Civil society organizations are a real driving force within the Eastern Partnership as both advocates of change and deliverers of change, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle told participants of a high-level seminar on the Role of Civil Society in Democratic Governance in Yerevan, Armenia.
He said the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum was acting “as a bridge between politicians and citizens, giving visibility to the many concrete elements which make up the Eastern Partnership.”
The Commissioner cited Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, who had said on his recent visit to Yerevan:  “our joint project – of bringing Armenia closer to the European Union – will only work and will only meet its potential if it is understood and supported by citizens.”
Armenia has made very good progress with reforms and deserved further encouragement, Štefan Füle said. In this context, the EU earmarked an additional €15 million under Eastern Partnership Integration and Cooperation programme (EaPIC) in the spirit of the “more for more” principle to give a further boost to justice reform and to vocational education and training.
The Commissioner said during his visit to Yerevan he would discuss with the Armenian leaders ways of giving more focus to EU-Armenia cooperation, in particular share “a matrix of priority reform actions”, which help civil society to monitor progress and hold the government to account.
Füle underlined that boosting the capacity of civil society was one of the priorities, as illustrated by the newly created Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility, a financial instrument providing civil society organisations across neighbourhood with additional grant support. This was coupled with support to institutional reforms, namely “preparing Armenia’s state bodies to take on the challenges which political association and economic integration will bring, and more generally to modernize and focus on the needs of citizens, consumers and users.” The Commissioner said an Annual Action Programme focusing on this kind of institutional support was due to be signed during his current mission to Armenia.
In his speech, the Commissioner voiced “deep concern and regret for the damage done, both to the peace process and to trust, by the pardon and glorification by some of the crime of Ramil Safarov.”
Štefan Füle also stressed the need for medium to long-term stability and predictability in the region, acknowledging the role of those civil society organizations who work on confidence building in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Commissioner concluded by saying he would “continue to fight for the legal protection of the independence of civil society across the Eastern Partnership, so that you can, as the saying goes, “speak truth unto power.

For the full speech click here


Source: EU Neighbourhood Info Centre