Proponents of a European Endowment for Democracy are ramping up lobbying efforts in the run-up to a December 1 meeting of EU foreign ministers.
Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski is encouraging supporters of the initiative to sign a letter to the European Union’s High Representative Catherine Ashton and Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Parliament.
At a time when prospects for democratic transition “remain fragile” in North Africa, the letter states, the new endowment will give the EU a fresh capacity to “support progress towards deep and sustainable democracy.”
Previous efforts to establish a politically-autonomous flexible funding instrument along the lines of the US-based National Endowment for Democracy fell victim to opposition from the influential German stiftungen or party foundations. But the endowment’s backers believe that the timing is propitious for this latest push, with the EU in the process revising its Neighborhood Policy and preparing a new long-term budget.
“We need to ask ourselves what has the Arab Spring taught us?” Sikorski writes in a letter urging support for the proposal. “And how should the EU’s democratization policy change in order to best support neighboring countries strive for freedom? Poland believes we should offer more to civil societies and cut the red tape.”
The Euro-bloc’s principal agency for democracy assistance, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), has been criticized for being slow, technocratic and politically timid.
The endowment adds value to democracy assistance in two ways, Sikorski says: allowing the EU “not only react to events but be proactive in the long run” and by offering “tailor-made projects” for a range of key democratic actors, including governments, NGOs, political foundations and local communities.
The initiative enjoys strong support from EU member states with relatively fresh memories of Communist rule.
“Poland has been lucky enough to have friends committed to help us strive for freedom and democracy, even in the darkest days of our struggle,” Sikorski writes. “We know that changes have to come from within, but we also know how crucial it is to get outside support.”
Questions concerning the European Endowment for Democracy and expressions of support for the initiative should be addressed to Mr. Krzysztof Stanowski, Under Secretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland via firstname.lastname@example.org