Conference on Democracy 2014 (CODE ’14) held in Budapest
April 3, 2014
Conference on Democracy 2014 (CODE ’14) held in Budapest


Throughout the past few years, the Conference on Democracy (CODE) has become the International Centre for Democratic Transition’s (ICDT) annual flagship event. This year’s CODE was our 8th annual conference, and the third one under this title. As in 2014 countries in Central Europe celebrate the 10th anniversary of their accession to the European Union, which anniversary also coincides with the Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrad Group, we decided to devote the conference to the cooperation of the Visegrad countries.

The aim of the conference was to emphasize the importance of regional cooperation in Central Europe and also to promote the effective implementation of similar type of collaborations in other parts of Europe, such as the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership region.

Among others, the conference was honoured by Mr. Zsolt Németh, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Hungary, Ms. Karla Wursterová, Executive Director of the International Visegrad Fund (IVF), while Dr. Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Regional Policy welcomed and greeted the event’s participants in a video message.

The Opening Ceremony started with the speech of Prof. Amb. István Gyarmati, the President of ICDT, who expressed his opinion that one of the conclusions of the current Ukrainian crisis that security and the rule of democratic values are only guaranteed in the region if the countries realize, that without a well-defined common strategy and close cooperation they can hardly defend their interests. The V4 countries can play an important role in this regard even on the European level, though only if they act together.  Mr. Zsolt Németh referring to a recently published essay in The Economist talked about processes in international politics that may pose a threat to the global competitiveness of democracies. He highlighted that the V4 countries have the capabilities to become facilitators of democratic transitions in the Balkans and the Eastern Neighboorhoud area, using their experience economic and institutional reforms or in civil society building. He also praised ICDT and the IVF for providing their knowledge and institutional structures to foster these changes. Ms. Karla Wursterová in her speech supported Mr. Németh’s view, stressing that the Fund and ICDT are allies in their common endeavor to transfer the experience of democratic transition. The grants the IVF provides to, among others non-governmental or public institutions of V4 countries to implement joint e.g. cultural, scientific, educational or cross-border projects with partner institutions from the Balkans or the Eastern Partnership region serves exactly this purpose.

The speakers in the first panel titled „Political Cooperation and International Development”, chaired by Ms. Annamária Kékesi, Development Director of ICDT, were Dr. László Baján, Head of Department for International Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary,Mr. Michal Kaplan, Director of the Czech Development Agency, Ms. Diana Sijkova, Associate Fellow at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic at the Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid Dpt., and Mr. Krzysztof Stanowski, President of the Solidarity Fund, Poland. The contributions of the panelist were focusing most of all on the correlation between development and democracy, stressing the role that development cooperation can play in democracy support. The panelists also presented their country’s international development priorities and activities, introducing development cooperation as an important goal of foreign policy, and eventually gave suggestions how donor countries could increase their effectiveness in working with local communities and governments, especially with regards to present day Ukraine.

The afternoon’s first panel titled „The Visegrad Cooperation and the Western Balkans” was chaired by Amb. Imre Varga, Senior Advisor of ICDT. Speakers of the panel, Ms. Katarina Cvikl, Policy Researcher at Think Tank Populari, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Sándor Köles, Richard Weizsäcker Fellow at the Bosch Stiftung, Germany and Ms. Hedvig Morvai, Executive Director of the European Fund for the Balkans, Serbia were basically discussing the possibilities of creating a Visegrad type association in the Western Balkans. The speakers agreed that due to the similarities between the two regions, certain elements of the V4 cooperation, for instance the example of the IVF or the idea of the Danube Cooperation, could be adopted in such an initiative. However, they pointed out that besides using the V4 experience, WB countries should also concentrate on strengthening their already existing instruments and at the same time create their own approaches. They also emphasized the importance of well-functioning mechanisms for the financing of common bodies and the involvement of the civil society during the establishment of the operative and funding institutions of a possible future association in the region.  

The third and last panel of the event, the “Visegrad Cooperation and the Eastern Partnership” was chaired by Amb. André Erdős, and included speakers like Mr. Szabolcs Takács, Political Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, Mr. Victor Chirila the Director of the Foreign Policy Association of Moldova, Mr. Dmytro Didyk, Deputy Director of the Coordinating Centre of the Dniester/Nistru Euroregion, Ukraine, Dr. Stepan Grigoryan, Chairman of the Board at the Analytical Centre on Globalisation and Regional Cooperation, Armenia and Dr. Petr Vágner, Director of the Institute for Stability and Development, Czech Republic. This panel provided an excellent opportunity for the participants to discuss a rather relevant issue, the challenges the Eastern Partnership, as an instrument for the region’s political transition and economic modernization, faces today. The presentations showed successful examples, for instance in the enhancement of cross-border cooperation or in the modernization of public institutions, where the project managed to produce considerable results. The speakers, nevertheless, argued that the EaP, as well as offering a clear European perspective for the member countries, needs to develop into a much more powerful instrument, in order to increase its effectiveness in motivating governments to make reforms or in coping with issues, such as the energy dependency of the EaP countries on Russia. It was also underlined, that stability and prosperity in the neighbouring countries is of utmost importance for the V4 states which, due to the shared historical experience and common interests, are especially capable of supporting and providing assistance to EaP members during the process of further integration with the Union.         

Eventually, in his closing remarks Amb. Gyarmati thanked the speakers, the organizers, and the participants, and invited all participants to the next annual conference of ICDT to be organized in 2015.

The event took place in the Hotel NH Budapest City on 03 April, 2014 and enjoyed the full support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary.

Please, find the report of the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary on the event, as well as the video and the photos made by our partner, the Rotera multimedia company, below.

Press Materials (Hungarian)

"A sikertelenség a nyugati demokráciák kudarcát jelentheti" - Magyar Nemzet Online, 2014. április 3.

"Németh Zsolt: Vonzereje van a demokráciának" - Magyar Hírlap Online, 2014. április 3.


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