Central and East European democrats with direct experience of democratic transitions are better qualified to offer advice on democratization, according to the head of the new European Endowment for Democracy. The EED is “inspired” by the example of the US-based National Endowment for Democracy, says Jerzy Pomianowski (right), the group’s Executive Director, but it will adopt its own distinctive methodology for providing democracy assistance.
The NED’s experience is “highly valuable and inspiring for us, yet we strongly believe that we have our own European experience and we would like to present an alternative,” he told Eastbook’s Artur Kacprzak.
“A huge part of the NED methodology is inspiring,” said Pomianowski, especially its collaborative approach, “investing into specific leaders who can be the engine of change” and “cooperation with unregistered groups, which can be rarely found in the structures of European donors.”
The EED will be funded by voluntary contributions, largely from the European Union’s Member States. It has so far received about €14 million, including funds from non-EU Switzerland.
Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski proposed the endowment, but the principal architect was former civil society activist Krzysztof Stanowski, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, said Pomianowski.
“There was a lot of resistance” to the proposal from Member States and the European Commission, and it took the events of the Arab Spring and the 2010 crackdown in Belarus to force critics to rethink their hostility, he said.
“Europe heard a lot of bitter words from the young revolutionaries, trying to change their countries,” said Pomianowski. “And they did not receive any simple, clear and coherent answers to their question: when and how Europe could help them.”
EU assistance is critical for democracy advocates under constant surveillance or in jail, says Nasta Palazhanka, one of the leaders of the Belarus Youth Front.
Yet the endowment still faces a number of serious challenges, analyst Laine Škoba writes in a briefing for the European Parliament, including:
So far it remains unclear whether Member States are ready to fully support the EED politically; therefore it is not clear if the EED will enjoy secure, regular and long-term funding.5 In addition to uncertain allocation of resources, there is also a danger of contributors wanting to tie allocations to specific countries and regions, for example, by earmarking resources for the EU’s closest neighbors to the east rather than the Mediterranean region, and so endangering the EED’s autonomy.
Balancing flexibility and decision-making
Inclusion of all Member States in the board of governors may increase the danger of delays in decision-making and possible conflicts in preferences. This could be avoided by granting considerable independence to the executive committee.
Possible fragmentation of resources
The EED statute provides that EED is to maintain coherent action. Concerns have been raised by the Commission’s DG Development and Cooperation (DEVCO), and by the European Parliament, about the danger of the EED diverting funds from existing European instruments, such as the EIDHR. A possible duplication of functions with other existing instruments also needs to be avoided.
Identifying the actors
Identifying the actors that conscientiously and resolutely call for the relaxation of authoritarian rule and advocate democratization is difficult and time consuming. The EED will rely on the knowledge of EU delegations, but they specialize in working with governments and have only limited ability to assess groupings behind the official political scenes. An alternative would be to rely on experienced implementing organizations such as political parties and NGOs. RTWT
Nevertheless, the endowment will benefit from Central and East Europeans’ direct experience of democratic transitions from authoritarian rule, said Pomianowski.
“The key factor here is better qualifications when we focus on implementation of projects – we have experience gained during our own period of transformation. We still have it fresh in our mind,” he said. “Our experience and the difficulties we had to face make us more suitable partners for Tunis, Cairo, Minsk, Kiev, and Chisinau.”
Brussels, 14 May 2013
Le Plaza Hotel
Adolphe Maxlaan 118
The Panellists to the discussion are:
Jerzy Pomianowski, Executive Director of EED; Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Republic of Poland
Edward McMillan-Scott, Head of the European Parliament democracy caucus
Vera Rihackova, Senior Research Fellow, EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy
Orysia Lutsevych, Robert Bosch Fellow 2012, Chatham House
The discussion will be moderated by Jeff Lovitt, the Executive Director of PASOS.
The panel will look at the EED, a new institution, which aims to promote democracy in the EU neighborhood. The panel will examine the methods which the EED will be using and look at the role which non-governmental organizations might play in building a democratic culture in states which are in transition from authoritarian regimes.
Please find the agenda of the discussion here.