Civil Society Forum strengthens the Eastern Partnership (16/11/2009)
More than 200 Civil Society representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, the EU Member States, international organizations and networks as well as third countries are gathering in Brussels on 16-17 November for the first Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum. The Forum demonstrates the EU’s commitment to take on board the views and ideas of people of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. The Forum will work on recommendations to EaP ministers who will be holding their first working meeting on 8th December, in particular on priorities for work next year in the EaP multilateral platforms.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy stated: “This civil society dialogue adds a new dimension to the Eastern Partnership, which will enrich in particular our multilateral activities in the EaP. The Forum will provide fresh ideas as we work to address the challenges of our partner countries”. She added: “Civil society has a crucial role to play in holding governments to their reform programmes. The Forum will be important in helping to build confidence among civil society organizations in partner countries, by providing a platform to exchange experience.”
The Civil Society Forum will be hosted by the European Commission, the EU Presidency and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). It responds to the need for more direct exchange between civil society actors from EaP countries and EU Member States in order to achieve the goals of the EaP: to promote democracy and good governance, economic integration and convergence with EU policies, energy security and contacts between people. By supporting civil society dialogue, the EU aims to encourage increased contacts between organizations, and dialogue with national authorities in the partner countries.
To ensure full transparency of the process leading to the establishment of the Civil Society Forum, interested parties were invited via the Eastern Partnership webpage to provide their opinions, as well as express their interest to participate in the process. Altogether, almost 450 expressions of interests were received from grass root organizations, trade unions, employers' organisations, professional associations, NGOs, think tanks, non-profit foundations, national and international networks and other relevant civil society actors. For budgetary and organisational reasons the number of participants in the first meeting of the Forum was kept to 220, following the selection process made by a Steering Committee composed of independent personalities, representatives of the European Commission, the EU Presidency and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Altogether 141 organisations from Eastern Partnership countries and 79 from EU Member States and other countries have been invited.
Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, representing the current EU Presidency, and President Mario Sepi of the EESC will address the Forum on Tuesday 17th between 13.30 and 14.30. Their speeches will be transmitted via Europe-by-satellite.
All information related to the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum: http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/eastern/civil_society/index_en.htm
Information on the Eastern Partnership: http://eeas.europa.eu/eastern/index_en.htm