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Launch of the Recommendations Report on EU’s External Democracy Action in a New Geopolitical Reality

February 06, 2023 • By Vera Pachta

On 31 January 2023, International IDEA and the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU jointly organized in Brussels a conference to launch the Recommendations Report on the EU’s External Democracy Action in a New Geopolitical RealityOver 180 participants from civil society, EU institutions, and EU Member States and partner countries discussed how to defend and promote democracy in the fast-changing geopolitical landscape and how to bolster EU policies to embed the democracy agenda more squarely at the heart of the European Union’s strategic interests.

You can watch the conference recording here  
You can consult the presentation of the recommendations report here


The speakers commended the report and its key recommendations namely: 

  1. build a new narrative on democracy;  
  2. use democracy as a guide in all EU external policies;  
  3. adopt an EU Integrated Approach to Democracy Support in External Relations; and  
  4. ensure that the design and implementation of EU external democracy policy are more inclusive and more gender and youth responsive. " />

Secretary-General Kevin Casas-Zamora opened the conference on behalf of International IDEA, stating that: “If there is one key message to draw from this report, it is that the EU should double down on this reputation and grow ever more visible in defending democracy as part of its core identity internally and globally.” He notably highlighted three qualities that the report suggests the EU should embody in its approach – humility, coherence and inclusivity. Diana Janse, Sweden’s State Secretary for International Development Cooperation welcomed participants on behalf of the Swedish EU Council Presidency and welcomed the report as an important contribution to move the EU’s external democracy agenda forward. She underlined that: “The findings of the report will contribute to discussions on how the EU can strengthen its role as a global democracy actor, and hopefully inspire greater commitment. That work begins today. I am encouraged by the wide participation here today, of people who have come together in the shared belief that democracy action matters. And what we do matters. We are not walk-ons in a scripted drama. On the contrary - the future of democracy will depend on the decisions we take to defend democracy and freedom.” Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, stressed that the EU’s democracy agenda embodied in its Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy goes beyond words as it is underpinned by substantial funding. As an example, the EU and its Member States spent 14 billion euros between 2014 and 2019 to support democracy abroad. Charles Brasseur, Programme Manager at International IDEA and co-author of the report presented the report and its main findings and recommendations. 


First Panel - Credits: Bruno Maes for International IDEA


The first panel discussed the report and some of the burning priorities for the EU’s democracy action. The speakers agreed that at this crucial point of history, the EU has to find ways to show to its partners the real and concrete benefits of democratic governance and be consistent in its actions and policies internally and externally. The EU should also continue to be a global standard setter in various policy areas, including climate change response and digital policy but should at the same time listen carefully to its partners when putting out models and norms. The EU’s Global Gateway was mentioned on several occasions as a value-based initiative promoted to support mutual economic development.  


Second Panel - Credits: Bruno Maes for International IDEA


The second panel exchanged views on effective ways for global democracy actors to team-up to support democracy worldwide. A recurring notion was about undemocratic governments unchecked at home often being aggressive with their neighboring countries and presenting a real threat to global security. In an interconnected world, collective action, unity and leadership are essential to bring forward the democracy agenda. As the EU takes steps to protect its critical infrastructure in a volatile situation, democracy needs to be seen as a form of critical infrastructure and as a set of social, legal and political norms that guarantee security and welfare over the long term. The speakers also underlined the need for knowledge building, collective analysis and evidence-based approach to strengthen and back-up the narrative on democracy. 


Third Panel - Credits: Bruno Maes for International IDEA


The third panel discussed the Mid-Term Review of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024 and the preparatory steps of its successor. Until May 2023, the EU institutions will lead a review of the Action Plan to assess and enhance its implementation for the remaining period. This process should conclude with Council Conclusions in June. The Recommendations Report suggested adopting Council Conclusions with political messages on democracy as part of the proposed new narrative. Civil society representatives mention that the review process of the Action Plan should be ambitious in its outreach and include as much as possible local civil society and actors. The process to develop the next Action Plan should also be inclusive and bring together EU Member States, civil society and other relevant democracy actors early in the process and preferably in one forum. The new Action Plan should identify deliverables that are specific and measurable. 


Closing Remarks - Credits: Bruno Maes for International IDEA


The Conference closing remarks were delivered by Dubravka Šuica, Vice President of the European Commission overseeing Democracy and Demography, and by Christian Leffler, Chair of the Bord of Advisers of International IDEA. In her Closing Address Vice President Šuica built on the need for a new narrative on democracy, stating that the EU should fully grasp how democratic action inside its borders impacts and influences the implementation of its external policies. Christian Leffler summarized the main points discussed in the course of the day and concluded that further work is needed to integrate democracy across all EU policies and make democracy tangible and relevant for all citizens across the world.  


Credits: Bruno Maes for International IDEA

Credits: Bruno Maes for International IDEA

Credits: Bruno Maes for International IDEA


Conference Speakers: 
  • Kevin Casas-Zamora, Secretary-General, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance  
  • Diana Janse, State Secretary to Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs  
  • Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships, European Commission – video message  
  • Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, European External Action 
  • Charles Brasseur, Programme Manager, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance 
  • Marilyn Neven, Programme Manager and EU Liaison, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance 
  • Tomas Tobé, Member of the European Parliament, Chair of the Committee on Development  
  • Belen Martinez Carbonell, Managing Director for Global Affairs, European External Action Service  
  • Mathieu Bousquet, Acting Director, Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission  
  • Micha Ramakers, Deputy Head of Unit, Directorate General for International Partnerships, European Commission  
  • Janjira Sombatpoonsiri, Assistant Professor, Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University and German Institute for Global and Area Studies 
  • Sam Van der Staak, Director of Regional Europe Office, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral 
  • Heidi Hautala, Member and Vice-President of the European Parliament  
  • Kara McDonald, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State  
  • Maryem Van Den Heuvel, Director General for External Relations, Council of the European Union  
  • Cecilia Ruthström-Ruin, Sweden’s Ambassador for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs  
  • Ken Godfrey, Executive Director, European Partnership for Democracy  
  • Lawrence Mwananyanda, Special Assistant to the President, Summit for Democracy Focal Point, Zambia  
  • Moa Lagercrantz, Deputy Director at Department for International Law, Human Rights and Treaty Law, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs  
  • Mikael Lindvall, Sweden Permanent Representative to the European Union Peace and Security Committee, Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU 
  • Neal Mac Call, Head of Division Democracy and Electoral Observation, European External Action Service  
  • Delphine Borione, Ambassador at Large for Human Rights, France  
  • Lisbeth Pilegaard, Member of the Board of Governors of the European Endowment for Democracy, Executive Director, Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy  
  • Simon Papuashvili, Programme Director, International Partnership for Human Rights 
  • Dubravka Šuica, Vice President of the European Commission for Democracy and Demography  
  • Christian Leffler, Chair of the Board of Advisers, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance


About the authors

Vera Pachta
Programme Officer
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