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European Foundation for Democracy

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The European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) is a Brussels-based organization whose purported goal, according to its website, “is to ensure that the universal values of the Enlightenment—religious tolerance, political pluralism, individual liberty and government by democracy—remain the core foundation of Europe's prosperity and welfare, and the basis on which diverse cultures and opinions can interact peacefully.”[1]

EFD, which is directed by Roberta Bonazzi, has been closely associated with neoconservative-led advocacy initiatives and has hosted Islamophobic scholars like Walid Phares, formerly of the neocon think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C. According to one assessment, EFD “basically imports the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies's (FDD) formula to Brussels to influence European policy makers and opinion.”[2]

Among its main activities, EFD hosts two monitoring programs, “Iran Monitor” and “European Radicalization Monitor.” The Iran Monitor, whose last publication as of October 2011 was an April 2009 newsletter, claims to analyze “developments in Iran reported in current Farsi-speaking media inside and outside of Iran under the analytical framework of the new political totalitarianism. It thus tries to increase the awareness of the Iranian regime's totalitarian state ideology and how it denies freedom, democracy and human rights to the Iranian people.”[3]

The European Radicalization Monitor, whose last publication as of October 2011 was a December 2009 newsletter, claims to “provide an overview of ongoing terrorist and radicalisation activities, counter-terrorism measures, and broad terrorism-related political debates throughout Europe. With the ERM we aim to provide a factual overview of how terrorist ideologies are spreading in Europe, and the different forms they are taking. It is imperative that Europeans become aware of the threat of such movements to open societies and to universal human rights. The ERM is based on media sources from around the world, and on publications by non-governmental organisations, national governments, and international bodies.”[4]

EFD also claims to host a number of additional research projects, including a “Liberal Muslims Empowerment Project,” an “Afghanistan Project,” and a project titled “Iran Human Rights and Nuclear Threat Monitoring.”[5]

EFD frequently participates in European conferences and events that advocate hawkish security policies in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere. In June 2007, for example, EFD was one of several rightist European groups that were represented at the Democracy and Security Conference in Prague, an event whose primary agenda appeared to be the promotion of a neoconservatives Mideast agenda among political groups overseas. Sponsored by the Prague Security Studies Institute, the Jerusalem-based Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies (funded by Sheldon Adelson), and Spain’s Foundation for Social Analysis and Studies, the conference’s featured speaker was President George W. Bush, who compared the “war on terror” to the Cold War. He said, “The most powerful weapon in the struggle against extremism is not bullets or bombs—it is the universal appeal of freedom. Freedom is the design of our Maker, and the longing of every soul.”[6]

Conference participants included: Bonazzi of EFD; Adelson of the Sands Corporation and Freedom’s Watch; Peter Ackerman of Freedom House; former Spanish Prime Minister José Aznar; Anne Bayefsky of the Hudson Institute; Jeffrey Gedmin of Radio Free Europe; neoconservative figures Reuel Marc Gerecht, Joshua Muravchik, Michael Rubin, Michael Novak, and Richard Perle, all of whom were then based at the American Enterprise Institute; Farid Ghadry of the U.S.-based Reform Party of Syria; former Czech President Vaclav Havel; Bruce Jackson of the Project on Transitional Democracies; Josef Joffe of Germany’s Die Zeit; Garry Kasparov, the famous chess player and member of the Russian opposition party United Civil Front; U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT); Tod Lindberg of the Hoover Institution; Herb London of the Hudson Institute; Clifford May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Harold Rhode, a former Pentagon employee close to many core neoconservatives like David Wurmser; and Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident and chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies.[7]

In 2008, the UK-based Henry Jackson Society hosted then-EFD fellow Walid Phares to give a talk based on his book Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad. The talk, titled "To Counter the Jihadi Lobbies, You Need Independence from Petro Dollars,” channeled a number of neoconservative talking points, including energy independence and the idea that there is a powerful lobby pushing the views of radical Islamists in western capitals. Phares claimed that “there are strong Jihadi lobbies which are derailing international and U.S. efforts to defeat the terrorist forces."[8] (For more on this purported lobby, see Samer Araabi, “The Real Mideast Lobby,” Right Web, November 24, 2010.)

More recently, according to an EFD press release, in July 2011 the group “organised a Hearing at the European Parliament on the criminalisation of forced marriage at EU level, co-hosted by Members of the European Parliament Diana Wallis (ALDE, UK) and Jean Lambert (Greens/EFA, UK). The event was attended by sixty participants, including representatives from NGOs, MEPs, other European Parliament staff and European Commission officials. The panel, co-chaired by the two MEPs, included the activists Jasvinder Sanghera (Karma Nirvana, UK), Ahmad Mansour (Heroes, Germany) and Anna Rinder von Beckerath (Sweden). The Hearing began with a screening of the BBC documentary screened on national television in the UK on 25th March ‘Shame Travels’ and was followed by a panel discussion and a questions and answers session with the audience.”[9]

EFD is funded in part by a U.S.-based philanthropic group called Friends of the European Foundation for Democracy (FEFD). According to its 2009 Form 990 tax return, the FEFD began collecting revenue for EFD in 2009 and began operations on January 2010. In 2009, it collected $1,000,000. At the time, FEFD was led by a board whose members included Larry Hochberg, Talton Gibon, Jessice Dean, and Roberta Bonazzi. FEFD’s treasurer was Toby Dershowitz, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a longstanding neoconservative activist.[10]

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Sources


[1] EFD, “About," http://europeandemocracy.org/about-us/who-we-are.html.



[2] PowerBase, European Foundation for Democracy, http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/European_Foundation_for_Democracy.



[3] EFD, "Iran Monitor," http://europeandemocracy.org/publications/iran-monitor.html.



[4] EFD, “European Radicalization Monitor," http://europeandemocracy.org/publications/european-radicalisation-monitor/issue-12/2009.html.



[5] EFD, "Projects," http://europeandemocracy.org/activities/projects.html.



[6] White House, Office of the Press Secretary, "President Bush Visits Prague, Czech Republic, Discusses Freedom,” June 5, 2007,http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/06/20070605-8.html.



[7] Democracy and Security Conference, “List of Participants” (PDF), www.democracyandsecurity.org/doc/List_of_Participants.pdf.



[8] Walidphares.com, « At the Henry Jackson Society in London: "To counter the Jihadi lobbies, you need independence from Petro Dollars,” September 26, 2008, http://www.walidphares.com/artman/publish/article_1817.shtml.



[9] EFD, press release, "Criminalizing forced marriages," July 1, 2011, http://europeandemocracy.org/activities/events/criminalising-forced-marriages.html.



[10] FEFD’s 2009 Form 990 is available at www.guidestar.com.


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European Foundation for Democracy Résumé


Contact Information


 



Principals (2011)

  • Roberta Bonazzi, Executive Director

  • John Duhig, Senior Counsellor

  • Thomas Daniëls, Project Manager

  • Alexander Ritzmann, Policy Advisor

  • Kamal Dalili, Senior Fellow

  • Irshad Manji,Senior Fellow

  • Valentina Colombo, Senior Fellow

  • Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, Senior Fellow

  • Bakary Sambe, Senior Fellow


 



About (2011)



“The European Foundation for Democracy is a Brussels-based non-profit organisation dedicated to upholding Europe's fundamental principles of individual freedom and equality of all citizens, regardless of their gender, ethnic background or religion. At the dawn of the 21st century, these principles are being challenged by a number of factors, among them rapid social change as a result of high levels of immigration from cultures with different customs, a rise in intolerance on all sides, an increasing sense of a conflict of civilisations, and the growing influence of radical, extremist ideologies worldwide. We work with grassroots activists, media, policy experts and government officials throughout Europe to identify constructive approaches to address these challenges. Our goal is to ensure that the universal values of the Enlightenment—religious tolerance, political pluralism, individual liberty and government by democracy—remain the core foundation of Europe's prosperity and welfare, and the basis on which diverse cultures and opinions can interact peacefully.”


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