European Parties and Their Role in Building Democracy: The Case of the Western Balkans
encouraging moderate political forces to take part in the collaboration among European and international political organisations.
Our strategic goal has been to continue bringing the countries of the region closer to EU standards and to prepare them for eventual participation in the EU family. In the framework of the WBDI, the EPP as a whole, as well as its parties and foundations, engaged in a wide range of activities. These activities enabled us to gain valuable experience and to become acquainted with the parties of the region, and this has brought about a better understanding among us. The result has been the creation of an extensive party network. For the most part, four instruments were used: fact-finding missions, seminars, interregional conferences and publications. Within this context, the political education of party employees and activists and elected party officials, as well as city and regional councilors and MPs, has been an important tool for promoting an understanding of and adaptation to the rules and instruments necessary to strengthen the newly created party system of the states in the region. Experts from all Western Balkans countries received party training, local government training and national government training on political communication, democracy, free market structures, internet technology, etc. The main invitees to our training activities and seminars were leading members, activists and deputies of moderate democratic centre and centre-right parties from the local to the national and international levels, representatives of the partiesâ€™ youth and womenâ€™s organisations, media and e-media experts and editors, and party representatives to international organisations such as the CoE, the OSCE, the EU and the UN. The aim was to establish contacts, assist in the party formation process, cooperate with NGOs and bring all parties concerned together at international level. Since the launching conference in July 1999, a number of international meetings and seminars 60
have been organised. In January 2001, four foundations of EPP-EDU parties agreed to coordinate systematically their activities in the region. More specifically, the Constantinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy (Greece), the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation (Sweden), the Political Academy (Austria) and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (UK) agreed to design and establish a common Training Programme. The programme consisted of a series of seminars and visits to the region that aimed at providing our Western Balkan partners with educational and technical support. The issues covered included media and campaign training, political communication and the development of ideological profiles for political parties. The programme also included helping participants become acquainted with EU and EPP policies. Meetings of the foundations cooperating with the WBDI were held in Rhodes in August 2001, in Brussels in September 2001 and in Thessaloniki and Vienna in April 2002. The development of democracy in the Western Balkans needed a systematic information effort which aimed at (1) helping the Western Balkan parties organise themselves more effectively and (2) making them familiar with the positions and practices of the EPP-EDU and their member parties. In addition to our training seminars, our initiative provided an information campaign. This included publications in the target countries designed to provide an overview of activities and to summarise and present the different topics, e.g. in the form of training handbooks for further activities undertaken by our project partners. The long-term target of the WBDI and, as I mentioned, our strategic goal was to bring the countries in the region closer to the EU. The WBDI offered the member parties of the EPP and the EDU a platform for bilateral and multilateral contacts to strengthen the ties between established European centre and centre-right parties and its partners in the region. It also offered them a channel to transmit EU experience and practices.
European View_Transnational parties and european democracy