2 october 2013
News: Commissioner to address Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in Chisinau
Civil society is at the heart of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fule has told the Civil Society Forum meeting in Moldova, expressing his support for its role in promoting our shared values, and pledging significant EU funding opportunities to support its efforts to participate in the implementation of national reforms and democratic development.
Pointing to the motto of the Forum Together for a European Future Fule he added that ''there is no doubt in my mind that for all six [eastern] partners, the future is European.Civil Society is at the heart of the Eastern Partnership, he said in his speech. The European Union and the Partnership are values based; this includes first and foremost human rights. Equality and non-discrimination as well as freedom of expression and assembly are core rights.''
The Commissioner was addressing the 5th Meeting of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in the Moldovan capital Chisinau today, the first time that the Forum is taking place in a partner country.
He said much would be at stake at Novembers Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius: Work still remains to be done if Vilnius is to become a stepping stone in the history of the partnership. Both the partners and the European Union know what they have to respectively do to create the conditions to make Vilnius a Summit of delivery.
Fule listed the achievements that he hoped the EaP could celebrate at the summit:
- signing of an AA/DCFTA (Association Agreement/Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement) with Ukraine;
- initialling of AAs/DCFTAs with Moldova and Georgia;
- good progress on the mobility agendas including conclusion of Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements with Armenia and Azerbaijan;
- and tangible results of cooperation across key sectors, notably in the transport and education fields.
The Commissioner said political reforms were central to the successful transformation towards deep democracy. Genuine cooperation between governments and civil society is necessary to establish independent judicial systems or introduce systemic anti-corruption measures, both of which are necessary elements for long-term political development and sustainable economic growth. ''Governments should be held to account, and this is the role not only for other branches of power but also for civil society''', said Fule, adding: ''The involvement of all actors is indispensable if we wish to succeed in achieving our shared goals. No government can succeed in such an endeavour without broad support of the people.''
The Commissioner said the Civil Society Forum had established itself as a permanent feature of the work of the EaP, adding it was important that it complement the governmental track of the Eastern Partnership, and provide specific input and recommendations to help evaluate and promote the partnership.
Fule said the EU would provide whatever assistance was required, as efficiently and effectively as possible, and would continue to make significant funding opportunities available to support civil society. He said the European Commission planned to launch, towards the end of 2013 or early 2014, a new regional Call for Proposals under the Neighbourhood East Civil Society Facility. ''The Call, with a budget of around 3.85 million Euro, will mostly contribute to strengthening the capacities of civil society organisations from partner countries by allowing them to benefit from the experience of European Union civil society organisations. It will also contribute to supporting public authorities in engaging with civil society in a more efficient manner.''
The Commissioner acknowledged that the struggle for core rights was not always easy. Nevertheless, he concluded
that ''strengthening the capacity of civil society has been one of the most important and positive results of our cooperation with the Eastern Partnership. We have given Civil Society in Eastern European countries unprecedented support in both political and financial terms. And we intend to continue.''