USAID Europe & Eurasia
Monthly Update: September 2019
Assistant Administrator Brock Bierman Discusses Disinformation at the McCain Institute International Tbilisi Conference. Photo: USAID/Georgia
Democracy on the Rise: Broad Coalitions Rising Up to Demand M ore Open, Accountable Governance and Less Corruption in Europe & Eurasia

Fall is shaping up to be a busy season. This month I have traveled to Tbilisi and Warsaw and will soon be heading to Bucharest and Brussels as part of our ongoing campaign to inform and engage partners on USAID’s Countering Malign Kremlin Influence Development Framework. I am very grateful to our friends at the McCain Institute, the International Republican Institute, Community of Democracies and the German Marshall Fund for hosting me and advancing international conversations on the most pressing topics of the day in Europe and Eurasia. 

These events are well-timed, taking place as the world pauses mid-month each September to recognize International Day of Democracy . In Europe and Eurasia, the trajectory of democracy deserves recognition. 

Throughout the region, where it once seemed the entrenched interests would never release their grip on government, democracy is at last on the rise. In Ukraine, for example, citizens went to the polls earlier this year to elect a new president and parliament committed to fighting corruption. In Moldova, a pro-Western, reform-oriented government just took power. The Armenian people have peacefully and democratically embarked upon a new chapter following the Velvet Revolution. After nearly thirty years of stalled disputes, North Macedonia has a new path forward toward greater Euro-Atlantic integration in the wake of the historic Prespa Agreement. And even in Belarus, where diplomatic relations have finally warmed, new opportunities are taking shape. Over the course of several high-level engagements, we see a new willingness on their side to engage issues of historic concern, such as respect for human rights and economic development. Each of these developments stands to advance E&E nations further along their journey to self-reliance. 

These wins have not come easily, but many of them are the result of broad coalitions -- from civil society to young people, seasoned reform activists to first-time voters, independent media and ordinary citizens alike -- demanding more open, accountable governance and less corruption. These developments bring us new optimism for the future.

We hope you will continue to follow developments in Europe & Eurasia by subscribing to this newsletter and following us on Twitter at @BBiermanUSAID and @USAIDEurope .

-Brock Bierman, USAID Assistant Administrator
Expanding Moldovan Export Markets
Economic Independence Goes Hand-in-Hand With Self-Determination

In July 2019, Moldovan cherry, plum and apricot producers started to ship their produce to Germany — a major milestone for Moldovan producers who were previously unable to sell to this highly exacting market. It might be considered “one small step” for the two companies whose fruit was exported, but it was “a giant leap” for the Moldovan horticulture sector.   

Moldovan farmers have historically exported to Russia, where importers were willing to purchase lower-quality products and where farmers were accustomed to “traditional” logistics and payment terms. This business-as-usual approach to exports for Moldovan farmers abruptly ended in 2014, when Russia imposed an embargo on fruit imports from Moldova as retaliation for Moldova signing an Association Agreement with the European Union (EU). Deprived of the Russian market, many producers were forced to sell their products at a loss; some went out of business. It was a harsh lesson about the vulnerability of dependence on the traditional market model and about the need to diversify the export markets.

In response, USAID has worked to ensure Moldovan farmers have the tools, skills and resources needed to ensure they have a choice for where and with whom they do business.
Spotlight: Democracy on the Rise in Europe & Eurasia
European Democracy Youth Network: Azerbaijan

In an interview with USAID Azerbaijan, European Democracy Youth Network (EDYN) Vice President Ismayil Abdullayev shares his thoughts on what makes EDYN uniquely suited to tackle the challenges facing E&E countries.

Interested to hear his advice for young people who want to make a difference in the world? Be sure to click the link below.
Champion Justice, Champion Democracy: Kosovo

Ilire Vitija was just six when she saw a female judge in the courtroom where her father worked as a clerk. From that moment, she dreamed of her own seat on the bench. She is now 27 and Kosovo’s youngest judge. 

Ilire champions improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of the Court, and works to inspire more young people into action.
Young Advocate for Democracy: Ukraine

In early 2019, before Ukraine’s presidential election, Rashyd Bilalov, an 18-year-old student from Karazin Kharkiv University, organized the Freedom to Speak Up  project– at his university. Bilalov's initial objective was to organize weekly discussions on the importance of elections and citizens’ roles in shaping government policy for youth.

After the March elections, the Speak Up project took on a life of its own. Today his discussion groups continue -- covering topics from education to human and LGBTQ rights and fighting corruption.
Affecting Change Through Civic Engagement: Georgia

Rural communities in Georgia's mountains lack access to internet and telephone service -- cutting them off from Georgian civic and political life and diminishing their opportunities for development.

With a grant from USAID, a broad coalition of ordinary Georgians to established community-based organizations have come together to solve this problem. By taking their region's development challenges into their own hands, they are building a more connected, resilient future.