The creation of a European Endowment for Democracy – currently being talked about in the higher echelons of supranational institutions – would be more of a "symbolic" move, rather than a major initiative with large financial backing, Mikolaj Dowgielewicz has told PublicServiceEurope.com
In an exclusive interview, Poland's Europe Minister admitted that the fund would probably only amount to €20-30m – donated voluntarily by member states, European Union institutions and third countries looking to boost democracy around the world. The money would be handed to political activists to create an effective opposition to dictatorships and help boost a free press in countries where the stirrings of revolution were in the air. It would be designed to ensure that the EU was not caught flat-footed in the future – as many critics said it was in the response to the Arab spring. "We are not yet sure how the process would work and the funding would not be a great deal, but it would be symbolic of our support," said Dowgielewicz, who is leading Poland's six-month rotating presidency of the EU.
Speaking earlier at the University Association for Contemporary European Studies
annual conference at Cambridge University, the minister insisted: "We have found agreement with the High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton to establish the endowment quickly. We want to assist democracy and state-building, we have to be serious about our principles. The idea is to have a convention, which allows us to have a light-touch structure. It would be voluntary contributions and open to all member states, the European Commission and the European Parliament as well as other countries in our neighbourhood like Norway and Iceland. It could deliver a quick response to situations like we saw in Egypt and Tunisia, to help activists and a free media. The EU decision-making process is slow and cumbersome otherwise, in this repsect. So we want to bring the endowment outside EU institutional and financial structures."
Dowgielewicz also reiterated his belief that Iceland's accession to the union would be rapid, following on the heels of Croatia. "I am optimistic about the speed if there is the political will within that country," he added. "It would be a positive for the EU to have Iceland as a member; it can bring a great deal to Europe." In addition, the minister spoke candidly about working closely with Ashton on the EU's neighbourhood policy and security issues. Dismissing criticism of the Baroness from the media and other European political leaders, he told PublicServiceEurope.com
: "It's a lot of hot air; she has an impossible job to do and she is doing it well. At the end of her time in office, people will be more positive about what she has done. She will leave a real legacy."