I’ve been guested at the 2012 edition of the “Weimar Triangle network”, famous conference organized by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, stated in Germany in Genshagen near Berlin on 20 to 22nd of June. This new edition (the 5th since 2008) was thematically built around “Ethics, interests and democracy promotion: Europe’s difficult dealing with ‘non-democracies’”. FES is one of the six main foundations in Germany, focused on social thoughts, policies and issues, to make a better world (or at least building the real social Europe).
The spirit of the foundation was born with SPD movement in Germany, and one of its events, meeting the Weimar Triangle participants with citizen from Germany, France and Poland, out from business, education, students origins and profiles. Supposed goals were to build new social Europe, thinking of new models of development, dealing with welfare, healthcare and education supports, reducing debts to finance pensions. Yes, Europe needs a new model, a social progress protocol, and it’d better be soon. Time is running out for refinding the best social contract to link European people together, toward more cooperation, relevance and welfare. This new initiative (Weimar Triangle) allows Germany, France and Poland to build a long-term circle of thoughts, throughout different sensibilities and histories, enjoying real cooperation between actors.
The 5th edition of the conference started on 20th, in a very smart place (Genshagen Castle), with the first subject that was to define “what is a non-democracy?”, structured with :
- how to define “democracy”?
- what characterises “undemocratic countries”?
- and which countries are the most problematic addresses of European foreign policies, when time is to be linked in former Europe, and temptation could be rejection so far, as crisis blowed some economies?
Is Democracy a unique point of view that can be definable and scalable, among many different cultures, countries and sensibilities, with the same methods? Then, how can we build a measurable booklet of rules that could be offered as a cornerstone of the whole European project? And what about sanctions for supposed “bad boys” non-democracy actors that don’t rule for respecting the guidelines and dig the deficit, so?
We’re facing a big crisis and a paradigm shift, with no solution than define and align all so called “European countries”, with rules, kind of “codex” and values: share the same values is the base of any long term relation. Pushing faster and stronger for more regulation and rules means that WE, historic European countries can’t close eyes and ears, about our deficit and the causes that drove there. “sweep our house first”.
Which criterias might qualify “non-democracy” et how can we address the phenomena inside Europe? Seems to be a “grey zone”, an in-between space we must deal with. And we may not understand the whole truth. What references system do we want to live? How be sure the customization fits with all different cultures and imagine a linked Europe?
Hauke Hartmann sees some keys to define a democracy:
- stateness, with force potential to defend territory, vote possibility, citizen notion definition clearly defined, laws and rights ability to function
- participation, a collective opinion and political decision-making process
- rule of law with civil rights, judiciary independence: the main anchor for liberal democracies
But beyond definition we must talk about “operate” all these criterias and make them alive. Real. Functioning. How governments make people participate to problem solving, how policy quality is relevant in operating their own internal affairs? …BTI project built a strong database, comparison model, between 128 countries in the world…totally free and open source. Wild example of big data and smart work for the World agenda.
Then what about “non-democracy”? Fragile zones with lack of stateness, and/or politic control on internal operation. Provoking and spreading exclusion, terrorism, no rules referential, no ability to control/make applying a whole peace environment, no effective power to govern, no freedom or freedom expression, insecurity…And there’s unfortunately several countries we may think they are…(no name here, it’s not the exercise…). More important, how to deal when they knock at the European door? Consensus, agenda, strong position…? But moreover, which advantages to be a democracy, where is the “democracy payback” for a country to transform itself to a democracy model, for the population then?
Between identify, promote, sustain and defend, there is no other ideal than make a better welfare environment for people. Such movements like “Arab spring” for example, must see the difference in the end? “It’s not a zero sum game in raising a better life environment, when imagination has no limit where hope and motivation are the leverages every country has”.
Followed with a panel for “challenges in dealing with non-democracies: ethics, interests and supporting opposition and the difficulty search for the right way” with:
- what would foreign policy toward non-democracies ideally look like?
- under what circumstances is democracy promotion a legitimate objective?
- what interests and dependencies prevent “showcase” foreign policies toward non-democracies?
Debated with Francis Perrin from Amnesty International France, Wolfram von Heynitz, MFA German and Kamil Klysinski, OSW Poland, moderated by Martin Koopmann, Stiftung Genshagen.
How Europe reacts to temptations leading to fight for rights and oblige countries to respect a democracy environment? Are we ease and ready to organize promotion, control and sanctions? Do we have so far, global operating ways to drive such a repression movement?
Yes, we have a strong responsibility, at least to ask the good questions and to show the direction, tools and process to facilitate it.
The clear notion of democracy means that we are now driven to go further and talk about human rights. If obviously, human rights is included into democracy, the reverse is not so. Human rights are some of the basic rights that facilitate the exercise and setup of concrete democracy. And if there was inside some progress about human rights, talk about it is not enough. We want facts, actions, decisions and definitive accuracy. The battle to achieve it, pass through sometimes fighting against its own economic and historic allies. And the debate is not only with politic population, but must be spread to all stakeholders: civil society, NGOs, personalities, population…It’s then a common sense subject that overcomes a narrowed political topic.
“Democracy promotion is more efficient when democracy is requested”. That seems obvious and some elements tend to prove it. A kind of global movement drives to a more interesting result than a simple request. Democracy used to be really efficient, if really used and processed in a global shift of an economy. Tensions about energies (oil, gas…) play a major role in the relations we have with countries, and the way we address the future with them. Economic goals are so important, who cares about human rights and setup of democracy so far? We must now fight for peace between “interest” and “values”, balancing them without any consensus: no interest must compromise values that ignite and frame the democracy. Never hide behind so called “state level interests”, but dare, do and go for a class action for democracy.
Balanced situation is fragile and search for stability is very different among many countries. Statu-quo is a classical and human reaction, but we have to make “enabled” the potential for democracy mindset and the whole system that goes with. And the behaviour behind may be different when it’s urgency to act, build and make it real. And is the EU still and a relevant model for “non-democracies”?
The first day ended on this provoking concept, figuring out how questions are still there, to go further in EU, as local advisor for non members or non-democracies. We had a delicious evening for networking, digesting and enjoying the beautiful landscape of Genshagen Castle, to prepare the poursuit of the meeting.
The second day was dedicated to “case-studies” from Belarus, Iran and Arab spring, confronting and measuring the Europe’s approach with these countries, trying to enhance the democracy with delegations, missions or models.
Belarus is supposed to be the last autocracy in Europe. And it’s supposed to be weird, disturbing and a kind of urgency to shift from. Remember they received as a gift, their national existence, after collapse and breakover of old USSR. While other probably did some fight to get their. EU has limited actions right now to convince Belarus to get into change, while it’s an open door to Russia. But interests that could be identified, seem not valuable enough to push forward. Belarus has no strategic position on energy (gas, oil) comparing to Ukraine for example. EU never stopped to use “isolating politic”, to ensure and struggle Belarus from the rest of EU. But results are late from our view…and never showed any concrete improvements in international relations and in internal bulk welfare. So we may accept that recent measures failed and try other methods. With Russia, next frontier that sustains Belarus, EU is taken between “set back peace and democracy” in its own pressure and, convince Russia to organize itself the change. Influence on a non-EU country, to matter with internal EU affairs?
How long patience must be the EU’s guide? How long EU democracy environment and policies can hold the exception, and threat for human rights? We may face a really long-term “dance” but must put milestones in a blank page, to draw at least the agenda. And it may take time to put democracy on rails, including history, culture, sensibilities. “Ambition is the guide, but not too fast and too high”. That would kill any opportunity to go further.
Let’s shift to Iran with 15 years of frustration and hope between EU and Iran. Two mains issues are problematic with Iran, according to worries of EU: Human rights and nuclear tactic. Iran is in a corner, pushed away from EU between China and Russia, who cover their own interests. How, in this case, EU can play a role to make significant advances in the two main subjects? Swift bank transfers are forbidden from any country right now, to Iran and set a very frustrating system to people. But how long, China, India, Russia…will accept to do so, based on a system ordered by EU, in a zone they don’t control? Diplomatic options seem to be a long term game, where short term choices lead to fail: frustration, angriness, EU rejections, misunderstandings. Everything that is based on short term draw bad relations instead of building, from the inside, the basic elements favoured in change dealing. And the next issues on energetic choices for tomorrow, the new energies‘ Yalta could change the deal and the main pressures in the world then drive to new opportunities for democracy…?
The Arab spring could concern tomorrow, countries like Iran. A good transition to explore how Tunisia revolution started and the point of view of EU before, while and which lessons to learn. What keys can we identify of this revolution?
- issued from “fed up”, without any former specific goal at the beginning
- no identified form to shape, stop the movement: like things with anonymous movements (no chief, no shape…only cause)
- techs invade and efficiency of social collaboration
- quick: 1 month to push out after more than 25 years of dictature!
EU has been really shy facing this fast revolution, regarding the potential reactions…Why? Tunisia used to be the “good example” for the Mediterranean zone, for business, women work enhance and exchanges. Many national interests (immigration, terrorism control, business partnership with distribution…) explain the silence and the slow decision-process, for a real change in the politic power. But what is incredibly true is, whatever the landing result, the fact that a new kind of protestation, stronger, more efficient is, more than ever enabled: the social implements with Internet, collaboration and opposition platforms will never stop. They push for more transparency, gear up in decision and real-time information. And that changes everything in the ability to protest against any extreme flow to come, whatever it would be. Yes we could ask what’s best: if they had te choice now, which choice between autocracy or religious power? But the fact is that the ability in reaction or search of consensus is no way comparable to before the digital wave. And, some would better bear it in mind…
The afternoon involved lots of participants into a simulation game about “Fontania”, a fictious state, lost after a supposed collapse of communist regime. Teams were organized in the context of a civil crisis after elections that turned red, with suspicious of fraud. While several riots in the streets, and a major threat about economic and social stability, the supposed “Inotian Union” (eg fictive organization that represents the different countries of the area around Fontania) is supposed to schedule a meeting with Union members in order to find a consensus disclosure of actions to get back to peace and democracy. Some played Union, others played member countries, each with their sensibility. The exercise was dealt around:
- non formal meeting with each country to feel their own opinion of the crisis
- see which common and separate opinions about: migration, vote regulars, human rights and economic flows
- try for Union to set up a frame for discussion with the common points, in aim to reduce the reasons to fight
- try for countries to defend their own interests, including the secret ones with Fontania, unmasked along the discussion
- in the end prepare a press release with a strong consensus on what to do with Fontania, built by members, spread by Union to schedule an agenda for concrete actions
A very interesting game where entered pressure, lies, fake moves and bargaining power, all along the discussion. Personalities, and a real live role playing game to show how diplomacy is concretely difficult when it’s a matter of delicate approach to sustain peace and avoid some kind of escalade. And sometimes issuing to a very disappointing result, on the way to success, few steps later to a “weak” engagement…But common. Union was saved and peace was back in the zone…!
The third day on the morning was driven around two panels: policy instruments in dealing with non-democracies and facing introspection, with the European model.
First panel started at 9 with the first one with HG. Wieck (Ambassador) M. Davydchyk from Europe, J. Mackow (Regensburg University) about “what policy instruments in dealing with “non-democracies”? Yesterday was the opportunity to learn about for example Belarus and Iran, and EU policy pressuring economic outcomes to lead these countries toward more democracy. But sanctions must be the last chance, if we assume the discussion behaviour first, and try to find stability. Sanctions are only a part of the whole range of tools, and may be planned after warnings, efforts and diplomacy game. And in the end, they may be not efficient, having short term effects, but not “effective” in a long term strategy. Foreign policy obliges to be credible for a country, and having a stable internal policy first. We are in a global transformation in the Europe zone and justice, social and economic stability must be searched at all prices. Which allies and which influences around, after collapse of cold war? Since then, diplomacy, discussion and democracy were the drivers for this global policy, and build Europe. No sanctions were even planned in this steady process. This long-term approach supports no opportunism, as it makes no sense of credibility. “Neighbourhood policy” seems to be the next 50 years policy, to start cooperation, mark steps in democracy elections, stateness, foreign exchange, education cooperation, in short all the tools leading to a real liberal market economy. Trust, beliefs and motivation: any partner must have to believe and want it, to success. And civil society plays a strong role in it: NGOs, people, associations, social communities and use it. Mindset changes switch faster right now, because information goes faster too. Hold the old EU model may be out of time, because EU has never been finished, even if the ambition was there, the complexity to govern and push further will probably out of reach, versus the bilateral relations between countries. “What we failed huge, some may succeed in a more local way”. EU seems a too much “big picture” to handle, finally. Is it a reason to give up? Probably not, but a reason to proceed another way…
Another example is given again with Belarus, but this time from the inside, showing the press expression from the internal side. And finally, after these sanctions, not really understood, Belarus resumes as: but what exactly EU wants? Clear goals? Common goals and legitimacy of EU? Monopoly on the definition of common values, while they may be discussed? Irrational EU policy from Minsk point of view? Non common idea about “cooperation”? respect of internal sovereignety of Belarus?
Speaking about operational set up, how to use instruments as: inspection by NGOs/external authorities, penalties, value consensus, information blackout, economic sanctions? To conclude, and while Belarus is not really interested in entering into EU, the main core action could be to increase the economic and trade exchanges, and a road to information, the spread up of “social networks” as real information, benchmark and sparkle of protestation.
The second panel with L. Greven (Die Zeite) and G. Schuch (CCE Europe) leads us to introspection and focus on the European model: “is Europe a model?”
Between Hungary, Russia and Belarus positions and extreme sensibilities (left/right sides), Europe is fast changing. Despite the € crisis, Europe must be saved at all prices. But it depends of which “Europe” we’re talking about? This awesome project was build on the rejection of war, economic stability and cooperation and security of goods, frontiers, people and interests. The underlying principles that were built with financial power, drove to bankruptcy in Greece and lead us to lessons. Time is for lessons. But which lessons for the youngest people…Do they have to pay for a system failure they didn’t decide about? How can we sustain motivation for education level, knowledge improvements and find a job? And which jobs, with a desperate rising rate of unemployment…sometimes leading to suicide, the last step after despair and no future?
Yes Europe is now unfortunately characterized by unemployment, growth breakup and a great interrogation: How long do we stand such a model and what about a new “wake-up”?
Let’s focus now on Hungary, and a very debated notion of “democracy”: what’s from inside? Modernity? Seems media laws don’t match with the real idea of democracy and freeness of information. How can we deal and judge this “non-democracy” as we value it, according to EU values? A very sensible problem that needs a strong willingness from the inside, accepting that “compromise” can be considered as a failure for the actual politic instances. But the actual rising youthness may be the solution. The opposition is building a concrete framework of comparison, organize protestation and follow up little steps that sustain hope. The media supremacy will explode as new media (social) rises up and allows people to spread opposition. But what worths more: EU intervention (but which model now, after the crisis to propose?) or few steps with regional allies to convince in a medium term to recover more democracy? Neighbours vs hegemony or a mixed approach may drive better results.
Concluding and wrap-up, with take away, and feedbacks are lead by Uta Dirksen and Barbara Kunz, from the foundation. Friedrich Ebert Foundation is aware of any remark, through these five editions, that have evolved along several propositions, different audiences and speakers, and according to actuality. We brought lots of ideas to make it real and in our times, aiming to stick closer to Europe’s deals for tomorrow. That’s exactly how I thought and feel about European cooperation ; what we just can imagine and share, between young actors must be possible and scalable in others dimensions. “The more we speak, share and listen, the more we build a common diary with values that grow the whole creation”. Let’s stay linked and spread our mindset, to hold the exercise, frequently.
I really liked the form, speakers and sharing with multi-cultural environment. The networking and collaborative spirit was there to make it a concrete brotherhood leverage for a better Europe, from European citizens, whatever their jobs, origin and perspectives. These kinds of “think tank” can really take off if they success to bring ideas to the table and turn them to operational implementations with diplomatic, NGOs, civil society and citizens. There no other idea that “ideas” that make sense and Europe more alive, concrete and modern. When we don’t remember anymore, why Europe and its roles, we may not forget that EU will work from impulse, from anywhere to achieve the goals EU tries to believe in. Fortunately, initiatives like this reconciles people, thinkers and citizens with politic mindset and recover a role in the economic landscape.
I was passionate to participate to, and will do it again, if any opportunity occurs for me. Sure, I’ll do…