EU launches new fund to help oppressed
Pro-democracy movements in oppressive states like Belarus will soon have access to grants through a new Brussels-based fund.
Officially launched on Wednesday (9 January), the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) is a joint undertaking by the European Commission and a handful of member states and European deputies.
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“The endowment comes at a very timely moment, as 2013 will be a crucial year for democratic transitions, in particular in the EU’s neighbourhood,” said the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The EED signed an initial €6.2 million contract with the commission in September last year. Switzerland and a handful of other member states committed an additional €8 million.
Another €10 million from the commission is expected over the next three years, reports Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.
The fund is designed to bypass the more heavy administrative procedures attached to EU grant-giving and is open to journalists, bloggers, non-registered NGOs, and political movements – even in exile.
EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele said the EED will aid “the emerging players that face obstacles in accessing European Union funding.”
For her part, Nasta Palazhanka, one of the leader’s of the Belarus Youth Front, told EUobserver in Minsk in late 2011 that EU support would be critical to a movement whose leadership is under constant KGB surveillance or in jail.
“The more your popularity and your reputation grows, the more the repression increases,” she said.
The fund is the brainchild of Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski who initially proposed it in February 2011.
Movements in Algeria, Armenia, the Palestinian Authority, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Moldova, Syria and Ukraine will have access to the endowment.
But with neighbouring Poland’s state secretary Jerzy Pomianowski at its helm, the EED may take on a distinctively eastern focus.
A career diplomat and statesman, Pomianowski was himself an active member of the democratic opposition movement in Poland during the 1980s.
He also directed a joint initiative of the Paris-based OECD and the United Nations to support public administrations in countries destabilised by armed conflict or natural disasters.