Updated at 13:48,15-08-2017

Headquarters of European Endowment for Democracy opened in Brussels

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

The headquarters of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) were opened in Brussels on May 27.

Attending the opening ceremony were Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski; Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius; Elmar Brok, chairperson of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs; Filip Kaczmarek, who chairs the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Belarus; and European Parliament member Marek Migalski.

Journalists from Belarus, Ukraine, Tunisia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were also in attendance, including Natallya Radzina, the Warsaw-based editor of Belarusian opposition news site charter97.org, and Uladzimir Labkovich, a member of a Belarusian human rights organization called Vyasna (Spring).

The EED Secretariat will be located in the building that once housed the Polish embassy in Belgium.

According to the press office of the Polish foreign ministry, "the idea to establish the European Endowment for Democracy, one of the flagship initiatives of the Polish EU presidency, was put forward in January 2011 by Minister Radoslaw Sikorski." The establishment of the EED is a response "to the brutally quashed social protests in the aftermath of the presidential election in Belarus and the Arab Spring events in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya," the press office said.

"Our joint initiative - which constitutes an answer to the democratic aspirations of societies in the European neighbourhood - has taken on a tangible form," Mr. Sikorski said during the opening ceremony.

"Democracy in the European neighborhood has not laid down its roots for good," he noted. "The situation still leaves a lot to be desired, and this is where the EED comes in."

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Jerzy Pomianowski was elected executive director of the European Endowment for Democracy is January 2013. The Endowment is expected to provide assistance to civil society organizations, young pro-democracy leaders, and independent media outlets.

According to the press office, the Endowment will be financed will be financed by the European Commission funds and EU member states. Over the first three years, the EED budget will reportedly exceed €25 million. The largest contributions have been declared by Poland (€5 million), Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.