The European Commission today allocated € 6 million to launch the European Endowment for Democracy (EED):
The funds will finance the establishment and initial functioning of the Endowment, which was conceived in the framework of the renewed European Neighbourhood Policy. Its aim is to help political parties, non-registered NGOs, trade unions and other social partners in a coherent, concerted effort to promote deep and sustainable democracy as well as respect for human rights and the rule of law.
“I am delighted to see the European Endowment for Democracy becoming a reality, thanks to a truly joined-up effort between the EU institutions and the Member States,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. “The EED sends a concrete signal to our neighbours and beyond, that we are 100% committed to supporting democracy and the values upon which the EU was founded.”
The endowment’s geographical focus will be initially, although not exclusively, in the EU’s European Neighbourhood.
“The EED will be an important new actor and I hope that the contribution decided today, together with those of the Member States, will lead to the establishment of an effective, efficient organisation, and a swift start of its operational activities,” said Stefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy.
The EED will aim to help actors of change and emerging players who face obstacles in access to EU funding. It will offer a rapid and flexible funding mechanism for beneficiaries who are unsupported or insufficiently so, in particular for legal or administrative reasons. Such actors may include: journalists, bloggers, non-registered NGOs, political movements (including those in exile or from the diaspora), in particular when all of these actors operate in a very uncertain political context. This will be precisely the added value of the EED.
The core activities of the EED will be to allocate financial support to the targeted beneficiaries. This will be funded by voluntary contributions from Member States or other stakeholders, such as private foundations. The € 6 million allocated today will also finance conferences, seminars, publications, networking events, training courses and other activities under the EED.
The endowment is a private foundation, organizationally autonomous from the EU, and governed by its own statutes and executive.
The European Union established the endowment earlier this year with the aim of supporting pro-democracy actors quickly, flexibly, and audaciously, but questions remain whether the body can secure stable, long-term financing; actor-centered democracy promotion in complex situations of radical change, is highly risky; and it remains unclear how the EED is to complement existing EU instruments with similar tasks. Yet the endowment could stimulate “a new dynamism in EU democracy promotion,” analysts suggest, if it secures Member States’ financial and political backing, avoids duplication and develops a long-term strategy with other democracy promoters.
The endowment is expected to encourage deep and sustainable democracy in countries in transition and in societies struggling for democratization. The initiators’ expectations are high: although the EED is to be autonomous from the EU institutions, it is to ensure that the EU plays a more active role in democracy promotion and so compensate for serious shortcomings – particularly the bureaucratic slowness – of such existing programs as the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
In February 2011 Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski put forward a proposal for a democracy fund, an idea that had already been hotly debated in Brussels for some years. The USA’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was repeatedly held up as a model during the debate on the EED.
The launch of the EED is taking place in the context of a realignment of the EU’s foreign, development and neighborhood policies. Under the “more-for-more” approach formulated in 2011, countries in the European Neighborhood are to receive more support if they undertake further democratic reforms. In June 2012 the Council also adopted a Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, with the aim of increasing the relevance of human rights and civil society in all the EU’s policy areas and instruments.
The revolts of the Arab Awakening moved the goal of active democracy pro-motion higher up the EU’s agenda and led to a revival of an almost forgotten debate on appropriate instruments.