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Procedure : 2011/2245(INI)
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PV 29/03/2012 - 9.10
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Thursday, 29 March 2012 - Brussels
European Endowment for Democracy

European Parliament recommendation of 29 March 2012 to the Council on the modalities for the possible establishment of a European Endowment for Democracy (EED) (2011/2245(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the proposal for a recommendation to the Council by Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, on behalf of the ALDE Group, on the modalities for the possible establishment of a European Endowment for Democracy (B7-0391/2011),

–  having regard to its resolution of 7 July 2011 on EU external policies in favour of democratisation(1),

–  having regard to Articles 2, 6, 8 and 21 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 December 2011 on the Review of the European Neighbourhood Policy(2) and in particular paragraph 10 thereof,

–  having regard to its resolutions of 7 April 2011 on Review of the European Neighbourhood Policy – Eastern Dimension(3) and Review of the European Neighbourhood Policy – Southern Dimension(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 December 2010 on the Annual Report on Human Rights in the World 2009 and the European Union's policy on the matter(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 April 2002 on the Commission communication to the Council and the European Parliament on the European Union's role in promoting human rights and democratisation in third countries(6),

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 1889/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on establishing a financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide (EIDHR)(7),

–  having regard to the agreements concluded between the EU and third countries and to the human rights and democracy clauses contained therein,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 18 May 2009 on ‘Support to democratic governance: towards an enhanced EU framework’,

–  having regard to three sets of Council conclusions: those of 22 October 2009 on ‘Democracy support in the EU's external relations’, those of 13 December 2010 containing the ‘2010 progress report and list of pilot countries’ and those of 20 June 2011 on the European Neighbourhood Policy,

–  having regard to the joint communication by the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs And Security Policy of 25 May 2011 on ‘A new response to a changing neighbourhood’ (COM(2011)0303),

–  having regard to the joint communication from the Commission entitled ‘A partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the southern Mediterranean’ (COM(2011)0200),

–  having regard to the Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions on the European Neighbourhood Policy adopted on 20 June 2011, at its 3101st meeting,

–  having regard to the Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions on the European Endowment for Democracy adopted on 1 December 2011, at its 3130th meeting,

–  having regard to the Commission's thematic and geographic financial instruments concerning democratisation and human rights (such as the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Initiative (ENPI), etc),

–  having regard to the letter of support for the establishment of the EED, addressed to EP President Jerzy Buzek and HR/VP Catherine Ashton and dated 25 November 2011,

–  having regard to Rules 121(3) and 97 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Development (A7-0061/2012),

A.  whereas the EU Treaties enshrine universal human rights and democracy as founding values of the Union and as principles and objectives of the Union's external action; 

B.  whereas Article 8 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union lays down the principle of gender mainstreaming, stating that the Union shall in all its activities aim to eliminate inequalities and to promote equality between men and women;

C.  whereas, in its Agenda for Action on Democracy Support in EU External Relations, the Council stated that it wished to improve the coherence and effectiveness of its support, but whereas limited progress has been made in that respect;

D.  whereas Parliament welcomed the initiative of establishing the European Endowment for Democracy in its resolution of 7 July 2011 on EU external policies in favour of democratisation;

E.  whereas the establishment of the EED was supported in the letter addressed to EP President Jerzy Buzek and HR/VP Catherine Ashton by several high-profile human rights defenders, including Sakharov Prize laureates Aung San Suu Kyi and Alaksandr Milinkievic;

F.  whereas the EU and its Member States have not yet translated into action a truly coherent and strategic approach to democratisation matters which recognises democracy support as an issue in its own right;

G.  whereas the events of the ‘Arab Spring’ and the Eastern Neighbourhood have demonstrated the need for an urgent strategic engagement of the EU with authoritarian countries and those striving for democratic reforms, based on a new and different approach in order to restore credibility and offer timely assistance to the process of transition to democracy; whereas setting up the European Endowment for Democracy could be one of the most tangible responses by the EU to the challenges of democratisation, in our neighbourhood and beyond;

H.  whereas women play a key role in the processes of democratisation and the success of social movements;

I.  whereas the recent events in North Africa and the Middle East have demonstrated that women are determinant actors for democratic change and that women's rights are often violated, with women being put at greater risk of poverty and marginalised in their country's political, social, and economic life;

J.  whereas the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have underscored the urgency of addressing instability and undemocratic regimes in the EU's neighbourhood as relevant to Europe's own security and stability;

K.  whereas the strengthened approach to democracy and human rights support developed in the context of the EU Neighbourhood Policy and the EU Agenda for Change needs to be accompanied by an increased capacity to react both rapidly and consistently to developments concerning democracy and the rule of law;

L.  whereas the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) focuses on urgent measures as regards human rights defenders at risk, including journalists and opposition figures, and on longer-term measures complementing the existing EU geographic instruments;

M.  whereas political parties, eminent political personalities (e.g. dissidents, opposition figures and leaders of youth organisations), social movements, and representatives of civil society, the cultural sector and the media (e.g. journalists, bloggers, social media activists and artists) with a clear agenda seeking to improve democracy continue to play a central role in each democracy and democratisation process; whereas, owing to lack of resources, a restricted mandate and lengthy EIDHR procedures, support for these actors has in the past been limited;

N.  whereas the Foreign Affairs Council has endorsed the initiative of creating a European Endowment for Democracy (EED); whereas work is proceeding swiftly towards its establishment and there is an urgent need to reach agreement on the detailed operational aspects;

1.  Addresses the following recommendation to the Council, urging it to:

   (a) ensure that the EED will generate a more strategic and political approach on the EU's part to democracy support, by providing context-specific, flexible, timely and bottom-up assistance with rapid reprogramming where this is needed to help facilitate democratic transition in partner countries;
   (b) show that, in order to achieve the objectives spelt out above, the creation of a new Fund is more appropriate and more effective than a revision of the existing instruments and in particular of the EIDHR;
   (c) clarify the mission and values of the EED in order to ensure clear criteria for the selection of beneficiaries, in particular regarding the methodology of the selection process;
   (d) emphasise the coherence and effectiveness of EU democracy support, as laid down in the Agenda for Action on Democracy Support in EU External Relations, and mandate and organise the EED in this spirit;
   (e) request that the EED guarantee the principle of national ownership of democratic processes and that democracy-building be carried out through empowerment of the bases of society, up to the highest organs of government;
   (f) ensure that the EED, while encouraging ‘deep and sustainable democracy’ in pre-transition, transition and post-transition countries, with a primary though not exclusive focus on the European Neighbourhood, receives a focused mandate, allowing it to complement democracy support measures from other instruments and underlining the added value brought by the new entity;
   (g) gain valuable experience through an initial (though not exclusive) focus on the European Neighbourhood;
   (h) guarantee that the EED plays a synergetic and complementary role relative to the work undertaken by the EU institutions, including the European Parliament, and the Member States, their agencies, and the foundations they fund, while working closely with them, creating partnerships and avoiding duplication; seek complementarity and close coordination with the Anna Lindh Foundation, particularly in order to promote democracy in the Mediterranean;
   (i) ensure that the EED provides added value by complementing and not overlapping with or curtailing the activities of the existing funding instruments, particularly the EIDHR and the IfS; note that the EED could launch projects which could later be continued by the EIDHR or the geographic instruments, creating a programming interface so as to ensure coherence and sustainability in the longer term;
   (j) define a precise methodology so as to avoid any overlap between financial instruments, the complex web of Community and parliamentary structures (OPPD, ECG, etc) responsible for human rights, and the EED before any work is started on the project;
   (k) ensure at the strategic planning level that the EED cooperates with the other EU instruments and structures engaged in human rights and democracy work, especially the EIDHR, the IfS, the CSF and the geographic instruments; ensure sound and transparent financial management and low administrative and transaction costs; bear in mind the importance of the Community method, with the Commission being invited to examine as soon as possible how EU instruments could in the future provide more rapid response mechanisms and how and when an EU trust fund could be set up if the appropriate legal basis is established in the new Financial Regulation; ensure that if the EU budget contributes towards financing the EED, this will not be at the expense of the already limited resources of the EIDHR;
   (l) enable the EED to act in three stages: pre-transition, transition and post-transition, and to kick-start projects and innovative solutions and ideas at ground level which could not hitherto be supported by the EU for reasons of procedural constraints or risk mitigation; model the EED, in addition, in such a way as to make it less risk-averse while respecting the EU Financial Regulation;
   (m) request that the impartiality of the EU Election Observation Missions be ensured, considering, therefore, that the EED should not include such missions amongst its activities to promote democracy;
   (n) address, in the early stages of funding in a specific country, a wide group of potential beneficiaries, including key pro-democracy political players (e.g. emerging political actors, grassroots movements and non-registered NGOs, and trade unions), watchdogs, whistleblowers, individual political activists, cultural actors, new media actors (bloggers and others), minority rights organisations and think-tanks, in order to enable the EED to support a wide variety of local actors striving for democratic reforms; provide support to the above-mentioned political actors and movements in a pluralist manner;
   (o) ensure that the EED pays special attention to the participation of women in the democratic reform process, by supporting women's organisations and projects in gender-sensitive areas such as combating violence, generating employment, and political participation, extending equal access to justice and education for women and girls, and preventing or ending existing violations of women's rights;
   (p) consider it essential that the EED grant multi-party support to associations in transition countries, given their role as key players in democracy and so that they can contribute to achieving national consensus;
   (q) give the EED the power to award grants directly to the intended beneficiaries, in a non-discriminatory manner and in consultation with the EU delegations on the ground, and, possibly, through political foundations and NGOs with a proven track record of successful work in the field of democracy support; particularly at the beginning, ensure that re-granting operates as an effective mechanism to enable the EED to work with partners on the ground who have the requisite knowledge and local infrastructure and enjoy the trust of local people; note that re-granting, provided it respects political plurality at EU level and operates through core grantees, would reduce both the administrative burden on the EED and the potential risks;
   (r) ensure that the EU can exercise political influence in accordance with its budgetary contribution; establish a light, transparent and politically representative governance structure, providing a balanced and cost-effective mix between representatives of the Member States and EU institutions, including Parliament, and independent experts and practitioners; strike a clear balance between the autonomy and independence of the EED and its accountability to its funders, and ensure the highest possible degree of financial probity in its accounts, taking special care to ensure that funds are not lost to corruption and that no funds are paid out to any person or entity with any links whatsoever to criminal or terrorist organisations;
   (s) structure the EED as an administratively light, flexible and efficient Brussels-based structure, with straightforward grant award mechanisms; applicants should not be required to undergo cumbersome tendering procedures; cofinancing by beneficiaries should not be a prerequisite for funding; the award of grants should be conditional on compliance with strict and clear criteria, and the list of beneficiaries should be made public unless it jeopardises their security; appropriate safeguards should be implemented to avoid fraud and misuse of funds;
   (t) build into the EED appropriate channels for structured cooperation and coordination with the Brussels- and field-based actors; provide for close coordination and consultation between the future Executive Committee and the EED staff and the European External Action Service (EEAS), the Commission and Parliament on the strategies, objectives and initiatives of the respective EU instruments, as well as a structured dialogue with the EU delegations and Member State embassies on the ground; 
   (u) ensure that the EED has robust links and consults regularly with beneficiary groups, but without having regional offices, relying instead on the EU delegations and on local organisations or independent experts and practitioners who have been thoroughly vetted to ensure that they have no links whatsoever to criminal or terrorist organisations;
   (v) ensure that an adequate monitoring system to assess the effectiveness of the funding provided is put in place;
   (w) consider, however, that priority should be given to establishing the EED as an external financing instrument of the EU within the Union's institutional framework, so as to ensure that Parliament can duly exercise its legislative and budgetary powers in relation to the EU's contribution and programming activities;
   (x) guarantee that the EU's contribution to the EED budget is delivered in full conformity with the principles of good financial practice and is administered by staff trained in the application of the Financial Regulation in relation to the EU budget, and that Parliament can exercise full budgetary and legislative control, including the possible monitoring and scrutinising by the budgetary authority of how this funding is used;
   (y) guarantee that Parliament can exercise broad political oversight over the EED's activities and programming and ensure that the implementation of its measures is thoroughly monitored and evaluated by an independent third party, inter alia by ensuring that Parliament is kept informed of the EED's annual reports; allow Parliament sufficient space to enable it to contribute during the programming phase, set priorities and strategic lines of action, and share its creative power and transitional experiences from Member States in support of democratisation processes beyond Europe's borders;
   (z) ensure that Parliament is involved and consulted throughout the process of activation and implementation of the EED, through, inter alia, a politically balanced selection of MEPs on its Board of Governors and Executive Committee; review the composition of the Board of Governors to ensure that Member States are represented through the Council, and increase the participation of Parliament in the governing board of this instrument, so as to guarantee proper influence in line with Parliament's responsibility as one of the arms of the EU's budgetary authority; enable Parliament to provide input into defining the political and strategic guidelines, priorities, expected results and overall financial allocations underpinning the endowment's activities in a meaningful and systematic manner;
   (aa) keep under review the EED's impact, performance, and added value vis-à-vis the EU instruments and the sustainability of funded actions; draw appropriate conclusions and, if necessary, adjust its size, structure, funding mechanism and executive accountability accordingly; ensure that the results of such assessments are forwarded to Parliament;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this recommendation to the Council and, for information, to the Commission and the Member States.

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0334.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0576.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0153.
(4) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0154.
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0489.
(6) OJ C 131 E, 5.6.2003, p. 147.
(7) OJ L 386, 29.12.2006, p. 1.

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