Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

Civil Society Forum Coordinators Invited to Visit Stockholm

8-11 November 2010

The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited the 6 country facilitators to visit Stockholm to discuss the formulation and anchoring of initiatives and organisation of civil society input. The meetings were held with  government officials and representatives of Swedish civil society organisations.

As Deputy Director-General, Head of Department for Eastern Europe and Central Asia of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden Ms. Malena Mård said in the invitation: Sweden has a long tradition of collaboration and consultation between the government and civil society. In formulating public policy, the opinion of civil society is regularly sought by the Swedish Government Offices, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs included. Furthermore, Swedish non-governmental organisations have extensive experience in building public opinion, mobilising civil society and crafting positions. Many Swedish non-governmental organisations also have experience from working with counterparts in the Eastern Partnership countries.

During the visit, CSF country facilitators got the chance to meet with several representatives of Swedish ministry of Foreign Affairs, responsible for Eastern Partnership development as well as work with particular countries and regions. It was also a good opportunity to present experience and plans of the EaP Civil Society Forum to representatives of Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). This agency is not yet deeply involved in supporting EaP related projects but might be more involved if the Swedish government gave them such a mandate.

It was also of great Importance to meet with some Swedish NGOs who shared their experience of work and understanding of modern local and global challenges for civil society.

Country facilitators during these meetings paid particular attention of the following key messages:

  1. Sweden has played a key role in establishing and developing the EaP. Swedish experience of  influential and strong civil society is widely well-known and highly respected. Civil society organizations involved in EaP Civil Society Forum expect further support from Sweden in expanding the role and strengthening the institutional position of civil society in this program.
  2. Strategic debate about a Wider Europe, signals from the EaP countries and the responsibility of the member states should be further continued. There is a necessity for clear signals from EU countries that EaP societies have EU membership perspective (even if it is long-term). It can bring much more motivation and energy into the cooperation process.
  3. There is a need of further involvement of other civil society actors into EaP activities: there is still low involvement of trade-unions, business associations, faith-based organizations, networks and coalitions at least. Therefore the benefits of the Eastern Partnership should be promoted to them. 
  4. There is also a need for greater support in expanding the role of civil society dialogue with governments (especially in EaP countries) within EaP process. Belarus objection in relation to CSF  participation at EaP platforms meetings could be presented as a case which requires some solution in favour of CSF involvement.
  5. Joint EaP CSO monitoring and evaluation system and activities should be planned and implemented as one of the key inputs into the EaP process from civil society side.
  6. One of the key proposals for the EaP from the Civil Society Forum is developing and implementing “road maps” for the EaP, both at program level and in specific thematic areas. Specific implementation methods should be proposed to develop and implement these road maps with both CSOs and government officials, at national and at program level.
  7. To avoid the reliance on slow and insufficient donor co-ordination and lack of funding supporting the EaP, the idea of establishing a special Fund from which it is possible to support EaP cooperation projects of CSOs was presented. Practice of including EaP into some existing programs of EU (NSA-LA, EIDHR) is good but absolutely not enough. Non-EU funding and private donors could be also attracted to EaP support in such a way.
  8. Reflecting this years experience, the Steering Committee members strongly insist on allocating  resources to establish and provide efficient work of CSF Secretariat, which can provide day-to-day operation level for CSF work.
  9. There is some inequality/discrimination between EU and EaP participants regarding participation in EaP CSF events. It doesn’t mean that EaP participants will be ready to pay for their participation but there should be some solution. EU participants should not create different perception and status between participants.
  10. Flagship initiatives suggested by the Steering Committee still needs some support as an effective tool for promoting regional cooperation between EaP countries and EU-EaP cooperation at Civil Society level.
  11. The Steering Committee members found deep understanding and sincere readiness to support Civil Society Forum development. Assessing the results of the visit, it was possible to see clearly that Swedish MFA has got internal look of country facilitators to Eastern Partnership and will try to take into account their expectations and concerns in further work at governmental level supporting further work of CSF. 

This event in Stockholm has also become a great opportunity for country facilitators to coordinate their messages and agree about key priorities that are required for the next period of Civil Society Forum work.

Concrete proposal made by Steering Committee to Swedish government: The SCF 2012 could be hosted in Stockholm. Swedish MFA side of the meetings has been interested to get such a proposal and promised to think about it as one of a many opportunities to support Civil Society Forum work. 

Prepared by

Ulad Vialichka

Project funded by the European UnionEU