Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum: Challenges and Prospects
The sixth meeting of the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership, which was held in Batumi, adopted a strategy of the forum’s development for 2015-2017.
“EU Integration and Common Security: Making it Happen” — this was the topic of the meeting, which was held in Batumi on 20-21 November and was attended by over 200 participants from six countries of the Eastern Partnership and the European Union. Despite the optimism of the theme, the meeting itself bared a lot of problems and challenges that the civil society of the participating countries are now facing. Participants were sad to hear that in some countries of the Eastern Partnership the situation had worsened as compared with the previous year. Of course, it was Ukraine who faced the greatest challenges. Problems were also experienced by the civil society in Azerbaijan.
Most of the speakers talked about the Russian intervention, threats that Russia poses to the region and the information war that has engulfed all the EaP countries. However, statements were often not accompanied by proposals for the solution of these problems. Many participants expressed hope that their messages would be heard in the European Union. However, there was a question with “audibility”. This time, there were no representatives of the EU leadership, which caused certain anger in the lobbies. Does this mean that the problems of civil society development in Eastern Partnership countries ceased to be relevant to Brussels? Probably not. After all, the Batumi meeting coincided with the process of reformatting the European Commission. And it means that the EU commissioners had their own problems to solve. Anyway, there was some bad aftertaste because of their absence at the forum.
Positive developments, which were stressed by the Belarusian delegation, included the adoption of a new strategy for the EaP CSF for 2015-2017. It focused on the participation of civil society in the process of transformation, including in the implementation by Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova of association agreements with the EU and all forms of cooperation with the EU partner countries. Also, the strategy set more specific objectives of development for the upcoming two years. The meeting also decided on a reform of the management structure of the forum. In addition, participants in the sixth meeting of the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership unanimously adopted a resolution to support human rights activist Alena Tankachova. They expressed fundamental disagreement about the cancellation of her residence permit in the Republic of Belarus and the decision by the authorities to expel the human rights defender in a month’s time.
Besides, the meeting in Batumi elected national coordinator of the EaP CSF from Belarus. This is again director of the Center for European Transformation, Andrei Yahorau.