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European Committee of the Regions

Rue Belliard 101

1040 Bruxelles


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Dear Visitor,

Due to the high number of registrations, we have closed the on-line registration.

If you are interested in attending, please write to us at and we will be able to advise you on the attendance closer to the date of the event.

Thank you,

International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance

Event Description

On 20 November 2019, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) in partnership with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) will host an event aimed at commemorating 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The one-day conference will explore the evolution and the current state of democracies in the region. The event will gather former heads of states and government, high-level decision makers from the European Commission, leading thinkers on democracy, and representative of the civil society from across the region.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, countries in East-Central Europe have seen rapid democratization and profound economic reforms, producing flourishing democracies with strong guarantees for fundamental freedoms and civil liberties, free media and independent judiciary. These successes have been achieved, inter alia, by promoting effective multi-level governance, based on greater involvement of citizens and ensuring that decision making powers lie at the level closest to the people. However, in the past years, several of these countries have seen signs of backsliding in the quality of their democracies, with particular declines noted in enjoyment of civil liberties, freedom of expression, media integrity and others.

In the face of these threats, the resilience of democracies in Europe must be strengthened by protecting the rule of law, increasing the accountability of elected officials and reinvigorating public participation into decision making processes.

The event aims to form the basis for more open debate regarding scenarios to improve the state of democracy in these and other European countries. The Conference will launch International IDEA’s new 2019 Global State of Democracy Report and Indices.

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) works to bring EU citizens closer to the EU. By involving regional and local representatives who are in daily contact with their electorate's concerns, but also by inviting citizens to participate in various events and debates, the CoR contributes to reducing the gap between the EU institutions' work and EU citizens. is the voice of regions and cities in the European Union (EU). The CoR represents local and regional authorities across the European Union and advises on new laws that have an impact on regions and cities. The Committee is a political assembly composed of 350 members and 350 alternates from all EU countries who have been elected at local or regional level.

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) is an-inter-governmental organization, with 32 member states from across the globe. The Institute works to advance democracy worldwide, as a universal human aspiration and an enabler of sustainable development, through support to the building, strengthening and safeguarding of democratic political institutions and processes at all levels. The Institute works to achieve these objectives through consolidating and disseminating comparative knowledge on democracy, convening and facilitating dialogues at country, regional and global levels and providing policy advice to actors across the political and institutional spectrum.

This event may be filmed, photographed or recorded. By registering or accepting to participate, you grant us permission to use your image or voice and statements in our event coverage material for use externally our media outlets, such as International IDEA’s websites and social media platforms.

08:30 – 09:00 REGISTRATION

09:00 – 09:30 OPENING SESSION

- Welcoming Remarks

  • Mr. Kevin Casas Zamora, Secretary-General of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
  • Mr. Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions

- Keynote Speech

  • Ms. Heidi Hautala, Vice-President of the European Parliament


Part I - Presentation of International IDEA’s 2019 Global State of Democracy Report and Indices

  • Mr. Sam van der Staak, Head of Regional Europe Programme, International IDEA

International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy report provides evidence-based data and analysis on the global and regional state of democracy. It contributes to public debate on democracy, informs policy interventions and identifies possible solutions to trends affecting the quality of democracy. International IDEA’s GSoD is based on two key principles: popular control over public decision-making and decision-makers, and equality between citizens in the exercise of that control. The indices produce data for 155 countries and are updated annually. The database is publicly available at

At the outset of Session I, the most recent trends identified in the 2019 GSoD report and indices will be presented for the East-Central European region, and will be contrasted with developments across other regions.

Part 2 - Panel Discussion: Popular aspirations, achievements and current challenges

Over the past thirty years, countries in East-Central Europe have experienced rapid democratization, profound economic reforms and accession to the European Union. With functioning democratic institutions in place, integrated market economies, and strong public support for democracy, the achievements in the first decade or so of the transition looked both impressive and irreversible.

However, countries that were once referred to as success stories of the transition now find their democratic records weakened. Some democratically elected leaders in the region have come to question the legitimacy of core principles of liberal democracy. Democratic reversals have been marked by consolidating power into the executive, increasing the role of money in elections, weakening the judiciary and damaging the independence of the media. These developments have affected the checks and balances that are vital for democracies to flourish. This session will provide a forum for those who pushed the levers of change thirty years ago to analyse initial successes and comment on the causes of current challenges. Examples of questions to be addressed include: What are the greatest achievements of the democratisation processes in the region and what factors determined their success? What early signs of discontent with transition reforms were overlooked? What are the key current challenges for democracies in the region and what responses are needed to build more resilient democratic systems?


Mr. Jan Fischer, Former Prime Minister of the Czech Republic (2009 - 2010)

Ms. Heidi Hautala, Vice-President of the European Parliament

Mr. Raul Mälk, Former Foreign Minister of Estonia (1998-1999)

Mr. Petre Roman, Former Prime Minister of Romania (1989 - 1991)

Moderator: Mr. Rikard Jozwiak, Brussels Correspondent, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

11:30 – 12:00 BREAK


Panellists will explore public sentiments towards the functioning of political systems in the region and will review key issues that underpin the current concerns over the quality of democracies in these countries. As is often articulated by analysts, these include: weakening of democratic checks and balances, undermining the independence of judicial institutions, consolidation of power in the hands of executive branches of government, and curbing freedom of the media and expression. Panellists will be invited to review and revisit some of the key strategies that have been tried to date to address these trends and propose their vision for renewed actions at various levels.


Mr. Richard Wike, Director of Global Attitudes Research, Pew Research Center

Ms. Zsuzsanna Szelényi, former MP, Hungary (1990-1994; and 2014-2018)

Mr. Adam Bodnar, Polish Commissioner for Human Rights

Mr. Jan Macháček, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Institute for Politics and Society (Czechia)

Ms. Jessica Fortin-Rittberger, Prof. of Comparative Politics, University of Salzburg

Moderator: Ms. Magda Jakubowska, Res Publica Foundation (media outlet), Poland

13:30 – 14:30 LUNCH


The panel will serve to outline key achievements in promoting multi-level governance in the region and its contribution to democratic governance and public participation in decision making over the past three decades. Furthermore, the discussion will serve to outline what opportunities multi-level governance offers for strengthening democratic resilience and protections against democratic backsliding, including in the areas of accountability, rule of law, anti-corruption and citizen engagement.


Ms. Kata Tuttö, Deputy Mayor of Budapest

Ms. Randel Länts, Rapporteur of the European Committee of the Regions Opinion on the Action Plan against disinformation, Member of Viljandi City Council, Estonia

Ms. Jasna Gabric, member of the European Committee of the Regions, Mayor of Trbovlje, Slovenia

Mr. Vytautas Grubliauskas, member of the European Committee of the Regions, Mayor of Klaipėda, Lithuania

Moderator: Mr. Laurent Thieule, Director of Directorate for Legislative Works I, European Committee of the Regions

16:00 – 16:15 BREAK


Representatives of the European Union and leading inter-governmental organizations that help shape and promote the implementation of democratic commitments across Europe, such as the Council of Europe and OSCE/ODIHR, will be invited to provide concluding reflections. The discussion will focus on what approaches could be used to strengthen the resilience of democracies in the region.

Address on behalf of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union

H.E. Ms. Hanna Lehtinen, Ambassador of Finland to the Political and Security Committee of the EU

Reflections from the panellists:

Dr. Marcin Walecki, Head of Democratization Department, OSCE/ODIHR

Mr. Daniel Mitov, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria

Dr. Ruslana Vovk, Democracy Reporting International

Mr. Sam van der Staak, Head of Regional Europe Programme, International IDEA

Moderator: Massimo Tommasoli, Permanent Observer for International IDEA to the United Nations

Closing key-note speech:

Ms. Věra Jourová, EC Vice- President designate for Values and Transparency

Date and Time


European Committee of the Regions

Rue Belliard 101

1040 Bruxelles


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