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Discussion on “Youth Perspectives on Democracy Promotion in Eurasia”
Date: 5 December, 2017
Venue: University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
Co-organizers: Licínia Simão, EDSN Fellow; Faculty of Economics of the University of Coimbra
The post-Soviet countries have framed their democratic transition through their relations with western institutions, resulting from logics of conditionality and, to a more limited extent, socialization. This view on democracy promotion as a fundamental responsibility of western states and institutions and the important signals coming from the region, rejecting old habits and ambitioning more participated and responsive forms of government, combine to make this region particularly exposed to democracy promotion. But democratization has been slow to develop and to consolidate and the track record is quite varied across the region. Moreover, regional dynamics impact negatively in this process, namely the permanence of separatist conflicts, violations of the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of regional states or the consolidation of authoritarian regimes are just illustrations of these challenges. Moreover, the western models are also being challenged and reaching some of its limits. In this context, what can we expect from western institutions? What can the countries of the region
The event organized on December 5, 2017 at the University of Coimbra, aimed at discussing some of these challenges and in order to do this, it promoted a dialogue between young European and non-European students attending an optional course at the Bachelor Degree in International Relations, at the Faculty of Economics on "States and Conflicts in the post-Soviet Space", and those of the Georgian and the Portuguese governments. Ambassador of Georgia to Portugal, Revaz beshadze, participated in the event as a guest speaker.
This initiative combined two major objectives. First, it aimed to give young people the floor in advancing their views on the proposed topic. The second objective was to provide a forum in which youth perspectives could be heard by policy makers and where mutual learning could take place through debate. Understanding how young people perceive these challenges and how their interest in this region can be nurtured and developed is a fundamental challenge in policy making from and towards the region, which this event sough to address.
Ambassador Revaz Beshidze made an initial presentation on the “Challenges and opportunities Georgia faces pursuing closer relations with the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions”, which was followed by short 5 minute remarks by the students, on different topics they selected as being crucial to this debate, namely: the impact of frozen conflicts on democratization processes in the region, including in the separatist territories; EU policies under the Eastern Partnership and current challenges to democratisation; Russian interests and foreign policy goals towards Eurasia; Information wars and escalation of tensions over Ukraine; United States policies towards Eurasia and current challenges. This was followed by open debate with the audience.