About 500 serious applications for support have been received from small businessmen, civil servants and politicians in eastern Europe. They will be offered short study courses in the West to promote the foundation's ideals of 'economic and political freedom' and assisting 'the peoples of former communist countries and other oppressive regimes throughout the world as they adopt democracy'. Baroness Thatcher's private office estimates the foundation will have accumulated between pounds 5.5m and pounds 8m (dollars 10m and dollars 15m) from businesses and individuals in Britain, the United States and the Middle East, including Kuwait, by the end of the year. And it is expecting covenants for 'much more' over the next few years, including donations from Japan.
Assistance is likely to take the form of support for comparatively short three, six or twelve-month courses at acceptable institutions in Europe, Britain and the United States, with an emphasis on the development of business and democratic institutions.
Despite earlier criticism, Mark Thatcher is playing a crucial role in the international development of the foundation, conceived to propagate his mother's political ideals around the world.
Having been denied a role as a trustee of the fund in Britain, Mr Thatcher is serving on the board of a sister foundation in the US. Although Lady Thatcher was angered by attacks on her son's allegedly abrasive style in the run- up to the foundation's British launch, the two decided he should play no official role thereafter and return to his business career.
An American resident, Mr Thatcher's brief, albeit an informal one, is to smooth the path of Robert Hegden, the former fund- raiser for Ronald Reagan's library who runs the fund's Washington office, to potential benefactors.
Applications will be processed initially by an official, to be named soon, who will be based in an east European country.
A spokesman for Lady Thatcher's private office said the idea was to appoint 'somebody on the ground in eastern Europe who will be our kind of man. It is not necessarily the best thing to always make judgements here'.
The historians Professor Norman Stone and Professor Kenneth Minogue, who are foundation trustees, are likely to help with the detailed scrutiny of applications .
Lady Thatcher's office emphasised yesterday that the intention was to give 'grassroots' help. Successful applicants are more likely to be small businessmen, entrepreneurs, civil servants and politicians than conventional students or academics.
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