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Artur Kacprzak

The European Endowment for Democracy. Interview with Jerzy Pomianowski. Part One

Due to the efforts of the Polish diplomacy, the idea of ​​creating the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) becomes a reality. The institution is focused on supporting the pro-democratic efforts of the EU’s immediate neighbours  The creation of the EED was the priority during the Polish Presidency of the EU Council in 2011 and the election of a Polish diplomat as the head of the newly formed agency completes Polish efforts. presents the interview with Jerzy Pomianowski, the Executive Director of the European Endowment for Democracy.

Jerzy Pomianowski na premierze filmu

Jerzy Pomianowski at the premiere of the film “Zhyve Belarus!”, source:

Arthur Kacprzak: First of all, I would like to congratulate on your election as the Executive Director.

Jerzy Pomianowski: Thank you very much.

AK: I believe that we, Poles, still do not know how to enjoy our success…

EP: Without any doubts, this is a success of the Polish diplomacy – our foreign partners share this point of view. When Minister Sikorski presented the idea in the beginning of 2011, the project met with skepticism on several levels – the opinions differed, from neutral attitude to straight protests. Today, the concept has gained a solid shape, has been implemented and involves many states. In addition, those, who initially were rather skeptical, now – actively and with a huge doze of enthusiasm – support the initiative.

The fact that a Pole was elected as the first executive director of the EED is, of course, our diplomatic success and an element of a broader strategy. On the other side, it is also the recognition of the role the Polish initiative plays. Finally – and I mean it partly as a joke – it reveals the trend, according to which Western Europe is trying to pass more and more responsibility for the process of democratization in Eastern and Southern Europe to the new EU members. It is, however, not only about sharing duties and showing engagement. The key factor here is better qualifications when we focus on implementation of such projects – we have experience gained during our own period of transformation. We still have it fresh in our mind. Our experience and the difficulties we had to face make us more suitable partners for Tunis, Cairo, Minsk, Kiev, and Chisinau. I think this is a very noticeable trend, present even in official documents. I have recently read a Swiss study on their development assistance, clearly showing that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (including Poland) are the leaders of teaching the democratization. Not only have those countries been given a special task, but they are the best choice in terms of potential success – they are able to perform it better than anyone else. Thus, we just try to show the components of the whole process that guaranteed this success. Of course, we are not its exclusive creators, but still – our role was crucial, thanks to our efficiency.

AK: Who is the author of the whole idea?

EP: All the tasks were assigned according to a simple key. The project was under the supervision of Minister Sikorski’s team. At that moment it was Krzysztof Stanowski, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was responsible for the democratization processes. I was working in Paris, but I had plans to return to the Foreign Ministry. As an officer within an international organization and a person with needed experience and knowledge, I was – in a way – a consultant for Krzysztof Stanowski and Minister Sikorski. I was asked about my perspective regarding the implementation of such a project. I was constantly informed about the progress, so quite naturally – when Krzysztof Stanowski ceased to serve as the Deputy Minister, I took control of the project. This happened halfway, just after the end of our presidency. In the first stage, and throughout 2011 Krzysztof Stanowski was the leader of the project. My team of advisers – located in Brussels and other diplomatic posts – and I have been responsible for it since the end of 2011.

The first stage was a struggle with the political will of our partners, for there was a lot of resistance. Many countries were skeptical, though many were also easily convinced.

AK: Who, for example?

EP:  Denmark, Sweden, countries of the Visegrad Group, new EU members, Germans and some southern European countries, such as Spain or later Portugal. Yet several others remained skeptical for a long time. For example, France and the United Kingdom kept their neutral stance. Well, also the European Commission was in opposition. The resistance was quite serious. We could count on support of the European Parliament. We played a classic game – a clash of various forces, views and, of course, the then political context: the collapse of the democratic process in Belarus in 2010 and the outbreak of the Arab revolutions in North Africa. This period was extremely important – Europe heard a lot of bitter words from the young revolutionaries, trying to change their countries. And they did not receive any simple, clear and coherent answers to their question: when and how Europe could help them.

AK: What is the planned structure of EED? Do you have a ready list of names for your team?

EP: If we are talking about the secretariat, it is already defined, more or less. It will consist of 12-20 people, not a big organization. We start with only 12 employees. As it is an independent institution, we need an administration section in addition to the one focused purely on the programme – it is an additional burden.

AK: That means 12 persons and a management team?

EP: No, the 12 persons is the whole team. Let’s say that there will be 2-3 people of the management, and 7-8 in the programme department. These are the realities – we have already defined resources and we have to deal with it. And no, as for this moment there is no list of names. All permanent staff will be recruited through open competitions, like in EU institutions. The funds we receive come, among other sources,  from a grant given by the European Commission. The system is complicated – we have the Board of Governors, which consists of 42 people, a small executive committee of 7 people and, finally, an executive director who is the head the secretariat, managing the foundation.

AK: Who appoints the managers?

EP: The Board of Governors is a structure being a result of the consensus reached in the process of creating the EED. It consists of representatives of the EED member countries – one from each EU states plus Switzerland, who joined with its own contribution – 9 MEPs, representatives of such European institutions as the European Commission and the EEAS (European External Action Service), and representatives of the NGO sector. The last three were co-opted, chosen  by the Board of Governors who had presented the candidates with – in their opinion – most significant achievements.

AK: It means that the Board of Governors appointed some members of the Board of Governors.

EP: Yes. It was a form of co-opting.

AK: And who were those lucky three?

EP:  Sandra Breka (Bosh Stiftung), Lisbeth Pilegaard from Denmark (Danish Centre for Research on Women and Gender), and Pavol Demes (German Marshal Fund of the US) – the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic. This way, the Board of Governors was reinforced with members of the non-governmental sector. Interestingly, these three persons have a special role in the decision-making process as they also are members of the Executive Committee, consisting of 7 people. While having 3 votes within the Board of Governors, they make up almost half of the voters in the Executive Committee.

AK: And this is the Committee who elects the Director.

EP: The Director is elected by the Board of Governors This is its key function when it comes to the nature of activities and the external perception of the foundation. The Executive Director, according to the Charter, is also controlled by the Executive Committee.

AK: What is the role of the Director?

EP: At this point, we are in the process of its defining. The Executive Director manages the secretariat, and this is his main duty. He implements the guidelines and follows the priorities created by the Board, recruits staff, allocates funds, evaluates grant applications and monitors the implementation of projects, which means assignation of grants in accordance with the procedures defined by the administrative bodies.

AK: So the negotiations on the final form are not closed yet?

EP: It’s more about regulations than negotiations  There are no specific expectations – the decision-making process will be too individualized, or collective. The point is to describe it in a transparent, understandable and clear way.

AK: The association between the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the European Endowment for Democracy seems to be clear. What kind of experience will you use in building a work culture for the EED?

EP: Indeed, it is impossible to avoid the natural associations with the NED. Its 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. We will act in a similar  but not the same way. I think it will be a good, healthy cooperation – as well as a competition. If we are talking about the relations between the two institutions, they are very warm. Overall, the number of positive signals that I received from the American pro-democracy organizations, including NED, is very inspiring. Most of them I know from my previous work experience. To some extent, I have cooperated with them and, therefore, have some personal relationship, for example, with Carl Gershman, or with David Kramer from Freedom House. But apart from the relations I mentioned, all of them greeted the information that there would be such a partner in Europe with a great enthusiasm.

AK: It seems that they have been waiting for that for a long time.

EP: Indeed. Well, it’s like: finally the Europeans have decided to create a tool for similar purposes. Of course, how much it will be similar or different, is up to them, but the fact that this tool has finally appeared is a glimmer of hope for a closer cooperation, better synergies, a chance to negotiate and launch joint projects. The transatlantic, European-American cooperation for democratic consolidation in different countries is a permanent component of international activity – both Europe and the United States reach a full agreement on this issue. Only the extension of democracy and prosperity can solve – as well as prevent – the conflicts that are a threat.

AK: I understand that turning to American models is more about observing than a formal contract on cooperation.

EP: Probably the exchange of some forms of agreements and letters of intent, in which we could define the frequency of the information exchange and cooperation in specific fields, will take place. NED is an older and much more experienced organization. It has excellent contacts in the region. From our point of view, any form of assistance  – for example sharing information on the situation of individual partners, who may also be applying for our funding – would be just a priceless form of support. And we hope this support will come not only from NED, but also from other organizations.

AK: To what extent will you follow the method of NED? I ask because I’m afraid that the EED could sink in the bureaucracy, frequently associated with any activity sponsored by Brussels.

EP: There are some concerns, and they are serious. Of course, the specifics of NED can not be fully copied, but a huge part of the NED methodology is inspiring.

AK: Which part exactly?

EP: For example, the collaboration with people, investing into specific leaders who can be the engine of change. This is one of the characteristic elements of NED. Also, it’s about cooperation with unregistered groups, which can be rarely found in the structures of European donors. Some of them employ this type of methods, others don’t. They are not widespread and easy. We are going to fulfil the gap. NED employs the subjective subsidy that does not always require a project. Sometimes they allocate funds for an organization just for its survival – this part of their methodology we will adopt in EED.


Translated by MA

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Łodzianin, rocznik 1983, dziennikarz, bloger, manager. Współzałożyciel Fundacji Wspólna Europa wydawcy - Portalu o Partnerstwie Wschodnim. Wychowanek XXVI LO w Łodzi. Absolwent Wydziału Stosunków Międzynarodowych i Politologicznych Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego. Student Studium Europy Wschodniej Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego na specjalizacji: Rosja. Obszar zainteresowań: polska i unijna polityką wschodnia, Rosja. tel. +48 694 473 288; e-mail: [email protected]

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