The International Republican Institute (IRI), together with its partners the Robert Schuman Institute and the Center for Political Parliamentary Education and Training of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, hosted the sixth meeting of the European Political Party Foundations and Institutes (EPPFI) network on September 24-26, 2009.  The seminar, “Values and Ideology in Political Education in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe,” convened more than 30 participants from 20 countries around the region to discuss the role political institutes and foundations play in educating party members and the public on party ideology.

The EPPFI network draws representatives from political party foundations and institutes from across Central and Eastern Europe to focus on three distinct areas: policy development, political education, and international engagement.  Through regular meetings, network members share ideas and updates from their own work and conceptualize new strategies for future collaboration.

The latest meeting of the network focused on how members address values and ideology in their political education programs.  Daniel Lipšic, former Slovak Minister of Justice and current MP and Deputy Chairman of the Christian Democratic Movement, opened the gathering with his thoughts on the foundations that define the ideologies of the center-right and the left in Europe.  In the first panel, network representatives discussed the role that values and ideology play in the civic education and training programs within their respective organizations.  

Sanja Bogosavljević, member of the Executive Board of Youth Network G17 Plus in Serbia, explained how the origins of the G17 Plus party as a non-governmental organization dedicated to free market economics continues to inform the ideology, political education, and policy of the party today.  Representatives from GERB of Bulgaria, Movement for Change of Montenegro, the Youth Association of the Democratic Action Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Fidelitas of Hungary, the Latvian People’s Party, the Slovenian Democratic Party and the CEVRO Liberal-Conservative Academy of Czech Republic also presented their work in this area.

The second panel addressed the difficulties of incorporating ideology into successful political education programs.  Lucia Klapáčová, International Secretary of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union—Democratic Party, described the challenges of defining a unique set of values for a center-right party in a country with other center-right political parties in play.  Representatives from the Christian Democrat Party of Sweden, New Slovenia of Slovenia, the Democratic Party of Albania, Party of Democratic Progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic League of Kosovo, Party of the Hungarian Coalition of Slovakia, and the Democratic-Liberal Party of Romania also shared their experiences.

Representatives on the third panel presented examples of their own successful training curriculum and programs to the network.  Bálint Porcsalmi, Executive Vice President of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, described the challenges of breaking the “That doesn’t work in Romania” mindset of party members in order to introduce new campaign initiatives such as door-to-door campaigning.  Magda Bogumil, Project Manager at the Civic Education Development Center in Poland, presented four new political academies the center is developing to target specific training needs within the party.  Representatives from UDF in Bulgaria, the AK Party of Turkey, and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung of Macedonia also presented their work to the network.  

The concluding panel featured Christian Passin from the Political Academy of the Austrian People’s Party and Frans Bruins of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Christian Democratic Appeal in the Netherlands to discuss challenges for international training programs.  Passin identified a need for better information sharing between organizations within the network as one area for growth.

Affiliated foundations and institutes have played an important role in the development of political parties in Western Europe and the US.  Recognizing that, IRI continues the work of the EPPFI network, to support the development of the member organizations across Central and Eastern Europe.

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