IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Work in progress: reports of EaP CSF working groups in 2011
Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) holds a conference once a year. Working groups (WG) of the EaP CSF holds activities between annual meetings of the Forum. Coordinators of eash working group are elected during annual meeting of EaP CSF among participants presented on the meeting.
Four Working Groups of the EaP Civil Society Forum have been set up and are functioning to discuss issues of the Thematic Platforms and enrich its agenda. The Working Groups of the CSF are working in parallel to the platforms and should contribute with its work to the progress of the platform program.
Reports presented below illustrate development of the Working groups and in some cases working sub-group in the period between Berlin (2010) and Poznan (2011) EaP CSF.
EaP CSF Working Group “Democracy, Human Rights, Good Governance and Stability” deals with the main issues on the agenda of EaP Thematic Platform 1 on Democracy, Good Governance and Stability.
The members of WG1 (Democracy, Human Rights, Good governance and Stability) are 108 delegates of the CSF 2nd assembly (Berlin, 2010). The coordinators of the group are Vera Rihackova (“Europeum”, Institute of European Studies NGO, Czech Republic) and Boris Navasardian (Yerevan Press Club, Armenia). 6 working sub-groups (SWGs) operate within the working group – Human Rights (Coordinator – Marek Svoboda, People in Need, Czech Republic), Media (Boris Navasardian), Public Administration (Svyatoslav Pavlyuk, PAUCI Foundation, Ukraine), Judiciary Reform (Tamar Khidasheli, Young Lawyers Association, Georgia) , Anti-corruption (Natalya Shapovalova, FRIDE, Spain), Visa facilitation (Olga Stuzhinskaya, Office for Democratic Belarus, Belgium).
Meetings of the WG1
One meeting of the WG1 took place between the 2nd and the 3rd Forum assemblies – on May 27 in Brussels. The representatives of the WG1 also took part in two meetings of the official Platform 1 (Democracy, Human Rights, Good Governance and Stability) of the Eastern Partnership, presenting the works of CSF and its WG1, as well as channeling Forum’s recommendations related to the Thematic Platform 1 priorities and activities. Both meetings took place in Brussels – on May 6 (Vera Rihackova and Tamar Khidasheli represented the WG1) and November 17 (Boris Navasardian and Jeff Lowitt, PASOS).
The representatives of the WG1 as all participants of the Civil Society Forum welcome the formula “more for more” and the concept of “deep democracy” stressed in the Warsaw summit of EaP. These principles met the expectations of the CSF reflected in the Position Paper to the Summit. WG1 members pay special importance to their role and re-confirm their capacity in strengthening and enhancing the monitoring of the commitments undertaken by the partner country governments in the field of democracy, human rights and good governance, as well as expertise provision in the priority areas of the Thematic Platform 1.
As stated in the above mentioned Position Paper of the CSF ”… it is a historical lesson, including most recent developments in Arab world, that in non-perfect or far-from democracies, politics determine the economic relations to a very high degree; the rules of the game are bent to suit the people holding power. Subordination of development of real democratic institutions to economic reform, approximation to formal EU standards, and a lack of proper conditionality both weakens the consistency of efforts to support democratization and diminishes the role of civil society”. That is why WG1 members advocate for consideration of democratic reforms progress in the EU – partner countries negotiations on Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.
The CSF WG1 members acknowledge the approach within the official Platform 1 to focus efforts on selected thematic areas. At the same time it is obvious that the situation in different domains are very much interconnected and, for instance, achieving sustainable results in fighting corruption is impossible without strong and independent media. Therefore absence of certain important areas in the agenda of the official Platform 1 is a subject of concerns of the WG1. In its turn during the period between the Berlin and Poznan CSF assemblies the Working Group 1 CSF paid attention to almost all areas included in the thematic Platform 1.
Report covers activities of the sub-working groups: Human Rights, Media subgroup, Public administration, The anti-corruption, Visa Liberalization.
During the 2011, the Anti-Corruption SWG has established contacts with the EaP panel on fight against corruption and representatives of the participating CSOs took part in a number of the EaP panel meetings and workshops were able to provide input to its activities. The AC SWG also prepared and delivered its recommendations on the fight against corruption within the EaP framework to interested parties in the EU institutions and governments and the Council of Europe. Some of those recommendations were taken into account by the EaP panel and the Commission (e.g. those on greater involvement of civil society and more funding opportunities). The participating CSOs from the EaP and EU countries have been implementing several anticorruption projects together.
EaP CSF Working Group “Economic Integration & Convergence with EU Policies" deals with the main issues on the agenda of EaP Thematic Platform 2 of the same name.
During the period since the last meeting of the WG 2 “Economic Integration & Convergence with EU Policies" at the Berlin Forum in November 2010 several important developments took place in the field that our working group covers i.e. the economic integration and the convergence with the EU law.
As far as the bilateral track of the EaP are concerned the negotiations on DCFTA with Ukraine advanced so that the agreement is almost ready for signature. A progress was also made in negotiations on DCFTA with Moldova and with Georgia. There is a stalemate regarding the negotiations on DCFTA with Azerbaijan due to the absence of progress regarding the membership in WTO. The negotiations with Armenia on DCFTA are still in a preparatory stage.
Regarding the multilateral track for our Working Group 2 the official Platform 2 on Economic integration and convergence with EU sector policies was the main subject of interest. Great number of activities has taken place in the platform and the panels established by the platform. The WG 2 was able to follow up the subjects on the Platform´s agenda thanks to the permanent membership of the EESC in the Platform where it defended the CSF interests.
A very active was especially the Trade panel that hold number of meetings. The subjects discused by the Panel included customs cooperation and trade facilitation, sanitary, phytosanitary (SPS) and animal welfare issues, intellectual property rights, public procurement.
EaP CSF Working Group “Environment, climate change and energy security” deals with the main issues on the agenda of EaP Thematic Platform 3. It is also involved in the Panel on Environment and Climate Change under Platform 2.
Working Group 3 of Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum “Environment, climate change and energy security” consists of 33 members. It is divided in to two thematic panels. The first panel deals mainly with environment and climate change issues. The second panel is devoted to the issue of energy security. Since the WG3 is relatively small in comparison to other EaP CSF WGs and the topics of climate change and energy security have rather crosscutting character all participants of the group are assigned to both panels.
The group works on the basis of two annual meetings, during the EaP CSF and separate meeting organised in with the support of the European Commission.
In 2011 we were fortunate to organize additional meetings in Kiev (23rd – 25th June, 2011) and a seminar in Warsaw on the 14th October 2011.
Meeting in Kiev gathered Civil Society Organisations – members of EaP CSF WG3 from the EU and 6 partner countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, guests and observers. The meeting was hosted by Ukrainian National Environmental NGO “MAMA-86” and financed by the European Union and co-funded by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
Following recommendations of EaP CSF II, WG3 is demanding proper implementation of these horizontal policy instruments within EaP countries, which should serve the cross-cutting consideration of environmental requirements into economic sectors’ policies, regional and local development policies, and in the future – would lead to transition towards “green economy”.
Separate expert panels were devoted to the exchange of information on the implementation status of Aarhus Convention in the countries (UNECE Convention on Access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters) and also of the Espoo Convention (UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context) and their protocols.
Also, experts have prepared and presented reports on one of the most complicated topics of environmental Flagship initiative - on the development of Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) in Eastern partner countries – compatible with the EU system. Transposition of separated at a into the information for decision-making – this is an obligatory capacity of modern system of Environmental Governance, that provides an opportunity to measure an impact and determine an effectiveness of various policy instruments for reducing environmental damage. Only having a complete measuring system, which is based on indicators, it is possible to take effective actions on “greening” the economy.
EaP CSF Working Group “Contacts Between People” deals with the main issues on the agenda of EaP Thematic Platform 4 of the same name. The activities of this working group are divided into a number of areas. These include Visa Facilitation, Education, Youth and Culture.
During the SCF meeting in Berlin a set of recommendations were proposed, the first one of which specifically noted: “Build a stronger link between the EaP Platform 4 and Working Group 4 (WG4) by enhancing on-going and regular communication, accessibility to information and feedback”. Recommendation has been duly followed, as very good working relations were established between the Chairman of Platform 4 Mr. Jordi Curell, and the coordinators of the WG4. An excellent evidence of the cooperation between the mentioned parties was the invitations to the WG4 to participate in the works of Platform 4 on May 5 and October 27. After both meetings all the information from the events was shared with the WG4 members. It is worth mentioning that the participants of the Civil Society Forum from previous years were also included in the communication, which allowed widening the circle of information distribution. It is also very important to note that the Chairman of Platform 4 Mr. Jordi Curell accepted the invitation to participate in the working meeting of the WG4 on September 16, and he personally shared the information on the progress of the Platform activities.
Another achievement of the past year is the initiative to establish 2 sub-groups on Culture and Voluntarism/Youth. There is a good chance that the 3rd sub-group on Education and Research will also eventually become a reality, and I hope that at the meeting in Poznan we will be able to finalize the discussions over this issue. These developments are a real proof that the WG4 is moving from a general list of recommendations towards more practical activities in the areas of interest for the WG4. The co-chairs of the groups are already in communication with people that have expressed their interest for participation in particular subgroups.