CENTER FOR DEMOCRACY AND RECONCILIATION IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE

Project objectives

The objectives of this project were to strengthen good governance, the rule of law, and the participation of civil society in the democratic process by expanding and upgrading the legal and political basis and practices of coping with the authoritarian past in the region.

To achieve the above objectives the project had the following general aims:

  • To improve lustration legislation;
  • To improve lustration procedures;
  • To enhance legal and political awareness;
  • To improve the public debate on the past.

The specific aims were as follows:

  • To create and expand a regional network of NGOs;
  • To execute a regional comparative analysis and report on lustration in the Western Balkans;
  • To design and present specific recommendations on lustration practices;
  • To initiate constructive analytical and critical discussions on lustration amongst legal professionals;
  • To involve human rights groups in the lustration debate;
  • To make the project findings and results widely publicised and easily accessible;
  • To promote gender balance in all project activities.

The issue of lustration has two distinct but interrelated components. On the one side is the legal system, the rule of law and good governance, and on the other, civil society. The objectives and aims of this project likewise resonated on two levels, addressing and connecting both the state/legal and the civil/public components. For example, widely publicising the project findings had a positive effect on the level of the state by improving lustration procedures, but also a positive effect on civil society, which benefited from increased knowledge and awareness of issues that directly affected them.

Perceived needs

The process of facing the past, especially disclosing historical facts hidden in secret archives, and making a clean break with it, is a sensitive and complex issue in all post-authoritarian countries. In the Western Balkans, this process was unfolding at a slow and halting pace, especially if compared with the developments in other post-authoritarian states.

In the Western Balkans both pillars, the drafting and implementing of lustration legislation as well as the public debates on the past, showed great weaknesses and deficiencies. Apart from Albania, no other country in the region had passed a lustration law. The implementation of the lustration legislation in Albania remained restricted and sometimes highly controversial. In other countries, initiatives in this direction were either isolated (as in Croatia), concentrating on a single issue (in most cases the opening of the archives of the secret services) or not undertaken at all. On the other hand, some issues or incidents of the past were sometimes hotly debated in the public, but too often abused as a tool in on-going political conflicts. Civil and human rights activists and groups as well as victims pleaded for a comprehensive debate on the past, but to no satisfying effect.

Constraints

The constraint in this endeavour was that public debates on the past and their consequences for democratisation were so highly sensitive and politicised. Experience showed that so far many debates on the past in the region had been either single-issue orientated, extremely emotional or abused as tools in on-going political conflicts. In some cases, a real public debate on the past was simply non-existent. Furthermore, attempts at initiating such a debate met with considerable difficulties and resistance. The project overcame these constraints by relying on project staff members who have professional and personal experience in the process of lustration. The staff members were able to guide the project activities so that sensitive issues were dealt with in a constructive and effective way. These individuals were also NGO representatives, creating in themselves a regional network of organisations that is highly qualified to lead public debates essential to the development of civil society.

Target groups

The primary target group consisted of legislators, legal experts, officials of public administrations, and civil and human rights activists and groups. Three seminars brought together over 30 individuals, and the creation of working groups to research lustration practices involved another 15 individuals all from the primary target group. They were the direct beneficiaries of the project.

Because of both the political and personal nature of lustration, as well as the importance of the expected results, whole societies benefited from the project. Involvement of the public was facilitated by widely publicising the main findings and recommendations of the project. Modern technology facilitated the publicising efforts; a website at www.lustration.net provided easy access to all project materials and information. The address was catchy and easily remembered in all languages. The website was publicised in major media in the seven target cities included in this project.

Activities

The project envisaged four main strands of activities, which were mutually connected and led to synergetic effects.
These four strands aimed at:

  1. Enhancing the public debate on the past;
  2. Improving lustration legislation and procedures;
  3. Increasing the legal and political awareness;
  4. Strengthening citizen participation and the role of civil and human rights groups.

Full description of activities available upon request.

Methodology

The main methods of project implementation included:

  • Legal, political and social research and monitoring, both by individuals and by working groups;
  • Expert analysis of results and elaboration of recommendations at seminars and workshops;
  • Enhancement of the legal awareness through public debates and publications;
  • Communication with all concerned through web pages documenting all project activities;
  • Creation of a NGO network on the project issue;
  • Focusing the public attention on project topics by inclusion of media professionals and publications on best practices;
  • Multiperspectivity by comparative analysis with a regional aspect.

The basic purpose of all activities within the project was to produce concrete practical results and communicate them to the public.

Partner Organisations

All activities of the project were undertaken in close co-operation with NGOs dealing with civil and human rights issues from each country of the region. The CDRSEE together with five partner organisations created the core of a broad NGO network on “Lustration and the Public Debates on the Past.” The NGOs had, and continue to have, complimenting goals, values, and activities:

CDRSEE consultant (Lustration Project Director)

Magarditsch Hatschikjan -Dr. Hatschikjan is a lecturer at the Institute of East European History of the University of Cologne, and is a consultant on Balkan politics, societies, and history. He has been a Senior Research Fellow at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, Essen, Germany. He received his Ph.D. (magna cum laude) from the University of Essen on Bulgarian Foreign Policy and Balkan Relations 1944-1948; he received his MA in East European History and German Philology from the University of Dusseldorf. His native language is Bulgarian; he is fluent in German and English, proficient in French and Macedonian, and reads Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, and Russian. In the Lustration Project, Dr. Hatschikjan was the project director, responsible for designing and overseeing the content of the project, and guiding the partner organisation project managers.

Publications and results

All activities of the project were documented on the project web page: www.lustration.net , which was linked from the pages of all partner NGOs:

The applicant - www.cdsee.org
Partner 1 - www.ahrg.org,
Partner 2 - www.cps.edu.ba,
Partner 3 - www.hho.hr,
Partner 4 - www.soros.org.mk,
Partner 5 - www.caa.org.yu.

The products were available free of charge to all interested parties in electronic formats so that they can be multiplied easily and at little expenses. There was no upper limit to the number of potential users. Especially important publications resulting from the project were:

a) An electronic manual on “Lustration Legislation and Procedures in the Western Balkans”;
b) An electronic book “Past and Present: Consequences for Democratisation”;
c) An electronic dossier with a set of recommendations on “Best Practices in Lustration”.

Financing Plan

This project was funded 80% by the European Commission and 20% by USAID.