EaP Civil Society Forum 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 today 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.
‘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.
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EaP Civil Society Forum publishes country reports in run-up to Vilnius: more needs to be done for greater engagement and open government
Both the EU and the Eastern partner governments need to communicate more openly and to improve the engagement of the public and of all stakeholders, from business to civil society, in policymaking, if they are to strengthen the effectiveness, accountability and sustainability of policy outcomes, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) indicates in its latest set of reports on implementation of the Eastern Partnership roadmap to this month’s Vilnius Summit.
“To achieve sustainable democratic development, EU and partner countries must promote deep democracy, respect free and fair elections, and embrace more inclusive policymaking,” the report overview states.
EaP Civil Society Forum members, EU officials, think tanks, media and government representatives from the EaP and EU countries gathered this week at the Eastern Partnership Roadmap event organised by the Secretariat of the Steering Committee of the Civil Society Forum to discuss the six country status reports released ahead of the Vilnius Summit.
The reports say the Vilnius Summit should mark the launch of a new phase of European integration for all the eastern neighbours of the EU: for Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, there is the prospect of initialling or signature of Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) Agreements with the EU. For Azerbaijan, there should also be the signing of visa facilitation and readmission agreements. In the case of Armenia, the substantive progress made in finalising negotiations on the content of an Association Agreement and DCFTA with the EU must be built upon to renew its integration prospects, and engagement with all sectors of society, with a view to sustainable democratic development, while closer European integration should be a renewed priority in EU relations with Belarus, the EaP CSF says.
The report says partner countries have been subjected to a negative diplomatic offensive from the Russian Federation. “The EU’s active diplomacy towards Ukraine has been a welcome contrast to the negative diplomacy from Moscow, with its threats of cutting Ukraine off from Russian markets, but with the exception of Moldova and Georgia the conditions are not in place in the partner countries for realisation of the ambitions of the Association Agreement.”
The authors say there is still far from an open and participatory policymaking process, which is essential to democratic development and European integration. “The European Union also has to make greater efforts towards open government and a firmer commitment across all EU institutions to respect for free and fair elections and promotion of deep democracy in the partner countries.”(EU Neighbourhood Info)
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