A senior Polish diplomat will head the new European Endowment for Democracy (EED), EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said yesterday.
The appointment of Jerzy Pomianowski (right), Poland’s undersecretary of state for foreign affairs, as the group’s executive director, was made at a meeting of the EED’s board of governors which met in Brussels to discuss the group’s strategic vision and mission, Euractiv reports:
The EED’s mandate includes supporting political parties, non-registered NGOs, trade unions and other social groups mainly in the countries of the Eastern Partnership (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine).
In November, the programme received modest funding of €6 million. But the money only covers administrative costs, while activities are expected to be funded by member states or other donors, such as foundations. Several member states together with Switzerland, which is represented on the board, have reportedly pledged up to €8 million for EED activities.
EurActiv has learned that for now, the programme is struggling hard to secure funding for its activities. Sources said the programme would use funds from member countries rather than EU funds, because the bureaucratic procedures with national funding was less heavy and more appropriate to finance civil society organisations and foundations in authoritarian countries such as Belarus.
Ashton said the endowment came at a very timely moment, as 2013 will be a crucial year for democratic transitions, in particular in the EU’s neighbourhood.
“The European Endowment for Democracy can play a very important role. By working directly with those in the field, who are striving for democracy; and by offering flexible, non-bureaucratic and dedicated procedures that are tailored to the needs and demands on the ground,” she said.
The Ukraine government is split over EU democracy grants, Euractiv reports,as the EED is viewed with hostility by some officials, who claim it “provokes unrest” and “weakens” the country.
According to Ukrainian independent political analyst Roman Rukomeda:
“The creation of European Endowment for Democracy (EED) and appointing a Polish diplomat as its executive director sounds like a good news for Ukraine.
“First of all, EU and Ukraine received the new instrument for development of bilateral relations and moved them closer to the signing and ratification of Association Agreement,” he said:
Secondly, Poles are traditionally defending the interests of Ukrainians in Europe so there will be a certain credit of trust from Ukraine from the beginning of EED functioning. Third, the new structure appeared at the moment of truth in the EU-Ukraine relations. So there is a hope that it will help to jointly work out an effective agenda between Kyiv and Brussels in 2013 and further. Lastly, there is a big hope that democracy in Ukraine will receive additional boost and new initiatives in the sphere of electronic democracy, development of civil society will finally be realised.
The EU 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.