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Joerg Forbrig

Dr. Joerg Forbrig is a transatlantic fellow for Central and Eastern Europe, and director of the Fund for Belarus Democracy. Based in GMF's office in Berlin, he leads the organization's efforts to assist civil society in Belarus, while his analytical and policy work focuses on Europe's East broadly, including the new member countries of the European Union, and the EU's Eastern neighborhood. Prior to joining GMF in 2002, Forbrig worked as a Robert Bosch Foundation fellow at the Center for International Relations in Warsaw, Poland. He has been published widely on democracy, civil society, and Central and Eastern European affairs, including the books Reclaiming Democracy (2007), Prospects for Democracy in Belarus (2006), and Revisiting Youth Political Participation (2005). He is also a regular contributor to major international media, including op-eds in The New York Times, Financial Times, CNN, EU Observer, Neue Züricher Zeitung, and Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Forbrig has studied political science, sociology, and Eastern European affairs at universities in Germany, Poland, and Hungary. He holds a Ph.D. in social and political sciences from the European University Institute in Florence and a master’s in political science from Central European University in Budapest. He speaks English, Russian, Polish, and Slovak in addition to his native German.

Blog Contributions
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News Articles

Paris attacks will be ‘told-you-so’ moment for Europe’s far rightJanuary 14, 2015The horrific twin attacks in Paris last week have sent shockwaves throughout Europe. Political leaders from across the EU joined millions of French mourners on Sunday, and Europeans-at-large continue to pay tribute with public vigils, flowers and candles, and minutes of silence.
Joerg Forbrig featured on Judy Dempsey’s Question of the WeekDecember 03, 2014Joerg Forbrig, transatlantic fellow for Central and Eastern Europe at GMF, was featured on Judy Dempsey’s Question of the Week.
The West Gives Putin Too Much CreditSeptember 26, 2014Barely a year has passed since Russia threw down the gauntlet to the West over Ukraine, when Moscow made plain its objections to the European integration sought by Kiev.
Eastern Ukraine too dangerous for AFP officersJuly 28, 2014A team of unarmed Australian Federal Police have been forced to delay their planned visit to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 in eastern Ukraine because the area has been declared unsafe.
Why Geneva Accord on Ukraine is Tactical Victory for RussiaApril 21, 2014For the first time in months, the ever-worsening Ukraine crisis seemed to have taken a surprising turn for the better. A snap meeting in Geneva brought together the foreign ministers of Ukraine, the European Union and the United States with their Russian counterpart, despite earlier threats by the Kremlin not to participate.
Crimea crisis: Europe must finally check the Putin doctrineMarch 14, 2014Europe's Eastern policy, if there ever really was one, is in tatters. It has unraveled at breakneck speed, as Russia moved against Ukraine, effectively annexed part of its territory, and put its smaller neighbor on the brink of war.
Will Ukraine’s Crimea region be Europe’s next ‘frozen’ conflict?February 27, 2014The world's eyes may have been focused on the breathtakingly fast political changes unfolding in Ukraine's capital Kiev this week, but it is the Crimean peninsula, where dozens of gunmen raised the Russian flag over parliament Thursday, that should now be the primary source of concern for Ukraine's fledgling government and world leaders.
Ukraine needs the West to act swiftlyFebruary 04, 2014Not surprisingly, the Munich Security Conference last weekend saw heated debates on Ukraine and its current political crisis.
Europe Should Be Happy: Ukraine Wants InDecember 13, 2013Ukrainians’ commitment to these most basic values is a powerful reminder of what European Union integration once set out to achieve, and how much is still to be done.
Why Ukraine’s future lies with the EU, not RussiaDecember 03, 2013It feels like a rerun of the Orange Revolution.
Europe’s failure on Ukraine: Three lessonsNovember 28, 2013In so acting in the wake of the Ukrainian failure, the EU can lay the foundations for a more effective policy that can return the Eastern neighbourhood to Europe.
Doing Business in Belarus: Beware of Hostage-takersSeptember 02, 2013European policy-makers are rubbing their eyes with disbelief over the astonishing trade war between the once, and officially still, fraternal states of Belarus and Russia.
Mere discussion about elections in Belarus is ridiculousAugust 20, 2013After the events of December 19, 2010, the name of Jörg Forbrig was frequently mentioned during interrogations of arrested Belarusian opposition activists and journalists in the KGB jail. Special Services were preoccupied with the work of the German public figure in Belarus.
Underground, but Not BuriedSeptember 17, 2012The saga of Charter ’97 says much of the dedication of Lukashenka's opponents as well as the misguided support of the West.
Why the EU must counter Belarus’ latest provocationAugust 09, 2012President Lukashenko's recent explulsion of the Swedish ambassador has handed the EU an opportunity to drive a more effective policy towards Belarus. The EU must seize this moment.
A Victory for EU Diplomacy in BelarusApril 20, 2012Mounting pressure from Brussels scores a victory against the Lukashenko regime.
What the EU should do to end state terror in BelarusMarch 22, 2012

True to his image as Europe's last dictator, Belarus' Alexander Lukashenko has just added two more crimes to a long list of repressions against his own people.

Will Europe Lose its East?March 20, 2012

Largely unnoticed by European politics and publics, a new division looms in the East of the continent.

A Useful Clash With BelarusMarch 01, 2012

Many in Belarus and abroad are scratching their heads and asking what prompted Lukashenko to go ballistic. Whatever the reason, Europe should take advantage of the opportunity Lukashenko has handed it and push for change.

Europe’s far-right problemJuly 26, 2011

As the immediate shock and mourning from the Oslo attacks subside, many ask for the possible reasons behind the attack. Their search, in Norway and across Europe, has quickly zoomed in on an issue that challenges the entire continent: the rise of the far right.

Belarus: No more Maneuvering between the EU and RussiaJune 13, 2011The December 19, 2010 presidential elections in Belarus have, more than any other recent event, put the complicated position of the country between the EU and Russia in the spotlight. The poll hardly differed, in process and result, from earlier elections in 2001 and 2006.
Lukashenka – What are the prospects for spring in Belarus?June 09, 2011Captivated by the upheavals facing Arab autocrats, few in the West have noticed the troubles of another dictator, this time on Europe's very doorstep -- Belarus' Alexander Lukashenka.
Time to hit Lukashenko where it hurtsJanuary 31, 2011Following December’s fraudulent election, a brutal crackdown has only added further misery to Belarus’s beleaguered democratic opposition, civil society and media. In response, EU ministers were on Monday expected to back a new travel ban and asset freeze against Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s dictator, and more than 150 of his henchmen.
Reversing Course on BelarusJanuary 10, 2011E.U. policy toward Belarus is in tatters. Two years of engagement with Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, direct cooperation in the framework of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program, and gentle pressure to allow some space for democrats in the country came to naught on Dec. 19, when the police crushed a courageous mass protest against fraudulent elections.
“Never waste a good crisis”: The 2008 economic downturn and post-communist civil societyAugust 17, 2010As some of the dust stirred up by the economic recession finally begins to settle across Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, it is becoming clear that the region, and its civil societies, have come to an important impasse.
Europa-Handbuch: BelarusDecember 06, 2006In the current political landscape of Europe, Belarus is a rare outsider. Although the country became a direct neighbor of the European Union in 2004 - by way of that entity's eastward enlargement - Belarus is politically, economically and socially far cry from European normality.
Passing the EurotestDecember 01, 2003For eight Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, 2003 was a year of popular votes on EU accession.1 A series of referendums presented a formidable challenge to governments and civil society. In most cases, if results were to be binding, they had to have not only a majority of votes in support of EU membership but also a majority of citizens participating. Governments of several candidate countries, including Slovakia, therefore decided to tap into thecapacity of the civic sector to mobilize the public. This was not the first time that Slovak NGOs had mobilized citizens to vote: it happened in 1998 and 2002. What was different in 2003 was that the funding for these efforts came from government rather than foreign donors.
In Trusts We Trust?June 01, 2003In recent years, the term trust has made a notable entry into the discourse of the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). On the one hand, it has been observed that transition countries are characterized by low levels of trust in society. As a result, interest has arisen in those aspects of democratic life that are beyond institutions, such as culture, values and trust. On the other hand, and seemingly unrelated, the term has signalled a new form of philanthropic institution. The recent emergence of several such entities indicates a new trend in American support for civil society and democracy in the region.


Regional Repercussions of the Ukraine Crisis: Challenges for the Six Eastern Partnership CountriesJuly 09, 2014

In this policy paper, six experts from the region examine the consequences of the Ukraine crisis for each of the Eastern Partnership countries.

Reclaiming Democracy: Civil Society and Electoral Change in Central and Eastern Europe (Arabic Language)November 14, 2011

The recent surge of democratic movements in the Arab World, including the January 25th protests that topled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime, opens new windows on the world of civil society and its role in asserting democracy. While these movements raise new questions for scholars of democratic movements and activists alike, they also share an inspiration in the democratic breakthroughs in Central and Eastern Europe that preceded them. Inspired by those who shaped the Arab Spring, the German Marshall Fund has published an Arabic translation of Reclaiming Democracy: Civil Society and Electoral Change in Central and Eastern Europe, by Pavol Demes, Joerg Forbrig and Robin Shepherd....

Focus on Ukraine: More than a Neighbor: Why Ukraine MattersJanuary 05, 2010

With expectations disappointed among Ukrainians, and impatience widespread in the West, it may be tempting to disregard the January 17, 2010 presidential election as just another in an endless series of polls that have done little to advance Ukraine in recent years. That verdict, however, would be as premature as it would be irresponsible.

Reclaiming Democracy: Civil Society and Electoral Change in Central and Eastern EuropeFebruary 14, 2007

Variously labeled "color revolutions," "transitions from postcommunism," or "electoral breakthroughs," and for some representing even a new "wave of democracy," the recent changes in the post-Soviet nations have fascinated scholarly observers and democratic activists alike. This book provides a cross-section of perspectives on recent democratic breakthroughs in Central and Eastern Europe. Case studies drafted by civic leaders present inside accounts of how civil society helped to assert democracy, while comparative analyses by academic experts shed light on a range of further factors that facilitated these changes, including the semi-authoritarian nature of postcommunism, economic aspects, civil society strategies and resources, and youth participation.

Prospects for Democracy in Belarus- 2nd EditionOctober 12, 2006

Published jointly by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and the Heinrich Böll Foundation of Germany, Prospects for Democracy in Belarus provides a systematic account of recent developments in Belarus, combined with more strategic and policy-oriented considerations on improving Western democracy assistance. It brings together perspectives of twenty-five contributors, including activists, analysts, and policymakers from Belarus, Europe, and the United States. They explore prospects for democracy in Belarus by scrutinizing the domestic and international context prior to the recent elections, by providing a variety of perspectives on the presidential poll and the events surrounding it, and by discussing a variety of options for improving Western, and especially European, support for democracy in Belarus.  

Prospects for Democracy in BelarusApril 01, 2006

Published by GMF and the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Prospects for Democracy in Belarus provides a systematic account of recent developments in Belarus and strategic and policy-oriented considerations on improving Western democracy assistance. It brings together perspectives of 25 contributors, including activists, analysts, and policymakers from Belarus, Europe, and the United States.

Ukraine After the Orange RevolutionMay 02, 2005

Ukraine's recent Orange Revolution opens an enormous opportunity to reinvigorate the democratic reform process in that country and to bring it closer to European and transatlantic structures. A new book just released by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, jointly with the Heinrich Boell Foundation of Germany, brings together renowned experts from Ukraine, Europe, and the United States to look more closely and systematically into the steps needed to take advantage of this opportunity both domestically and internationally.

A New Euro-Atlantic Strategy for the Black Sea RegionJuly 01, 2004It addresses a key strategic question facing the Euro- Atlantic community today: should the United States and Europe embrace the goal of anchoring the countries of the broader Black Sea region in the Euro-Atlantic community? The authors of the essays contained in these pages argue that they should. They challenge us to go beyond those voices, which currently insist that Europe's unification is complete and that the enlargement of NATO and the EU must be put on hold. They challenge us to think - once again - in a big and bold fashion about adopting and pursuing policies that can change the map of Europe.