On the occasion of EED’s 10th anniversary celebrated with a special Open Session of our Board of Governors at the Egmont Palace in Brussels, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen sent a video message where she congratulated EED for its achievements of the past decade. A full transcript follows below.
The Executive Director, Jerzy Pomianowski. Dear Chairman of the Board McAllister David. Ladies and gentlemen. Ten years ago, the European Union and its Member States took a visionary decision. In the wake of the Arab Spring. We set up the European Endowment for Democracy. Since then, hundreds of stories speak volumes about all that you have achieved.
For me, one in particular stands out and 2021, a leading English language newspaper in Ukraine, had to shut down. That was exactly at the time the Russian troops were massing at Ukraine's border more than at any time. Perhaps there was a need for an independent source of information in Ukraine, and a group of independent journalists was ready to fill in the gap and start a new media outlet.
And that's when you stepped in. The European Endowment for Democracy provided the start up grant they needed. This is how the Kyiv Independent was born. And that was good news, both for Ukraine's media landscape and for our understanding of the war. This is one of many examples of how you are making a difference for democracy in Europe and beyond.
For ten years you have helped democracies grow. You have been at the front line to strengthen civil society in countries like Belarus. You stand with democracy activists from the Western Balkans to Northern Africa. And you help defend women's rights from Iraq to Turkey.
So today, I not only want to congratulate the European Endowment of Democracy on its anniversary, I want to wholeheartedly thank you and your colleagues for your hard and often courageous work. The Commission is proud to support the European Endowment for Democracy, and I am very much looking forward to our continued close cooperation and in the years to come.
Nowhere is this more urgent than in Ukraine. The European Endowment of Democracy was one of the first organized nations to complement our union's efforts to support Ukraine. Only hours after the war started, you have provided 77 emergency grants to civil society and independent media partners. In the first two months of the war alone, at a time when fast and flexible support was so badly needed, let's continue to work together with President Zelensky and the Ukrainian government so that Ukraine prevails and a just and lasting peace is restored.
Our unity on Ukraine has not undone the threats of our own democracies that they face. However, we must fight for our democracies every single day. And this is why already in 2020, we put forward our European Democracy Action Plan. And work is well underway to make our democracies more resilient, countering disinformation by promoting free and fair elections. By strengthening an active and independent civil society, and by supporting media freedom and pluralism.
Our democracy belongs to us all, and it is up to us to develop and defend it. Ladies and gentlemen. Much has changed in the world over the past decade. The EED's mandate, for example, grew significantly. It now includes the Western Balkans, Turkey and the euro regime region. But at its core, the European Endowment for Democracy has not changed since it provided its first grant to a partner in Azerbaijan.
You will remain at the forefront to protect and build democratic futures. You will bring support to those courageous activists who take daily risks in carrying out their work. Keep up the good work because your job is never done. Thank you.