IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Future of Eastern Partnership, Association Agreements, human rights and political prisoners discussed at annual meeting of Working Group 1
The CSF Working Group 1 on Democracy, Human Rights, Good Governance and Stability convened for its annual meeting in Brussels on 17 June. Some 80 participants, including civil society organisations from the Eastern Partnership countries and the EU, representatives of the European External Action Service and the European Commission and independent observers came together for the event. The meeting was chaired by Jeff Lovitt (PASOS), the WG’s EU coordinator, and Leila Alieva (Centre for National and International Studies, the WG’s Eastern Partnership coordinator.
The discussions largely focused on issues that are currently high on the Eastern Partnership agenda, including the future of the Eastern Partnership project in the context of recent political and security developments, the impact of the Eurasian Economic Union as well as the challenges of implementation of the Association Agreements in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The issue of human rights and political prisoners in Azerbaijan and Belarus featured prominently throughout the discussions.
During the presentations session, Richard Tibbels, Head of Division for the Eastern Partnership, Regional Cooperation and OSCE at the European External Action Service, provided an update on the progress in bilateral relations with the Eastern Partnership countries and outlined the EU’s approach to the multi-lateral track following Vilnius summit. According to him, focus onimplementation of the Association Agreements, differentiation between partner countries as well as comprehensive communication about the EU objectives in the region and clear messaging in relationship with Russia remain priority areas that the EU takes forward on the path to Riga summit.
Whilst the participants generally agreed that there was a need for greater differentiation between partner countries in order to allow for “different speeds”, concerns have been voiced whether the multilateral cooperation remains an effective tool for implementing the objectives agreed in the Vilnius Declaration. A number of voices have been raised in favour of revision of the Eastern Partnership initiative with account for the changing political and security circumstances.
The afternoon session was dedicated to sub-groups meetings that focused on the topics of human rights and judiciary reform; fight against corruption; local government and public administration reform; visa facilitation and visa liberalisation; media freedom; election monitoring; and regional cooperation and confidence building. The sub-groups developed and presented a set of detailed, concrete thematic work priorities to be included in the Forum’s new strategy for 2015-2017.
The full report of the meeting will be published shortly on the CSF website.