Civil society – the lokomotive for Eastern Partnership states reform

22.05.2015. 13:07

Although European Union’s (EU) Eastern Partnership (EaP) policy is not directly related to EU enlargement, the EU doors remain open for EaP states. Such opinion, at the close of the EU EaP Civil Society Conference, was given by the Latvian Foreign Minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs. It is important for the EaP states to continue with reforms, even when they can be difficult, the Foreign Minister pointed out. Rinkēvičs reminded that, at the time, when the Baltic States expressed their interest in joining the European Union and NATO many foreign representatives were skeptical, however their determination and implementation of reforms helped them reach the aims.

 

Representatives of civil society from across the Eastern Partnership region took part in thematical sessions and working groups, where they discussed the current state of democratisation and challenges in need of addressing. The working groups created reccomendations for EU institutions, EU and EaP government on actions needed to efficiently achieve aims. At the end of the conference, these reccomendations were passed over to the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, and Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, for delivery to the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Summit held in Riga.

The preambule of reccomendations notes that Russia’s military agression in Ukraine has left behind a significant effect upon the EaP region, and therefore it is important to continue and strengthen the EU Eastern Partnership policy, with a specific focus on supporting the civil society. The influence of Russia’s propaganda campaign has negatively affected its neighbouring states. It is neccesary to advance European values and establish mechanisms that would at state, as well as civil society, level constrain the negative consequences of propaganda.

The reccomendations suggest establishment of mechanism that would limit the negative effects of propaganda, increase NATO and EaP state cooperation to avert new hyber-threats, as well as granting Georgia and Ukraine a visa-free regime.

Reccomendations in their entirety can be viewd here:

http://appc.lv/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Recomendations-Riga-2015.pdf

Issues assessed at the conference included current successes, challenges and opportunities to the EU Eastern Partnership’s policies from the perspective of civil society, regional defence, the support mechanisms for strengthening civil society, and other developments in the Eastern Partnership policy.

The conference welcomed experts, politicians, and delegates from EU and EaP states, among which was Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations; Sandra Kalniete, a Member of the European Parliament; Oleh Rybachuk, the former Foreign Minister of Ukraine; Ales Bialiatski, the Head of Belarussian Centre of Human Rights “Vyasna” and President of International Federation of Human Rights; Ian Bond, the Director of Foreign Affairs at Centre for European Reform; Jeff Lovitt, the Director of The Policy Association for an Open Society, and many others.

The Conference commenced with expert assessments on the possibilities of improving the civil society’s participation in the Eastern Partnership’s processes. Questions were raised on the current state of relations between the European Union and Eastern Europe; the main challenges in carrying out reforms; the role of civil societies domestic, regional, and Eastern Partnership’s policy making.

Ales Bialiatski, Chairman of the Belarusian Human Rights Centre “Vyasna” and Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights, pointed out that the civil society is a ‘locomotive’ that pulls the EaP countries towards the European Union and its values, and acts as an advocate of people. The expert concluded that it is crucial to follow this ‘locomotive’ strengthens the move towards a democratic society, and does not become a political weapon of authoritative regimes.

The EU Eastern Partnership Civil Society Conference gathered more than 300 experts and representatives of civil society from various countries, providing a platform for debate on multiple pressing issues regarding the Eastern Partnership. Participating in the conference are experts from the European Union (EU) and all six Eastern Partnership’s states – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The goal of the conference is to help strengthen civil society, and to involve it in the planning and implementation of the Eastern Partnership policy.

The Eastern Partnership Civil Society Conference which was held on May 20-21 in Riga, was organized in cooperation with the Latvian Institute of International Affairs (LIIA), the Centre for East European Policy Studies (CEEPS) and the Latvian Transatlantic Organization (LTO), with the participation of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum. The conference is supported by the European Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, the Secretariat of the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Black Sea Trust, a Project of the German Marshall Fund of the US and the National Endowment for Democracy.

More information on EU EaP Civil Society Conference: www.appc.lv, www.easteurope.lv and on the Internet pages of Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia.

Additional Information:

Ieva Dzelme-Romanovska
Communications Manager
Eastern Partnership Civil Society
Conference 2015
E-mail: ieva.dzelme@appc.lv