"Democracy Promotion on the Transatlantic Agenda"



Conference Report

From 01-02 December 2006, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAF), the Eduardo Frei Foundation (EFF), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA) and the Dutch Socires foundation organised a joint workshop on “Democracy Promotion on the Transatlantic Agenda”

Democracy promotion is high on the political agenda and much discussed in the news these days. The efforts by the US and its coalition partners to achieve a democratic transformation in Iraq have triggered a global debate on the legitimacy and limits of Western democracy promotion. The topic is thus at a critical juncture.

As the common EU/US foreign policy agenda is increasingly marred by growing mutual distrust and negative perceptions of one another, the workshop undertook to overcome these difficulties and base the cooperation on a much more pragmatic, result-oriented approach. It sought to shed light on the external democracy promotion policies of the EU and the US, respectively, and to find ways of better promoting and communicating these policies and to firmly place democracy promotion on the international agenda.

Introductory remarks

In his opening remarks Jos van Gennip, Member of the Dutch Parliament and President of Socires, gave a short overview of the latest developments on the international scene. The fundamental question, Mr van Gennip believes, is how the EU and the US can achieve better cooperation to support democratic change without giving the concerned countries the impression of being subject to military occupation. He emphasized the importance of a common value basis on the part of both actors and underlined that values and democracy were inextricably linked.

Denis Schrey, Research Associate at the European Office of KAF mentioned that in the last 25 years, about 100 countries in the developing world and the former Soviet Bloc experienced at least some movement away from authoritarian or totalitarian rule towards political openness. The level of democratic development, he said, varied significantly between regions and countries. While genuine political pluralism had been achieved in large parts of Latin America, as well as in parts of South and South-east Asia, South-eastern Europe and Africa, transition processes in many countries of the former Soviet Union as well as in Asia and Africa had stalled as autocratic leaders had consolidated regimes which paid mere lip-service to democratic principles. Schrey stressed that democratic values and norms were not yet firmly anchored in societies which had undergone democratic transition processes in the past years. Political parties and democratic institutions were often weak and unable to fulfill their constitutional role of monitoring adherence to the rule of law. Overall, corruption, poor socio-economic performance and a lack of tangible benefits had made many ordinary citizens become disappointed with democracy. Schrey concluded that both US and European efforts had so far been targeted at comparatively apolitical civil society organizations and had avoided to reward politically reformist moves. US and EU democracy promotion policies suffered from poorly coordinated decision-making.

Professor Juraj Stern, Secretary General of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA), highlighted the fact that for Central and Eastern Europe, learning about democracy was an ongoing process. Particularly in Slovakia democracy promotion policies were hardly viable without the active involvement and support of local and international NGOs.

Session I

Democracy Promotion Strategies

Jörg Ketelsen from the European Commission opened the first session on EU and US democracy promotion strategies highlighting the fact that democracy promotion had always been an integral part of EU foreign policy but that the past fifteen years had seen a marked increase in determination and speed of policy-making in this area. History had shown that democracies had more prosperous economies than non-democracies. Democracies were also more able to cope with security challenges. The EU saw democracy as a universal value which needed to become an internationally accepted norm. Ketelsen emphasised the process character of democracy, saying it needed to be perceived as an ongoing challenge to achieve responsibility and accountability. He admitted that human rights issues had dominated the European democracy debate for too long, but that the new financial instruments reflected the Commission’s will to increasingly focus on supporting political institutions and actors in the future. The Stability Instrument, for example, now included elements to foster stable institutions and good governance.

Rudolphe Vallee, the US Ambassador to the Slovak Republic, argued in favour of an interventionist approach. “Democracy promotion can and should not be stopped once democracy was formally reached in one country”, he said. To send a clear signal, the international community should increase its financial support for the Afghan people. A democratically elected government was only a first step on the long way to establishing stable democratic institutions. Vallee pointed out that Afghanistan was of crucial importance to the credibility of the international community and that supporting civil society organizations in the country in their efforts to build up from the bottom democratic structures remained crucial.

Pavol Demes, Director of the Office of the German Marshall Fund (GMF) in Slovakia, identified 11 September as a crucial turning point for diverging EU-US democracy promotion strategies. Until the end of the 1990s, the US and the EU had the same focus and goals in their democracy promotion policies, Demes argued. Their common objective was to firmly integrate the EEC countries into EU and NATO structures. Since 09/11, however, US and EU democracy promotion strategies had drifted into different directions. Democracy Promotion was still part of the rhetoric but no longer a practical goal of US foreign policy. Moreover, with the emergence of Russia as an economically powerful player which has developed its own, not necessarily democratic, foreign assistance strategies on the global scene, EU, US and Russian democracy promotion policies are increasingly contradicting one another.


Klaus-Jürgen Hedrich, former Member of the German Bundestag and former Parliamentary State Secretary, claimed that it was justifiable to speak of a genuine democratic development in a country not after the first but only after the second free and fair elections had taken place. The right of self determination, which in many countries was not respected, was another important but often underestimated factor in democracy promotion, Hedrich said. Identity and credibility were equally crucial for democratic development: The Heads of State of developed countries undermined their legitimacy at providing development aid if their actions did not adhere to these principles.

Oľga Gyárfašová, Programme Director at the Institute for Public Affairs (IPA) in Slovakia, focused on the bilateral development policy of the Slovak government. She feared, she said, that the new Slovak government was going to undertake a reassessment of priorities. She was also critical of the new government taking advantage of NGOs as ‘show windows’ on the international scene while domestically reducing its support for NGOs.

In the course of the ensuing discussion, Mr. Ketelsen reminded participants that internationally established standards on democratic rights did not exist. Many non-democratic states were members of the Council of Europe and of the UN. The European Commission had very high expectations of the German Council Presidency putting democracy promotion on its agenda.

Second Day

Session II

Options for a More Effective Transatlantic Democracy Promotion Policy

Sean O’Regan from the policy unit for horizontal security issues of the Council of the European Union opened the second panel.

Democracy Promotion was directly connected to questions of regime change and economic (in)security, he argued. The major difficulty with democracy promotion policies was to convince the people of the country concerned that democratic processes were beneficial to them. It was decisive, O’Regan argued, to translate the positive experiences gained from the enlargement of the EU to countries which had no direct perspective of accession to the EU. A second future challenge for the EU’s democracy promotion policy was to make it more coherent, transparent and visible, more fully taking account of the positive experiences in the new EU member states. O’Regan stressed that the orientation of the new EIDHR with its Rapid Intervention Mechanism meant it was a more flexible instrument to react to international crises because it included the possibility of supporting political parties. As regards the transatlantic dialogue on democracy promotion pragmatic realism, O’Regan said, should go hand in hand with effective cooperation on the ground.

The second speaker of the day was Lindsay Lloyd, Regional Director Europe of the IRI. Lloyd referred to September 11th which he said had had a huge impact on the reordering of American priorities.: “Lloyd presented a critical analysis of the deep division among US politicians on how to deal with the difficult situation in Iraq and Afghanistan but stressed this should not belie the fact that the US still believed in democracy promotion as a central element of its foreign policy.”] In Lloyd’s opinion, EU-US cooperation remains strong but the coherence of activities between NGOs and political foundations should be strengthened.

Milan Jezovica, Foreign Policy Analyst in Slovakia, underlined the importance of political will to put democracy issues on the political agenda. Without such will, methodology, strategies and tactics led nowhere.

Final Session: Case Study “Democracy Promotion in the Greater Middle East”

Charles King Mallory IV, Senior Advisor, Bureau for Near Eastern Affairs in the U.S. Department of State, opened the last panel emphasizing the paradigm shift in US foreign policy. The fundamental shock of 09/11 had led to a complete reassessment of US policy for the Middle East. Apart from this, most Middle Eastern countries had to deal with important demographic changes in the coming years when 100 million young people would enter the labour market. A stable growth rate of 6% was necessary if the region’s labour markets were to absorb all of them. Mallory urged the EU and the US to critically assess the situation together and to prove credible and reliable partners. Both should assume responsibility and try to stabilise the region. If this was not achieved, a significant proportion of those 100 million young people would be prone to drift into religious and political extremism - a veritable time bomb. Mallory also argued that European and US policy makers must make democracy promotion a key pillar because democracy had positive spillover effects. Democracy should be perceived as a universal right. The EU and the US should understand that democracy promotion was in their national interest. Obviously, neither the EU nor the US could claim the exclusive prerogative to define democracy; however, they should have a common say about its key components (e. g. freedom of speech). Although it was a core element of Realpolitik, democracy promotion had not yet achieved the prominent position it deserved. It needed to be made a key component of the transatlantic dialogue and of the EU’s common foreign and security policy. A new strategy for the post cold war era was needed.

Mallory then analysed DP from an economic point of view. He identified the international community as the demanding and the host governments as the supplying party. On the demand side, he argued, a common strategy was missing. He outlined the Barcelona Process, the new ENP, the new EIDHR and the US Millennium Challenge Account as important but not consistently coherent approaches. On the supply side, many governments went through lengthy and painful transition processes. Mallory said he was in favour of pressuring regimes and governments in the way the European Commission did with its strategy of positive conditionality coupled with strong incentives. In Mallory’s opinion, overseas development assistance is the most effective foreign policy tool for the future. He also stressed the importance of efficiently linking policies and programmes. With democracy promotion, most of the time, this was not the case. This often led to a lack of credibility on the demand side.

Mallory pleaded in favour of a more flexible approach of country plans through more fungible funds, which would allow money to flow back into regional pools to foster competition. Those pools should be mutually monitored. The key question was how to motivate countries to implement reforms. All ministries ought to be involved in the process of increasing domestic demand for reform. Mallory concluded that in a first step the EU and the US needed to agree on a common strategic paradigm before reorganising their diplomatic modalities and discussing instruments in later steps.

Sean O’Regan agreed with Mallory’s ideas but asked his American counterpart what the EU should focus on in terms of resources.

Mallory is pleaded for a multifaceted and better articulated common strategy towards the Middle East with a focus on Palestine.

Patrick Egan, Director of the IRI in Bratislava who formerly worked for the IRI in Iraq, drew a mixed picture of the US engagement in Iraq. He conceded that democracy cannot be imposed by force but asked what would be the alternative for the people in Iraq. While admitting that the situation in Iraq was very unstable the high voter turnout - in 2005, 56% of Iraqis participated in the elections with 63% of these voting in favour of the referendum - demonstrated that a huge part of the population shared democratic values. Technical democracy promotion, Egan said, was not sufficient; political leadership was needed to foster genuine democratic change. He also stressed the importance of inter-religious dialogue and appealed to the transatlantic community to cooperate more closely.

In response to Egan’s remarks, Sean O’Regan warned that democratic changes might destroy the traditions and religious fundaments of the societies concerned.

Bart van Winsen, Member of Dutch Parliament in the Second Chamber focused on the important role of institutions in DP. Especially NATO, which stood for a large part of transatlantic cooperation, disposed of more and more tools for conflict prevention and transformation, van Winsen pointed out. Many members of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly were discussing NATO’s capacity to be acti ve in conflict prevention and state reconstruction.

Van Winsen complained that the international community was able to agree on universal standards for election observation but was incapable of agreeing on a common approach for dealing with the results of democratic elections.

The last speaker of the day was Ivo Samson from the International Security Department of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association Research Center. Like van Winsen, he focused on the important role of transatlantic institutions, in particular NATO. A summary of the last decade´s promotion of democracy by NATO appears impressive he mentioned as NATO:

- has invoked its Article 5 defense clause for the first time ever, following the 11/9;

- deployed a peacekeeping force of about 10.000 troops to Northern Afghanistan and committed to expand that mission geographically (to the south) and quantitatively;

- launched a roughly 10 million euro (?) training operation for Iraqi forces involving contributions from all 26 NATO members;

- created (and declared it deployable at the NATO Riga Summit) the NATO Response Force (NRF), a grouping of some 20,000 forces and equipment that can be called together at short notice and deployed anywhere around the world;

- deployed the NRF in an earthquake relief operation in Pakistan;

- established an air-bridge to supply soldiers from the African Union (AU) to a peacekeeping mission in Sudan;

- launched the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) to develop its political and military relations with members of the GCC;

- expanded its Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) to facilitate political dialogue with Middle Eastern countries including Egypt;

- enlarged the scope of political discussions in the North Atlantic Council to include briefings on a range of Middle Eastern and global issues;

- established a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response (CBRNR) team to help deal with possible weapons of mass destruction contingencies.

Many of these operations are limited in scope and political discussions in and about the Greater Middle East are still in their early stages.

Nonetheless, the trend toward greater Alliance involvement in the region is clear. NATO's role in this area is likely to continue to grow. NATO is in the process of fitfully transforming itself into a global security organization in terms of: its missions, its participation and possibly even its future membership, Samson concluded.


•There were no basically “dissenting” views diverging from the need of a Transatlantic consensus (which does not mean “unfairness”, but one eliminated a discussion conflict potential).

•Both in the presentations, and in the discussions, a difference in attitudes between “independent” participants (NGO´s, former political representatives), and political institutions bound, like the EU representatives was clearly perceived.

•Especially in the discussions, it became obvious that representatives from Central Eastern Europe have assumed a different stance to the democracy promotion (in their case, they seem to be still influenced by their political experience won in the years of political and economic “transformation”). Generally, the Europe-US discourse was mitigated by participants from Central Eastern Europe (Slovakia), which were showing more (self) criticism towards the EU than towards the USA.

•Due to the lack of openly dissenting views it became manifest that value-oriented opinions clearly prevailed over “pragmatism” – this was, particularly, evident in the discussion concerning the main security threats like terrorism or the WMD (case of Iran).

•There was no deviation from the consensus: the EU/US do not have any other alternative as to promote democracy as a “remedy” for the world.

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