IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Civil Society Forum out of bounds by Minsk
The National Platform of the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership (CSF EaP) has been denied a location in which to hold its Conference “Civil Society Role & Place in the Future Strategy”.
The Conference was due to be held on March 19-20 at the Minsk International Educational Centre (IBB). However, yesterday, on March 14, the Conference Organising Committee learned that the IBB was unable to get approval for holding the event due to a decision made by one of its founders, the Minsk City Executive Committee. In addition and for formal reasons, the Crown Plaza Hotel rejected the idea of becoming a possible alternative Conference venue.
The Conference Organising Committee regards these decisions as single-minded actions taken by the Belarusian authorities. The actions are conductive to putting obstacles in the way of the activities carried out by the National Platform of CSF EaP.
The CSF EaP believe that the topic and the expected event membership of the Conference is a reason for such obvious countering actions.
The National Platform of CSF EaP has spent considerable time promoting the idea of the civil society and democratic opposition consolidation. It had hoped to create a possible integrated strategy of united forces. Representatives of a number of political forces, as well as civil society activists and experts had been invited to participate in the Conference.
A de facto ban imposed on the Conference seems a particularly non-constructive step, especially considering the Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s public declaration as to the importance of the Eastern Partnership initiative for Belarus. By ignoring a major component of this European Union’s initiative, the Civil Society Forum, the Belarusian authorities are actually violating their commitments assumed under the Eastern Partnership framework.
Co-Chairperson of the Eastern Partnership’s Civil Society Forum and its national coordinator in Belarus Ulad Vialichka offers his comment on the situation as follows:
“It is an absurd and incomprehensible step taken by the Minsk City Executive Committee. The National Platform of Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership has always been and remains an open site for discussing the momentous issues in the country’s development and civil society. While adhering to the idea of a high value represented by the mutual dialogue, we have never opposed any public organisations and initiatives, including also evidently pro-government associations, participating in our events. I am convinced that these actions taken by the Belarusian authorities will not remain unheeded by the Civil Society Forum Steering Committee, national platforms of the Eastern Partnership member countries and the European Commission.”
Under the present circumstances, the Organising Committee of the Conference has been forced to postpone the Conference until a later date. Nonetheless, no obstacles must stop the process of putting under discussion an integrated strategy for all the democratically-oriented forces of this country.
On March 18, Friday, at 1:00 pm, the Organising Committee of the Eastern Partnerships’ Civil Society Forum National Platform Conference will hold a press conference with the civil society leaders, expert community and democratic opposition representatives attending. Information on the press conference venue is to be provided additionally. The interested persons may register to attend the press conference by sending their requests at the Organising Committee’s e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org