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Welcome to EPD’s new President Thijs Berman

Thijs Berman, Executive Director of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), was unanimously elected as the new President of EPD on June 19, 2023, for a two-year term.

Thijs Berman has over 30 years of experience in media, politics, and international development. He began his career as a journalist, working as a radio correspondent in Paris and Moscow for several prominent Dutch radio stations, television channels, and print publications. He then served as a Member of the European Parliament from July 2004 until July 2014, where he headed several European election observation missions. Thijs joined NIMD as Executive Director in January 2019.

‘‘You have to see democracy as a strategic asset, like energy or water’’, said Thijs during the EPD 2023 Conference. For the new EPD President, ‘‘the main problems are not the autocrats, but ‘democrats’ not being democratic’’. He believes that ‘‘autocrats get elected and even coups d’etats get support in some countries because voters in many countries become disappointed about their democratic leaders when they choose to serve their own interests better than those of their people’’.

While lamenting the paradox of seeing EPD grow due to the increasing attacks on democracy, Thijs argues that ‘‘after 15 years, EPD has become the main interlocutor of the European Institutions regarding democracy support’’. However, he not only has a strong stance towards resilient but inclusive democracies, as he explains that together ‘‘with EPD, we’ll continue to facilitate the dialogue and help young democratic leaders make democracy work for all’’.

Upon assuming the new position of EPD President, Thijs congratulated the outgoing President, Antonella Valmorbida, ALDA’s Secretary General. “They were six intense years of challenges and achievement’’, said Antonella, where the surging tides of populism, the exponential spread of disinformation, the menacing threats to press freedom and freedom of expression, and the disheartening trend of democratic backsliding have only confirmed the importance of working together for democracy support. As Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of the Westminster Foundation and EPD Treasurer, said during EPD’s 2023 Conference: ‘‘It is no coincidence that her mandate coincided with the growth of the network’’ – which included an increase in members, projects and staff.

Photo © Daphne Matthys

Welcome Thijs and thank you Antonella!