Democracy Promotion: A Distinctive European Approach?


The fact of different European states’ priorities on democracy and human rights reflecting different historical experiences may be illustrated by the initiative taken by Poland during its presidency for a European Endowment for Democracy, notes Geoffrey Harris, currently the Deputy Head of the European Parliament Liaison Office with the US Congress.

It was the European Parliament which in the 1990s insisted on a major “democracy” element in the assistance programs originally just for Poland and Hungary (PHARE) which were put in place after the 1989 revolutions, he writes in Challenges of Democracy in European Union and its Neighbors, Sasha Toperich and Aylin Unver Noi (editors), published by the Center for Transatlantic Relations:

The timing and origin of the EED’s proposal also illustrates the fact that the post-Lisbon institutional structure of the EU is designed to strengthen the EU’s collective capacity whilst leaving much space for member states to advance their own ideas and interests. In the second part of 2011, Poland held the rotating Presidency of the EU and as a country whose own peaceful revolution in the 1980s had been profoundly influenced by outsiders responded with understandable emotion to the events of the Arab Spring which unfolded in the months leading up to the beginning of its Presidency. Even if the historical analogy may well turn out to be overstated, the reaction and thus the Polish initiative was logical and understandable. Poland’s underground “Solidarnosc” movement had benefitted from under-the-radar ‘democracy promotion’ assistance in particular from the U.S foundations.

“It is by no means clear that the transposition of the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy model to Europe will be feasible but the idea is indeed an inspiring one that cannot be dismissed,” Harris observes, in a chapter on “Human Rights and Democracy Promotion: EU Blows on an Uncertain Trumpet.”

Other chapters include:

Challenges of Democracy in Turkey: Europeanization, Modernization and Securitization Revisited – Aylin Ünver Noi

Challenges of Democracy in Serbia – Daniel Serwer

Challenges of Democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Sasha Toperich and Mak Kamenica

Rethinking the European Union’s Neighborhood Policy – Michael Leigh

Challenges of Democracy in the Caucasus – Alex Sokolowski

Challenges of Democracy: Corruption – Shaazka Beyerle

Constructing the EU as a Global Actor: A Critical Analysis of European Democracy Promotion – Münevver Cebeci


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