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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Speech: European Endowment for Democracy
Second meeting of the Board of Governors of the European Endowment
for Democracy, Brussels
09 January 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to have the opportunity to address this second meeting of the Board of
Governors of the European Endowment for Democracy. Today's meeting is a real sign of
progress and confirmation that you are turning words into action and getting down to
your operational activities.
The dramatic changes that have been taking place in the European Union neighbourhood
since 2011 clearly justify this new initiative. After years of relative stagnation,
democracy has started taking root in the neighbourhood spurred on by the democratic
revolutions in the Southern Mediterranean.
While the general trends points towards more democracy, more accountable forms of
governance and increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, there
are areas where progress has been limited, areas essential for ensuring the
sustainability of political reforms. In some countries progress has stalled or there are
signs of regression.
In Algeria human rights defenders face restrictions to their freedom of expression,
association and assembly and suffer intimidation and judicial harassment. In Morocco
some civil society organisations working on sensitive issues such as the monarchy face
bureaucratic obstacles to register.
In Azerbaijan civil liberties continue to be severely curtailed while in Belarus the
situation is far from improving since the severe deterioration following the December
2010 crackdown on the opposition and civil society in the wake of the presidential
In addition, women are now confronting attempts to exclude them from public life in
several Southern Mediterranean countries. Acts of discrimination and violence are being
perpetrated with impunity by extremist groups and in some cases by security forces.
It is vital that steps are taken to establish equal rights between men and women as the
very foundation of democratic societies. It is equally vital that full ownership of the
democratic transition is ensured and that it is not perceived as being "imposed" by
A vibrant civil society and a functioning democracy depend on the right of citizens to
freely exercise their right to peaceful assembly and association. This nurtures open
debate in society, providing safeguards against conflict and instability.
I see the Endowment for Democracy as a strengthened effort, supporting
democratisation and peaceful forces that work for democratic changes to happen,
supporting the actors of change in our neighbourhood, the emerging players that face
obstacles in accessing European Union funding.
With this new initiative we are sending a clear message of solidarity to the peoples of the
Neighbourhood, assuring them that their democratic aspirations and their fight for
human rights will be heard and supported by the European Union. The European Union
can also bring its experience and know how to help them address the challenges of
transition from authoritarianism to democracy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to make two key points about the endowment:
First, it is important that the Endowment adds value and is complementary to all our
instruments and in particular those with a specific focus on the support for democracy,
the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights;
the European Neighbourhood Instrument which includes the Civil Society Facility; and
the Instrument for Stability.
It is essential to maximise the impact and build synergies between the various European
Union initiatives and a "must" in the current economic crisis.
The Endowment's added value will come from rapid and flexible support for actors who
are not yet supported, or who are insufficiently covered or have difficulties in obtaining
support from existing European Union instruments; the most obvious cases being non-
registered NGOs and emerging political and pro-democratic movements.
Second, we need to build on the current momentum and take all the necessary steps to
ensure that the Endowment will be fully operational as early as possible with its own
identity and credibility in the international sphere.
The recent progress in developing the Endowment has been remarkable. It was only last
June when the statutes were adopted and now the governing bodies and rules of
procedure are in place, the first financial and non-financial commitments have been
made and Switzerland has been accepted as a new member.
These are all excellent signs of the concerted effort by European Union Institutions and
Member States to advance democracy in our Neighbourhood and beyond.
To conclude, allow me to congratulate the Member States, the European Parliament and
the European External Action Service for making the European Endowment for
Democracy a reality.