International Democracy Centre in Budapest to help countries' peaceful transition to democracy

The knowledge and experience gained during the peaceful transition from communism to democracy in Central and Eastern European countries is to be brought together in Budapest. The International Democracy Center, as it will be called, could start its work as early as this year.

Former diplomat Istvan Gyarmati has prepared the feasibility study for the Hungarian foreign minister and spoke to Radio Budapest...

"The idea came from conversations at home, in the United States, Poland and in some other countries. There is already an initiative called the Community of Democracies that exists between states and we talked to them and the idea came about that there is a lot of experience in the transition countries, not only the former Communist countries, that could be used in other places."

And what are the main findings of the feasibility study that you have been asked to prepare?

"Well, we basically determined what the structure would be, what the task would be, how we would do it, how much it would cost. So it was more of a technical feasibility study rather than a substantive one because substantive work has to be done after the centre is established."

How much willingness is there on the part of the Hungarian government or Hungarian organisations to host this centre?

"The government would be very happy to host this centre so we have the full cooperation of the government and we also cooperate with large parts of the non-governmental institutions, both other political parties and personalities that are not in the government because we don't want this to be a governmental or a socialist or a liberal, or conservative organisation. Democracy has many faces - conservative, socialist, liberal, and so on. So, we don't want to commit ourselves to only one of them."

What is the basic aim of this centre?

"The two basic aims are to collect experience by interviewing those who were fundamental in the creation of democracy and by studying the experience gained in the different transition countries and also to find out if and what is usable of that experience, from Chile to Hungary and from Poland to South Korea, in other countries in the Middle East and Africa, or parts of Asia."

You also mentioned that financing was one of the points in the feasibility study. How much would this cost and where is the money coming from?

"It depends on what we do. It can be a smaller operation or a bigger one depending on whether we will have a smaller or bigger budget. We want to have an independent institution so we are thinking of creating an endowment, which would produce the revenues every year independently of the good will of the government that is in power at the time. We think that the money would basically come from private business foundations and some governments, who have been traditionally involved in democracy support, such as the Scandinavian, Canadian, German, British, and US governments."

Who do you intend to present with the stories and eyewitness accounts that you gather?

"Well, it depends. The audience could be governments that are willing to embark on the path to transition, non-governmental organisations that in cooperation or in opposition to the government want to launch the transition, or any other institutions that are intending or doing work in the transition in whatever countries. "

And for how long do you plan to work on this project?

"Until all countries are democracies. So, I think for a very long time."