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Distinguished authorities, dear guests and colleagues,
I am extremely delighted to attend this ceremony this morning and witness the establishment of this new “National Resource Centre for Civil Society”.
No society is strong and stable enough until it rests on open and participatory communities.
It is for this reason that the EU supports and invests in the role of civil society within and beyond its borders.
Good governance is a key political requirement for any country to join the European Union.
Good governance is also about the level of civil society engagement and structured participation in dialogues on reforms.
Actively promoting the role of civil society is a key pillar of the EU, which prioritizes partnerships and investment in building the long-term resilience of societies.
Citizens, and generally civil society, should be in a position to participate consistently in policy-making and legislative processes and to monitor closely the implementation of policies that affect citizens.
The establishment of this new center clearly represent another step in the strengthening such civil society engagement.
At the same time, let me recall that with opportunities come responsibilities!
We trust that civil society organizations in Albania will seize every opportunity to enhance direct participation, not as a distant voice, far from the action, but as responsible, aware, informed and effective actors.
We trust your readiness, as civil society, to show such commitment, credibility and responsibility of intents.
Credibility comes from the ability to reflect the different opinions of different segments of the population in Albania.
There are many examples during the last three decades in Albania, where civil society has played a crucial role in generating change through engagement and dialogue with citizens (such as the movement against chemical weapons, or civic movements in protecting rivers across the country, to just mention some examples).
You, as civil society, know very well that the stronger the alliance with your constituencies is, the stronger you can grow and be effective in informing policy making.
The stronger you grow, the better you protect the democratic space for the Albanian citizens.
The call and encouragement for your work comes of course with a clear reminder for the government, the institutions and political actors.
The basic values of the EU include also the government’s ability to take into consideration and accept contributions from the civil society, even more so when they come in form of useful criticism.
It is therefore crucial that the government and the authorities in Albania create an open and safe space for dialogue with civil society at all levels.
It is important that legislative and fiscal environment for civil society improve in order to successfully obtain a strong, vibrant civil society.
It is highly expected that all actors in decision-making positions engage proactively in a wide dialogue with civil society, at the central and local level equally, and benefit from their contributions on EU integration matters and beyond.
Most importantly, this dialogue should not remain in close doors.
Civil society and the government should view each other more as partners than as adversaries in the path toward EU integration.
The European Commission consistently underlines the importance of civil society’s role in a participatory democracy and stresses the need to make further efforts “to deepen the freedom of association, to put in place regulatory frameworks and public incentives for the development of civil society organisations as in independent voice”.
Thus, it is the responsibility both of governments and of European institutions to ensure that the role and influence of civil society organisations and activists groups are strengthened and made effective, as well as, continuously cultivate alliances with citizens of Albania.
The establishment of the National Resource Centre in Albania is an excellent opportunity and it will serve as a platform and as a tool to further boost efforts and capacities of civil society in Albania.
Through the Resource Centre, civil society, in particular at local level and various informal and activist groups will be reached out and supported to strengthen their capacities.
The Resource Centre further increases awareness and research based information on key development issues of the enabling environment for CSOs development
The resource Centre will support networking of civil society at national and regional level through close collaboration with other programs and initiatives going on.
Your engagement as civil society ought to be at the very heart of every single reform process in your country.
The EU integration is not a process for corridors of high power – unless it involves all society it cannot be realized. We know from previous accessions that change really happens only when it does so and is perceived at the very local level.
You as civil society are in a perfect position to do that alongside with local government and other actors.
The resource center contributes to improve the public image and trust on civil society by enhancing transparency and accountability and mutual consultative processes with the constituencies.
We believe that such support will allow civil society to play a fundamental role in helping citizens of Albania as a country in the enlargement process not only to become aware of common European values, but also to actively discuss and promote those values.
The forum today is also a good opportunity and momentum to reflect on how EU could become more strategic in supporting civil society in Albania.
I wish you a successful continuation of this event, thank you very much for you attention and look very much forward to learn later on the outcome of your strategic discussion.