EaP CSF tells leaders to focus on inclusive policy making, deep democracy, monitoring of EU funds and greater public awareness

“To achieve sustainable democratic development, EU and partner countries must place inclusive policymaking, deep democracy, and monitoring of EU spending at core of relations in all partner countries – and launch public awareness campaigns to explain mutual benefits of closer European integration,” says the statement of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum released on November 15 and addressed to EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle, and Foreign Ministers of Eastern Partnership countries and EU member states, ENPI Info Centre reports.

‘The Civil Society Forum is convinced that the mutual benefits of closer European integration must be given priority in all partner countries without differentiation with respect to the level of progress at the governmental level in working towards agreements with the EU,” the statement says.

However, as documented in The Eastern Partnership Roadmap to the Vilnius Summit – an assessment of the roadmap implementation by the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum,the secrecy around the negotiations of the agreements between the EU and the partner countries has weakened the EU’s case for European integration: “An opportunity has been lost for public debate and for generating wide ownership of the European integration process among the citizens of the partner countries. This would not have stopped pressure from Moscow, but it would have strengthened the hand of those pushing for closer integration with the EU.”

The statement added that civil society had been given a seat in regular trilateral forums – including government, the EU delegation and civil society – only in Georgia.

“While substantial initiative on the part of the EU to engage with civil society has been welcomed, efforts have been less effective in fostering dialogue between partner governments and civil society. Greater impetus from the EU side towards this objective is believed to be necessary by civil society actors in Armenia and Ukraine.”

The statement added that the Vilnius summit would indeed mark a new phase in relations between partner countries and the EU, “but all sides need now to recognise that any sustainable integration must include deep democratic change, and that must include the engagement of independent experts, civil society and the wider public in the drafting of policy reforms.” The statement highlighted as a key challenge the need to monitor the use of EU funds to partner governments, primarily the Comprehensive Institution Building (CIB) programme.

The Civil Society Forum proposed the following steps:

  • A mechanism should be developed to incorporate dialogue between government and civil society into all CIB projects, and to ensure independent monitoring of the use and effectiveness of funding allocated.
  • A permanent co-operation platform should be established to facilitate dialogue between the National Platform and EURONEST MPs in the respective partner countries.
  • Renewed impetus should be dedicated to co-operation between Partner countries to realise more fully the multilateral component of the Eastern Partnership.
  • Greater transparency and public debate are required on the implications of the Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area Agreements.
  • A public awareness campaign around democratic values and mutual benefits of closer European integration must be given priority in all partner countries.
  • The EU and its member states have to make a firmer commitment for respect to free and fair elections and promotion of deep democracy in the partner countries.
  • Short-term travel to the EU without visa requirements should be an achievable goal for Georgia and Ukraine before the 2015 Riga summit, and ahead of 2014 parliamentary elections in the case of Moldova.

Source: ENPI Info Centre