IN THE SPOTLIGHT
POSITION PAPER OF THE CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM TO THE EASTERN PARTNERSHIP SUMMIT
Tagged under General
POSITION PAPER OF THE CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM
TO THE EASTERN PARTNERSHIP SUMMIT
(Prepared by the Steering Committee)
Perspectives and Recommendations
1. Strengthen democratic societies
1.1. The EaP Civil Society Forum encourages the European Commission and the governments of the partner countries to accelerate the dialogue, cooperation and integration processes within the EaP following the principles and models proposed by the Copenhagen Criteria. The Civil Society Forum confirms its role and capacity in strengthening and enhancing the monitoring of the commitments undertaken by the partner country governments.
1.2 In order to substantially improve participatory and effective decision-making, Civil Society expertise must be taken into consideration at any time in the future steps of the EaP.
1.3. The Civil Society Forum supports the launch of the Civil Society Facility, which will allow CSOs to play a more active and efficient role in the EaP. The Forum confirms the need to engage the National Platforms in each EaP country in planning the priorities of this instrument and how it will operate.
1.4. The Civil Society Forum is in favour of diplomatic solutions allowing democratic CSOs from non-recognized political entities in the EaP countries to be part of the Forum, ensuring its participatory, inclusive and cooperative nature. The CSF proposes to emphasise the importance of the local dimension represented by NGOs and local authorities of the EaP countries in order to reach the general objectives of the Partnership.
1.5 The CSF welcomes the approach of the European Commission and the EU member states to consider the civil society in Belarus as a partner despite de-facto suspension of cooperation with the Belarusian government and highly appreciates Belarusian CSOs as an inseparable part of the Forum. The CSF also follows the development of the situation with democratic freedoms and human rights in Azerbaijan after the protests and following arrests in April 2011. It calls upon the Azerbaijani authorities for the swift release of all prisoners arrested before and during the democracy rallies.
2. Associate via sectorial integration
2.1 The convergence with EU policies in such fields as migration, trade, energy, transport, environment, SME and innovations, education, etc. creates the appropriate conditions for a gradual sectorial integration of partner countries with the EU. A proper space should also be given to non institutional networks promoting exchanges of youth, volunteers and culture. Visa liberalisation agreements, DCFTA, ACCA agreements and other relevant institutional frameworks should serve as a legal mechanism for deepening such rapprochement. The Civil Society Forum in particular calls for taking steps towards full visa liberalization as soon as individual EaP countries meet the agreed conditions.
2.2 Greater regional cooperation among EaP partner countries at all possible levels would secure more sustainability and synergies between various initiatives deepening European integration.
3. Anchor the EaP Civil Society Forum in the family of European institutions
3.1. Given the growing potential capacity of the CSF, the technical difficulties restricting its role are becoming more evident. The establishment of a permanent Secretariat of the CSF would allow the Forum to operate much more efficiently. The participation of civil society from the EU must be secured in order to allow a full partnership from both the EU and EaP countries.
3.2 The CSF suggests that civil society organizations should be regarded as partners of the EU, the EU Member States and of the EaP states when it comes to planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating programmes of the Eastern Partnership. The highest possible level of active interaction and access to information in these processes should be ensured.