CSF appeals to EU leaders to increase public participation in European integration efforts
News Source: PASOS Secretariat
Drawing upon a study conducted by PASOS, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (CSF) has issued a statement to top European Union and Eastern Partnership diplomats that asks them to increase public and civil society participation in the union’s European integration efforts.
“To achieve sustainable democratic development, EU and partner countries must place inclusive policymaking, deep democracy, and monitoring of EU spending at core of relations in all partner countries – and launch public awareness campaigns to explain mutual benefits of closer European integration,” according to the statement, which was addressed to Catherine Ashton, Vice-President, European Commission, and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, European Council; Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy; and to the foreign ministers of the Eastern Partnership countries and EU member states.
“‘The Civil Society Forum is convinced that the mutual benefits of closer European integration must be given priority in all partner countries without differentiation with respect to the level of progress at the governmental level in working towards agreements with the EU.”
PASOS Executive Director Jeff Lovitt joined Boris Navasardyan, acting chair of the Forum, and Natalia Yerashevich, director of the Forum’s secretariat, in signing the statement, which can be downloaded here.
The statement was released in conjunction with the publication of The Eastern Partnership Roadmap to the Vilnius Summit, a series of country baseline studies and overview report that the Forum commissioned PASOS to research and publish. Lovitt is coordinator of the Forum’s Democracy, Human Rights, Good Governance & Stability working group and edited the paper.
The publication contains country-specific reports for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine that assess their progress on becoming integrated with the EU. The report was written ahead of the Novermber 28-29 Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius. The Forum statement called on those attending the event to use the gathering to reform EU processes, and offered a list of seven recommendations:
- A mechanism should be developed to incorporate dialogue between government and civil society into all CIB projects, and to ensure independent monitoring of the use and effectiveness of the funding allocated under the CIB programme.
- A permanent co-operation platform should be established to facilitate dialogue between the National Platform and EURONEST MPs in the respective partner countries. Thematic working groups of non-government experts and stakeholders (e.g. business, human rights watchdogs) should be established to link civil society, EU representatives, and state agencies regulating corresponding policy areas.
- Renewed impetus should be dedicated to co-operation between the Partner countries to realise more fully the multilateral component that was always an intrinsic part of the Eastern Partnership initiative.
- Greater transparency and public debate are required on the implications of the Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area Agreements, including the creation and development of mechanisms of SME support in Partner countries with specific attention to local conditions.
- A public awareness campaign around democratic values and the mutual benefits of closer European integration must be given priority in all partner countries.
- The EU and its member states also have to make a firmer commitment across all EU institutions for respect to free and fair elections and promotion of deep democracy in the partner countries. A complete review of the level and status of participation of MEPs in election monitoring is now essential.
- Short-term travel to the EU without visa requirements should be an achievable goal for Georgia and Ukraine before the Riga summit, and ahead of 2014 parliamentary elections in the case of Moldova.
“The roadmap plotting the trajectory from the Vilnius summit to the 2015 Eastern Partnership summit scheduled to take place in Riga during the Latvia EU Council Presidency should place centre-stage deepening democracy and participatory policymaking. A democracy roadmap is required for the journey to Riga,” the statement concludes.
The mandate of the CSF is to influence EU institutions and national governments by presenting the recommendations of the CSF during the decision-making process. The Forum was created as part of a European Commission effort “to support the further development of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)” and “to promote contacts among CSOs and facilitate their dialogue with public authorities.”