Press Release

“Democracy under Pressure” 2024: JEF Europe stands in solidarity with democracy defenders

Brussels, 18.03.2024

Key points:

  • For the 18th consecutive year JEF Europe is launching its “Democracy under Pressure” campaign that will run between 18 – 25 March 2024. 
  • Despite setbacks, Europe must continue to support Ukraine at all costs as well as democratic voices in Belarus, Russia and beyond to ensure long-term peace.
  • The upcoming European elections are an opportunity for citizens to stand up for the rule of law and call for a democratic federal Union that can effectively safeguard democracy.

Democracy, Progress, Hope. These words encapsulated how Europeans imagined the future in 2004 when the EU accomplished its first Eastern enlargement. Twenty years later, the situation cannot be more different as the spectre of conflict looms over the continent once again and our democratic principles are put to the test.

JEF Europe will always stand with those fighting for democracy. Every year, the Democracy under Pressure campaign raises awareness of the threats facing the rule of law on our continent, including within the European Union, and shows solidarity with those defending it, be they in Russia, Belarus and Serbia, or Hungary, Slovakia and Greece. This year the campaign focuses on the role of activists and journalists in defending democracies.

“Where there is no rule of law, there is no democracy. Where there is no democracy, there is no peace. With sham elections taking place in both Russia and Belarus, Europe must stand firm in its principles, declare these regimes as illegitimate and sanction the oligarchs behind them. JEF maintains the position that only a united, federal Europe can safeguard democracy.” says Martin Penov, Vice-President of JEF Europe.

Thousands of activists, journalists and regular people willing to speak up against the regime have been persecuted, exiled or arrested in Russia and Belarus. The murder of Alexei Navalny was a final warning by the Kremlin that no opposition can be allowed to exist. We cannot give up on those willing to risk their lives for a better future and must provide protection to the democratic voices persecuted by these regimes. 

As Europeans prepare to elect the next European Parliament in June and autocrats across the EU gain momentum, hope needs to be at the centre of our political horizon. Hope in a better future. A future without dictatorship, repression and war, but democracy, freedom and peace. This is why we demand from future members of the European Parliament to defend the rule of law and press for stronger sanctions against those who threaten it. The upcoming European Council on 21-22 March is a key moment to start the deep reforms needed to ensure that respect for European values is truly woven into the fabric of our Union.

JEF Europe has been raising awareness of the dictatorship in Belarus since 2006. Ten years ago, in 2014, we rebranded our campaign to “Democracy under Pressure” and will not stop as long as the rule of law is under threat. Join our street and online actions in Europe’s cities between 18-25 March, amplify the voices of those who have been silenced and raise awareness on social media by using the hashtag #DemocracyUnderPressure.

About JEF Europe

The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe is a non-partisan youth NGO with 10,000 members active in over 35 countries. The organisation strives towards a federal Europe based on the principles of democracy and subsidiarity as well as respect for human rights. JEF promotes true European Citizenship, and works towards more active participation of young people in democratic life. While the umbrella organisation JEF Europe was founded in 1972, its sections have been operating continuously since the end of the Second World War, making it the oldest pro-European and only federalist youth organisation.

Since 2006, JEF Europe has organised an annual “Free Belarus” action to draw attention across Europe to the authoritarian regime of Aleksander Lukashenka, commonly referred to as Europe’s last dictator. There has been democratic backsliding across the continent since then, and so JEF’s Free Belarus action broadened into the campaign ‘Democracy under Pressure’ in which JEF Europe calls out abuses of human rights and the rule of law.


Martin Penov
Vice President
Young European Federalists (JEF Europe)

Kati Systa
Executive Board
Young European Federalists (JEF Europe)