
Ukraine is a crossroads for Europe, he concluded. Europe has shown great unity, not just in its efforts to support Ukraine in its war or re-arm but in maintaining cohesive values. “Europe is based on the rule of law,” he said, adding that a “deepening of democratic institutions, strengthening our values, that is our real defence.”