European Foundation for Democracy

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European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) is a Brussels-based lobbying group and think-tank launched in November 2005 which purports to foster liberal Muslims, but also advocates action against "intolerant" Islam and terrorism. It basically imports the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies's (FDD) formula to Brussels to influence European policy makers and opinion.

The Foundation was registered as an 'Association sans but lucratif' on 28 May 2006. Its founder members were Roberta Bonazzi, Nicola Dell'Arciprete and Miguel Papi Boucher.[1] Its current director is Alexander Ritzmann, who has been involved in the EFD since at least 2009 when he was a research fellow.

The European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) describes itself as 'a centre of intellectual risk-taking',[2] though it seems not to have been active in publishing materials until October 2007.[3] Its events and briefings appear to have commenced in June 2008.[4]

The EFD claims it takes 'action to support universal human rights, freedom of conscience, individual liberty, and pluralism of peaceful ideas.'[5] as an integral part of a 'coordinated defence of European values and interests against the threat of authoritarian ideologies.' [6], In reality, it focuses its efforts on Iran and 'European Radicalisation'. Its publication section features a list of publications on both of these topics. It also has a page for 'Afghanistan' and 'Other publications', but as of August 2009 both pages are empty of content.[7]


Along with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), EFD was one of the founding members of the now-defunct Coalition Against Terrorist Media. In November 2008, it welcomed a decision by the German to ban the Hezbollah-linked al-Manar TV. Spokesman Alexander Ritzmann called for a similar ban on Al-Aqsa TV, a television station associated with Hamas.[8]

EFD Activities

After claiming to have built an unspecified 'record of success in Europe', EFD lists five goals which include references to human rights and 'Empowering European-based [sic] Muslim and Arab reformers and liberal democrats by ensuring that they, together with EFD fellows, are able to express their views at conferences, media events and elite universities' and 'Continuing to address the growing threat of Iran and it’s terror proxy Hezbollah to Europe by assertively raising public awareness among legislators and opinion leaders'.

It is not made clear how Iran or Hizbullah pose a threat to Europe. Hizbullah's military operations are confined to its native Lebanon and mainly directed at Israel (and formerly its proxy the SLA). Also, despite the ostensible focus on human rights and evident interest in the Middle East no mention is made anywhere of the extensively documented abuses of human rights in Israel. EFD's goals may have a tenuous link to European concerns, but they appear remarkably in line with the known positions of the Israel lobby.[9]

  • Lobbying - The EFD applied for consultative status with the UN's Economic and Social Council but this application was left pending in January 2009 due to questions from the delegates of several countries regarding the EFD's activities. 'China's representative asked about the relationship between the organization and the Government. A Committee member from Pakistan questioned the group's views on Islamophobia in Europe.' [10]
  • Providing "experts" for media
  • Producing films about Muslim countries, e.g., Manji's Faith Without Fear
  • Works on joint projects in Europe, but importing lobbying/propaganda formulas from US to Europe
  • Monitoring EU relations with countries of "interests and in the fields of democracy, women rights, reforms and elections"[11]
  • "Attend committee meetings of the European Parliament and plenary sessions, lunch briefings etc, on behalf of EFD"[12]

Campaign Against Muslim Charities

In July 2009 the organization started a campaign in Germany to revoke the charitable status of Al Shahid Social Association, a Lebanese orphan's charity, alleging that it is 'part of the Hezbollah network and promotes suicide bombings in Lebanon'. It offers no evidence (Hezbollah hasn't carried out any suicide bombings in two decades). Instead in the press release EFD Senior Fellow Alexander Ritzmann argues that because it

provides financial support to so-called “martyr families” in Lebanon, for the purpose of relieving militiamen and assassins of the responsibility to provide for their families’ future. In this way, the “Orphans Project Lebanon e.V” encourages engagement in military and terrorist activities.

Ritzmann appears to deliberately give a sinister twist to the word shahid (literally martyr), a generic term used to describe all those killed in wars.[13] The press release does not say what implications this has for democracy in Europe, since Hezbollah is at war solely with Israel. Also, it does not appear to reflect German concerns since according to a March 2007 poll, more Germans see the US as a bigger threat than Iran.[14]

Activities on 'Radical Islam'

The EFD has conducted joint events with a number of other think tanks and institutes - some active in the neocon nexus, others not. These have included:

  • the Centre d'Etudes Transatlantiques (a briefing directed by EFD Visiting Fellow Walid Phares on Jihadist strategies against France, 2008). The event was organised 'under the patronage of the Delegation for Strategic Affairs (DAS) of the French Ministry of Defense and attended by diplomats, officials from the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior, consultants, NGO members and journalists.'[15]
  • On September 16, 2008, the European Foundation for Democracy and the Prague Security Studies Institute co-organised a briefing
"To counter the Jihadi lobbies, you need independence from Petro Dollars". Walid Phares discussed his most recent book The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad at the invitation of the Henry Jackson Society.
  • Walid Phares, hosted by the French think-tank IFRI to discuss the “US policy towards Jihadist movements after the US elections”, in Brussels on 1 July 2008.
  • Walid Phares, hosted by the European Policy Centre to discuss the “Radicalisation of Muslim Youth: a self-fulfilling prophecy”, in Brussels on 25 June 2008.
  • Walid Phares delivered a lecture on the "Future of Salafi Jihadi Terrorism" at the Italian Institute of International Affairs (IAI) in Rome, Italy’s leading strategic think tank.
  • Wahied Wahdat-Hagh gave a speech at the "Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn" on "Political Islam in Iran and the Structures of Totalitarian Rule".
  • Walid Phares, European Foundation for Democracy Breakfast Event in the European Parliament hosted by Jana Hybášková MEP, 5 March 2008.
  • Irshad Manji, senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy, spoke at Williams College on Thursday, Feb 28,
  • Irshad Manji, Senior Fellow of the European Foundation for Democracy was hosted by the European Policy Centre to discuss the “Empowerment of Muslim Women: Opportunities and Challenges”, in Brussels on 22 February 2008 at 10:30-11:45 am.
  • Alexander Graf Lambsdorff MEP hosted a panel discussion on the phenomenon and threat of violent radicalisation in Europe with a specific focus on the situation in Germany and in the United Kingdom.
  • Panel Discussion with Alexander Ritzmann: 'Radical Islam in Europe - UK and Germany', (2008) On the occasion of the release of Policy Exchange's recently published report, The Hijacking of British Islam: how extremist literature is subverting mosques in the UK, The Transatlantic Institute hosted a panel debate.
  • Ms. Irshad Manji, Amel Boubekeur, leader of the Islam and Europe programme at CEPS, Robert Spencer, director of, and Abed Ayoub, legal advisor for American-Arab Anti-discrimination Committee, joined FRANCE 24’s Andrea Sanke to debate Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Islam and its taboos.
  • Breakfast discussion at the European Parliament, (2007) Walid Phares, presented his new book “The war of ideas: Jihadism against democracy” to Members of the European Parliament and EU officials.
  • EastWest Institute's 5th Worldwide Security Conference, Irshad Manji and Walid Phares will address the EastWest Institute’s 5th Worldwide Security Conference in Brussels, in February 2008.[16]



Former staff


Contact, References and Resources


European Foundation for Democracy
BP 57
1040 Brussels Belliard
Tel: +32 2 213 00 40
Fax: +32 2 213 00 49



  1. Creation Dell Association sans but lucratif European Foundation for Democracy, 24 May 2006.
  2. EFD Who we are, Accessed 13 August 2009
  3. EFD Media Update Archive, accessed 16 August 2009
  4. EFD Events and Briefings, accessed 16 August 2009
  5. EFD Who we are, Accessed 13 August 2009
  6. EFD Who we are, Accessed 13 July 2009
  7. EFD Other Publications, accessed 16 August; EFD Afghanistan Monitor Archive, accessed 16 August
  8. PRESS RELEASE: EFD applauds Germany's bans of Hezbollah's Al Manar TV, email from EFD media, 21 November 2008.
  9. European Foundation for Democracy, Our Goals, EFD Website, Accessed 17 August 2009
  10. Ten Civil Society Organizations Approved By Non-Governmental Organizations Committee For Consultative Status With Economic And Social Council. M2 Presswire, M2 Communications (Accessed 13-July-2009)
  11. Employment Opportunities: Main tasks and responsibilities, EFD (Accessed: 3 January 2007)
  12. ibid.
  13. Germany allows Hezbollah to fundraise for the promotion of martyrdom and terrorism – Donations tax-deductible, European Foundation for Democracy, 13 July 2009
  14. ‘Germans see US a bigger threat to peace than Iran’, The Financial Express, 29 March 2007
  15. EFD Radical Islam, accessed 16 August 2009
  16. EFD Radical Islam, accessed 16 August 2009
  17. Frontline Event Notification for 21 January 2007 (Accessed: 3 January 2007)
  18. EFD The Team, accessed 21 November 2008
  19. Astrid Coeurderoy, Public Profile, Linked In, Accessed 13-July-2009
  20. Joint Initiatives, EFD (Accessed: 3 January 2007)