Europe’s missing democratic piece

A flawed election in Belarus, a Soviet-like state, is an opening for Europe to lead in advancing democracy.

Demonstrators in Minsk set up a barricade during an Aug. 10 rally following the presidential election in Belarus.

Earlier this year, the new president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, proclaimed that Europe must do more in managing crises near its borders. It must “step up” and be “more assertive in the world.” This week, her words finally met their match in Belarus, a country at the center of Eastern Europe.

A flawed election in Belarus on Sunday has led to mass protests in a number of cities and violent crackdowns by special forces. To her credit, Ms. von der Leyen has called on the country’s longtime dictator, President Alexander Lukashenko, to publish accurate poll results. And she added, “Harassment and violent repression of peaceful protesters has no place in Europe.”

A special European Union meeting will be held Friday to discuss the crisis. Lithuania is caring for the safety of the election’s main opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who was forced into exile. And Germany, which stated that there was “absolutely no sign” of a free election in Belarus, has demanded that “peaceful protesters” in detention be released.

Is this Europe’s moment to step up and safeguard democracy in the world, perhaps leading instead of following the United States in that role? The coming days will tell if the EU sees itself as something more than a trade union with minimal engagement in promoting democracy.

The democratic revolution underway in Belarus is one of the unfinished pieces in the restructuring of Europe after the collapse of communism in 1989. With the U.S. largely preoccupied with a presidential election and deciding its role in the world, the EU has an opportunity to support the expansion of its values on the continent. Given the size of the crowds coming out for Ms. Tikhanovskaya during the campaign, Belarus is ripe for a transition. The country is considered the last Soviet-style dictatorship in Europe.

Germany has called for sanctions against the leaders of Belarus, not only for the rigged election but also for the brutality against demonstrators. Such actions would show the EU, despite its own current problems, is stepping up in the world. The first step is right in its backyard. The people of Belarus have clearly made a choice for democracy. Now the EU can, too.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Europe’s missing democratic piece
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today