IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Proposals to strengthen public participation and civil society engagement in the policymaking process in the Eastern Partnership countries
Prague, 5 March 2012
A set of proposals to strengthen public participation and civil society engagement in the policymaking process in the Eastern Partnership countries was presented to a meeting in Prague of EU foreign ministers (Visegrad Four and Baltic states) by Jeff Lovitt, one of the co-Chairs of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, and Eduard Mihalas, one of the co-ordinators of the Forum's Working Group 4 - Contacts Between People. Jeff Lovitt, Executive Director of PASOS, presented the Forum's input into the Eastern Partnership roadmap, due to be published by the European Commission on 25 April 2012. Recommendations resulting from the meeting of the Forum's Working Group 4 - Contacts Between People - held in Prague on 2 March 2012 - were presented to the meeting by Eduard Mihalas of the National Youth Council of Moldova.
The meeting, hosted at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was attended by Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy,and Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy. The meeting with the two Forum representatives was followed by a meeting of the EU ministers with foreign ministers and deputy foreign ministers of five of the six Eastern Partnership countries.
The proposals on the Eastern Partnership roadmap - a response authored by the Forum steering committee as feedback to an outline drafted by the European External Action Service in January 2012 - called for "a set of clear benchmarks to guide bilateral relations between the EU and the respective Partner countries, and to strengthen the engagement of both the EU and the Partner countries with civil society actors who can take up the role as independent watchdogs, monitoring and evaluating the effective use of resources, and observance and strengthening of democratic reforms, human rights, and the rule of law". The proposals also called for continuing active participation of civil society representatives in intergovernmental platform meetings and for trilateral fora to be established in the Eastern Partner countries for regular consultations with the respective partner government, the EU delegation, and representatives of the national platforms of the Civil Society Forum. The initiative launched under the Polish EU Council Presidency in 2011 for the establishment of the European Endowment for Democracy was also supported by the Forum Steering Committee, which also called for the waiving of visa fees for citizens of the partner countries wanting to visit the EU.
The recommendations from the meeting of the Forum's Working Group 4, which met as part of a conference, organised by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in co-operation with the Association for International Affairs (AMO) and DEMAS, the Czech Association for Democracy Assistance and Human Rights, included the following: