On 4 March 2008, in the presence of the President of the Austrian National Council (Nationalrat), Barbara Prammer, ERSTE Foundation presented a publication on social change and gradual democratisation in Central and Eastern European states: “Reclaiming Democracy – Civil Society and Electoral Change in Central and Eastern Europe.”
The book is a joint project of ERSTE Foundation and the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF, Bratislava office). It analyses the role of dedicated citizens, of NGOs and a great variety of groups who not only paved the way for democracy in the post-Communist societies of Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine but who also actively embarked upon it. In a panel discussion in front of an audience of 150 representatives of politics, culture, business and the media, Dr. Erhard Busek, Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, Dr. Pavol Demes, Director for Central and Eastern Europe within the German Marshall Fund, Boris Marte, Managing Director of ERSTE Foundation, and Prof. Dr. Sonja Puntscher-Riekmann, Director of the Institute for European Integration Research, engaged in a lively debate on democracy and democratisation processes. “The resistance to corruption and authoritarian political tendencies people have been putting up since 1989 has demonstrated how important an enlightened, empowered civil society is for the development of a democracy,” explained Erhard Busek.
In her welcome address, the President of the Nationalrat, Barbara Prammer, also pointed to the significance of the initiative and commitment of citizens, which are to be a critical complement to the activities of the state: "A democracy is more than the sum of its institutions. It is based on rules and on a civil society which demands that these rules be upheld when other intentions arise in opposition to them". After the kick-off event in Vienna, young people and students from Central and Eastern European countries will have the opportunity to learn about the analyses and findings of “Reclaiming Democracy” in the course of a series of “travelling lectures”: In close cooperation with the respective universities, the books will be made available to the students in advance and subsequently discussed during classes as well as in guest lectures held by the authors and integrated into the curriculum. “A significant factor in the success of the young democracy movement is that the people who have been supporting it are people from the new generation,people who want to take part in building their own future,” said Boris Marte, Managing Director of ERSTE Foundation, fascinated by the events described in the book. “In particular the policymakers of tomorrow – committed students – must be aware of how much other young people have achieved in the upheavals and, yes, revolutions, presented in the book.” One of the book’s editors, Dr. Pavol Demes, Director for Central and Eastern Europe within the German Marshall Fund, explained why the book was written and why it is being presented in the Austrian parliament and at numerous universities in Central and South Eastern Europe: “The often young authors of the individual chapters are prime examples of social commitment and necessary protest – other young and older people need to learn about them and their remarkable energy.”
Reclaiming Democracy – Civil Society and Electoral Change in Central and Eastern Europe
(ed. Joerg Forbig, Pavol Demes), 256 pages, English
First edition 2007: 2,000 copies (out of print); second edition 2007: 2,000 copies
Joint project of ERSTE Foundation and the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). The book has been translated into Azerbaijani Turkish (Azeri). Further requests have been made for translations into Russian and Belarusian.