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. Eastbook.eu presents the interview with Jerzy Pomianowski, the Executive Director of the European Endowment for Democracy.
You can find the first part of the interview here
Artur Kacprzak: What type of projects will be considered as the priority?
Jerzy Pomianowski: First comes financing unregistered groups. Interim financing will help social groups to become stronger, to define their goals, to develop a program and an action plan – to construct projects which would be funded later from other sources. This consolidation of political and social activity will become our priority. Of course, the focus will be also on a variety of innovative, unusual mechanisms helping in consolidation of democracy or boosting the energy of social society. Even today, we see how important it is. This is the democracy being born within the Internet, where large reserves of social energy face difficulties in moving from the virtual into the reality. Sometimes, while moving from Facebook to the real life, the leaders who have created them online, are changed. We often have to deal with partners who do want to work just online – they do not want to meet with their bloggers, or Facebook fans. However, if they liked to do that, the EED would help them.
AK: What are the geographical criteria of the EED?
JP: The programme covers countries defined by the EU policy as countries of the European neighborhood.
AK: Dos it mean that South America and Asia would not be included?
JP: Not yet. In the future, after discussions, the Board of Governors might make another decision. It is not prohibited to expand the range of activities, but for today the list of countries is closed.
AK: Does the EED now have a kind of probationary period?
JP: Probation is a big word. It’s just a new institution, just starting, and everything should be tested. It will be also a test for the EU member states: will they give the Secretariat enough power to operate freely or will they interfere, controlling every single detail? There is the promise of “light”, non-bureaucratic formula for functioning and we will see if it will be used.
AK: If I understand you correctly, your concerns are much more about the participation of the EU partners than the organisation’s resources, goals or way of functioning?
JP: Of course I’m concerned about the effectiveness of governing and management, but also about too little involvement, ie the lack of interest as well as excessive engagement. The golden mean is somewhere between these states – it is important to determine priorities and wisely allocate the budget, but, at the same time, there is no reason to bring up every single grant decision under discussion within a multicultural group whose members usually have a lot of other things to think about. I want to turn the independence of the EED into a real value.
AK: How much money is in the common fund right now?
JP: At the moment we are talking about 25 million euros.
AK: Together with the startup money from the Commission?
AK: And later?
JP: It’s hard to say, for it is still an open question. We assume that after some positive changes in the funding structure of the various European instruments, the EED will also be able to take over the role of a fund manager. It means that the organisation does not have money in its own budget, but is able to effectively handle the funds – we can prepare projects, we can combine them into larger ones, and also integrate projects funded by the Commission and bilateral donors. Our operating model does not necessarily mean that we must have our own money.
AK: During conversations with a colleague from the Czech Republic, I heard that the Polish diplomacy has tripped up the Czech idea of European Partnership for Democracy (EPD), while advocating their own ideas. I would like to ask, on behalf of my colleague, how the concept has been changed, since the purpose of both institutions was the same but the Czech model was not supported in the countries of the region. Why did it fail and the EED prevailed?
JP: Let’s not waste our time on criticism. I just want to say that we, Krzysztof Stanowski and I, have carefully examined the case of the EPD and our success was partly the result of the lesson we learned thanks to the Czech project.
AK: The principal EU partners have taken the wait-and-see approach. What kind of success should the EED make to persuade them to fully support you?
JP: The most hoped-for – and the biggest – partner who ought to apply is Germany. Yet, at the same time, we understand that all the major partners are those who pay much into the EU budget. In this regard, they may have some questions about the competences and responsibilities: “It’s your – the new EU members’ – turn to play an important role, not only politically, but also as managers of an organisation and its finances while implementing one of the EU objectives: to support the democratic processes in our neighbourhood“. It could be the explanation but not the reason for further hesitation.
There is no doubt that the financial crisis and, therefore, fiscal austerity in many countries restrict the generosity. In spite of them, in the case of Germany it is seemingly only a matter of time. Though with France, Italy and the UK, it can be a longer process.
AK: And the process depends on…?
JP: It’s hard to say. In the case of France, we have got a statement that perhaps they will not pay the money directly but just pass some of their own programs to us. So there are some alternative ideas. The same goal can be achieved in various ways, either through direct funding or specifying who should pay.
AK: When will the call for applications be announced?
JP: There will be no deadlines. We will consider applications for financial assistance on an on-going basis. This is one of our innovative elements. Once upon a time such formulae existed so why shouldn’t we return to forgotten mechanisms which – for reasons e are perfectly aware of – have been eliminated. Today, however, the lack of a wider range of different mechanisms starts to be a problem.
AK: Are there any specific results you would like to see after the first year?
JP: The vision we present is an interim mechanism. For me, the success of the EED will be measured by the fact that a number of individuals or groups will receive a permanent, long-term source of funding from the European Union or European donors. They will have better conditions for functioning and have more courage to undertake various initiatives in their countries – the process of their identification will be much faster and more accurate with the EED funding. If we achieve this effect in two or three years, I will say “we have succeeded”. However, I am far from building optimistic scenarios when we are talking about a better democratic system created in two or three years. The EED will not radically change the political reality in these countries, and, that’s for sure, will not resolve problems and replace the actual and historical transformation process that must take place. The EED is just one of many tools that are the answer to some basic requirements declared within the major European postulate: we cannot allow leave the people who want to fight for democratic values in our neighbourhood alone, without any opportunity to succeed Will their struggle be a victorious one? Will they receive a majority vote in their countries or build a stable democracy? The EED cannot answer these questions. It is their own battle.
AK: Thank you for the interview.
JP: Thank you.
Translated by MA