Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why does the European Union need a European Endowment for Democracy? “It may seem strange that the EU needs such an organization to promote human rights and civil society in its eastern and southern neighborhood,” writes Carnegie Europe’s Judy Dempsey:Doesn’t it already provide financial support to non-governmental organizations and educational institutions? And isn’t the EU’s raison d’être to promote democracy? Furthermore, there are many other European advocacy groups working in Ukraine and Moldova, Georgia and Morocco—to name just a few of the countries that are part of the EU’s neighborhood and to whom the EED will reach out.
“So why the EED? What can it do that the EU or other advocacy groups cannot do?” she asks Jerzy Pomianowski, a Polish career diplomat, who was recently appointed as the EED’s first executive director:Mr. Pomianowski, you will be EED’s first executive director. What is the purpose of this new institution?There was a lot of reluctance to the idea at first from member states, institutions, and non-governmental organizations. The name is not accidental. We saw what the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) did in Central Europe after the fall of communism. The example of the NED, the degree of flexibility and its record especially during the transformation in Eastern Europe was absolutely positive and is a success. Because the NED has a strong record, it was often asked if Europe needed a similar institution. It does.
What makes the EED special? The first priority of EED is to support small, new unregistered groups. One of the conditions for receiving funds from the EU is that the money should be allocated to registered groups, which in some countries means that they have to have been approved by the regime. Also, many European foundations are project based. They cannot provide core funding.What do you mean?
Let me give you an example. You have to find a way to get people out of the internet into the public political space. These are people who dream about doing something. We have to draw them out. Of course, it is very sensitive. But at the same time, this is about promoting the values of Europe. The EED is about responding to anyone who believes in civil society; we want to make sure that he or she will not remain alone.Why now? [Polish foreign minister Radek] Sikorski proposed the idea just after the collapse of the democratic process in Belarus in December 2010. And then the Arab Spring happened. The timing was just so important. We could see the need, the urgency for something like the EED.
Global Democratization: Applying Successful Approaches from Central and Eastern Europe
For twenty years, Central and Eastern Europe have both been solid models of democratization, with Poland at the forefront. From its solidarity movement that spread through the country in the 1980s, Poland is leading the way in this transformation to democracy in the region.Other countries across the European region followed Poland in an effort to liberalize, and with the help of various institutions like the European Union--which was recently recognized for its work in the advancement of peace, democracy, and human rights in Central and Eastern Europe--and initiatives from NGOs including the Community of Democracies, the National Endowment of Democracy (NED), and the European Endowment for Democracy (EED), Europe is at the forefront of implementing its successful models in post-Arab Spring countries.On Friday, December 7th, in a Capitol Hill briefing on democracy successes in Central and Eastern Europe hosted by the Bertelsmann Foundation, a panel of European representatives that included Under Secretary of State of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jerzy Pomianowski; Lithuanian Ambassador to the U.S. Zygimantas Pavilionis; the Deputy Chief of Mission from the EU Delegation to the U.S. Francois Rivesseau; President of the National Endowment for Democracy Carl Gershman; Director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights - People in Need, Marek Svoboda, explored how these successful models of peace building, democratization, and human rights in Europe can be used in Middle Eastern and North African countries. Director of Transatlantic Relations of the Bertelsmann Foundation Tyson Barker moderated the panel.All panelists expressed the sentiment that democracy does not simply happen, and it is a long process requiring dialogue as the fundamental core to cultivate change. Francois Rivesseau highlighted the concept of neighbors, which he argued is an important concept that can be used in post-Arab Spring countries.“The idea of the concept of neighbors,” he stated, “where a country can have a strong dialogue for its different regions, is a big part of democratization.” He referenced Lebanon, a complex country with a history of sectarian wars and foreign intervention, arguing that the country is a model of a divided population that has been able to use dialogue to shift towards a more democratic system--a model he believes can be used for Syria.

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