Report from the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum meeting of Working Group 1 on Democracy, Human Rights, Good Governance and Stability
Report from the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum meeting of Working Group 1 on Democracy, Human Rights, Good Governance and Stability 

The meeting was held on October 7 and 8, 2010 in Brussels and over 60 representatives from both EU and EaP countries participated and contributed to the discussions. The moderators Kristina Prunerova from European Partnership for Democracy and Siarhiej Mackievic from Assembly of Non-governmental Organizations of Belarus began the meeting by summarising the work of the steering committee since the last meeting in Brussels in November 2009. 

The representative of the European Commission, Mr. Maciej Stadejek welcomed the participants to the meeting and wished fruitful discussion. Representatives of national platforms thereafter spoke about the activities of the various platforms. 

The main objectives of the meeting were the following: 

• To present the work of the WG 1 and its division into subgroups 
• To present the intergovernmental platforms and panels and the state of the play of these meetings and how the CSF WG 1 can become involved 
• To have separate discussions on subgroup topics, prepare recommendations and proposals and find possible cooperation among the organizations 
• To plan the work programmme of the group and the subgroups for the next year aswell as the planning of the EaP CSF event in Berlin 
• Open discussion about the role of EaP CSF and feedback from the participants Work of the WG1 

The work of the group should be based on 3 areas: 

1.  Work program of the EaP Platform 1 for 2009 and 2010 (http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/eastern/platforms/docs/platform1_091009_en.pdf) 
-this is a general framework for the work of the Platforms and should be a general framework for the work of our group as well 

2. Focus of this work programme under the Democratic Governance: 
• improved functioning of the judiciary 
• public administration reform 
• fight against corruption 

3. Recommendations of the CSF working group 1 presented at the Forum meeting in November 2009 
(http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/eastern/civil_society/forum/working_group1_en.pdf) 
-these are areas that the civil society views as important within the democracy, human rights, good governance and stability 

The working group will work on all 3 levels. Based on initial assessment, the coordinators decided to divide the work of the group into the following subgroups: 

1. Fight against corruption (based on the work program of the platform and other activities) 
2. Public administration reform (based on the work program of the platform and other activities) 
3. Judiciary reform (based on the work program of the platform and other activities) 
4. VISA facilitation group (request from the participants of the Forum) 
5. Human Rights (request from the participants of the Forum) 
6. Media (request from the participants of the Forum) Please see below more detailed reports from the subgroup meetings. 

The main topics touched during the session on feedback about CSF were the following: 

Access to documentation 

• We need to improve the access to documents and information about intergovernmental meetings and we have to gain access to all relevant meetings in order to present our possible input
 
Added value of the EaP CSF 

• To make the Eastern Partnership process more transparent, visible and accountable 
• To encourage the pro-European approach of the EaP governments 
• To coordinate, well prepare and deliver the CSO input and participation into the process 

Exclusion from EaP process 

• The Belarusian government has several times expressed their reservation to the participation of CSF in EaP meetings so the Steering Committee should draft a letter to be sent on behalf of the CSF stressing the fact that all CSOs (not only Belarusian ones) are being excluded from the EaP process

Openness towards Cooperation 

• At all CSF meetings there should be space for inviting government representatives (both from the EU as well as EaP) in order to show our openness towards cooperation and to have a possibility to give our opinion 

Selection Process 

• The selection process to the Forum as well as to the National Platform should be well developed and followed 

Fund-raising 

• We were informed by the Commission that there will be no additional funding for the CSF so we need to devise a plan for fundraising 

Conclusions and recommendations of the Anti-corruption subgroup 

International support to fight against corruption in the EaP region is primarily based on the intergovernmental top-down approach. Moreover, support to fight against corruption is mostly donor driven as majority of the EaP governments do not have a genuine political will to combat corruption in their countries. Paper work and imitation of reform prevails. The EaP Platform 1 anti-corruption activity is not seen to be an exception from this set. 

Where the government ownership of the reform is weak or nil, there is a need for a broad public ownership of the anti-corruption reform, especially taking into account that public acceptance of corruption in the EaP countries remains one of the main obstacles to decreasing the levels of corruption. As an overall goal, we should aim to include CSOs into anti-corruption policies and activities at the EaP multilateral and bilateral levels. 

Trying to answer the question what role the EaP CSF should have in the anti-corruption area, three general objectives have been defined: 

1. Joint and regular monitoring of anti-corruption policies and the state of corruption in the EaP6 as a form of civil society contribution to the EaP anti-corruption activities. 
2. Strengthening cooperation between EaP and EU CSOs. This should be implemented through developing common initiatives aimed at expertise and other capacities building of CSOs in the EaP countries and experience transfer between the EU CSOs to the EaP countries. 
3. Developing a dialogue with international donors to anti-corruption and in particular with European donors aiming to change donor policies. In particular, EaP CSF will advocate for CSOs inclusion at the policy planning and implementation of foreign aid to AC. 
 

Next steps for the Berlin CSF and further: 

1. Create a network of CSOs interested in the topic not limited to the CSF participants. This network shall serve as hub of expertise on the anti-corruption in the EaP countries and EU countries. Compile a database of contacts, using Transparency International contacts. 
2. Establish communication with the anti-corruption expert panel (the coordinator and EU MS representatives which revealed the interest). 
3. Define and declare one year common goal in AC (e.g. declaration of assets and properties by public officials, the petition system functioning or any other topic in which all EaP6 have an interest). To achieve the goal, we will elaborate a project and seek for funding to achieve this goal that would include research, monitoring, advocacy, experience transfer activities at the EaP level and all the EaP 6 
countries. 

Prepared by: Natalia Shapovalova, FRIDE, Spain 


Recommendations of the subgroup on Public Administration Reform 

Vision 

Efficient public administrations should put the citizen into the centre of their functioning. Citizens should be seen as the end customers of public administration; the public administration reform must ensure that citizens have easy and equal access to civil services, and that the services are efficient, affordable and timely. 

It is essential to ensure the transparency of governance at all levels in order to ensure full accountability and prevent corruption. Decentralisation should be a key focus of administrative reform. The development of local communities is the core of sustainable society. 

For reforms to be successful, they must be implemented with the strongest possible involvement of society. Experience shows that no institution will ever reform itself unless pressure is applied externally. Civil society institutions can provide crucial input and ensure an unbiased approach to the elaboration of reform strategies. 

Proposed lines of action 

• Encourage governments of EaP countries to adopt and implement National Strategies for Local Self-Government and Public Administration Reform in consultation with civil society organizations; 
• Encourage the governments of EaP countries which have joined the European Charter on Local Self-Government to implement it, and Belarus to join it; ensure the implementation of subsidiarity principles; 
• Encourage governments of EaP countries to disseminate information and raise awareness about reforms, good practices and country situations in the sphere of public administration reform; 
• Ensure independent monitoring of public administration reforms and European cooperation projects including those funded under budget support and CIB; 
• Encourage governments of EaP countries to decrease the administrative burden on taxpayers; reduce bodies with overlapping functions; 
• Involve civil society in the decision-making process whenever governments negotiate with EU for support or propose projects and strategies, including twinning programs, in the sphere of public administration reform; 
• Create another track within twinning programs that will enable local civil society to manage quick efficient expert exchanges and training for local self-administration; organize training and education of public officials and local self-government officials based on a set of values and training needs assessment; 
Prepared by: Svyatoslav Pavlyuk, PAUCI, Ukraine; 

Nina Iskandaryan, Caucasus Institute, Armenia 

Recommendations from Judiciary reform subgroup 

Representatives of the subgroup provided short presentations about the state-of-play in the area of the judiciary in the countries present. The members specifically referred to the monitoring reports/analysis prepared by the civil society organizations in the area of the judiciary reform. 

Based on the comprehensive discussion, sub-group members agreed that although there are considerable differences in the member states of the EaP in the area of the judicial reform, the core of the issue can be identified as joint assessments can be carried out and respective recommendations be advocated vis-a-vis state authorities and EU institutions in the light of the EaP process. 

Specific issues identified are inter alia, the following: 

• Independence and impartiality of the judges (corruption, pressure from the Executive, “trend to support prosecution”) 
• Appointment system (transparency, independence from the Executive and efficiency) 
• Access to justice (Efficiency of the delivery of the free legal aid; Quality and level of access for the most vulnerable part of the society); 
• Transparency of the justice (especially in the area of usage of the pre-trial measures) 

• Role of the judicial bodies in the area of the covert investigative measures; 

“Procedural” recommendations for the process 

• Increase in the transparency of EU funding to the justice sector for the countries in concern 
• Creation of the specific platforms for the civil society engagement in the reforms planning and implementation from the side of the authorities (example of the Georgian Inter agency reform council and EU budget support program) 
• Necessity to provide more specific and explicit recommendations with regard to the policy/legislation and practice in this area from the EU, in its Action plans, reports, assessments 
• Necessity for the creation of the expert group(s) for the assessment of the enforcement of the national legislation vis-a-vis to the international and European standards 
• Creation of the periodic system for the joint (EU, participation country authorities and Civil Society representatives) follow-up with regard to the implementation of the recommendations to the government presented by the EU 
• Support for diversification and increase in the level of the funding for the civil society organisations working in the area 
• Increase the engagement of the representatives (experts) from the civil society organizations in the activities under the EU support programs diverted towards the authorities 
• For the WG – to prepare joint set of the recommendations for all 6 thematic subgroups; which should be submitted to the Berlin forum; discussed and further advocated towards the EU institutions; Thee members of this sub-group agreed to elaborate the set of the recommendations before the Berlin forum and submit to the WG coordinator. 

Prepared by: Giorgi Chkeidze, Georgain Young Lawyers’ Association 


Report from the meeting of the Visa Liberalization subgroup 

Civil society in all EP countries is very much interested in the subject, but the biggest challenge for the NGOs dealing with the issue remains the unwillingness of the governments and well as of the European Commission to share any visa related information. 

In the second part of the meeting we touched upon: 

1. Synergies with other Working Groups and Platforms Visa issues touch upon a number of derivate problems and thus is dispersed among various groups. Therefore it is necessary to: 
• Follow the work of other groups that deal with cross-thematic issues like academic exchange and migration but also human rights or anti-corruption; 
• Reinforce our actions through linkage and emphasis on visa-related problems with other areas 
• Introduce new arena for discussion of cross-sectional issues 
2. Differentiation of the message in regard to the addressee type, i.e. different aspects of the issue should be highlighted when: 
• Talking to the representatives of EaP countries – emphasis on technical and legal compliance 
• Talking to EU – as the decision of whether or not to launch visa facilitation is purely political, plea not to apply double standards to countries who are equally prepared for the visa facilitation/liberalization process 
• Talking to the EaP public – focus on the fact that the facilitation/liberalization (VF/VL) process is time-consuming, therefore they need to be more patient. Additionally, the message has to be clear that VF/VL does not equate to a total freedom of movement. 
3. Convince both sides (EaP governments and the EU) that visa liberalization has the potential to become success story: 
• For the EU to be perceived as more open (no more “Fortress Europe” ) 
• For the EaP governments to show their citizens tangible results of their approximation to the EU 
4. Work plan of the WG 
• Monitor the implementation of introduced or promised VF processes (the outcomes of the PASOS project on visa liberalization may come in handy, especially the website for the remaining EaP countries on visa issues -www.novisa.eu link it with the CSF website (January 2011) 
• Track the application of funds earmarked for VF/VL projects, i.e. to see how money was spent on the project they were meant for 
• Continuation of the Visa Working Group will be ensured by Coalition for Visa-free travel meeting in format Forum+ (including all organizations participating in the Visa sub-Group and others interested in visa subject). 
5. Ideas for the II CSF recommendations: 
• General recommendations shall be elaborated by specific recommendations appended in the attachment 
• Decouple the technical from the political: more funds to be assigned for technical assistance: trainings for those involved in VL, trainings for journalists
• Request the EU to make the VF/VL road maps/action plans public 
• Appeal to the member states not to forsake the issue of VL, especially in the light of dropping the issue from the forthcoming presidencies’ agendas 

Prepared by: Maria Staszkiewicz, Association for International Affairs, Czech Republic; 
Anita Szymborska, Stefan Batory Foundation, Poland 


Summary of the debate of the Human Rights subgroup 

Creation of the human rights group has been already mentioned at the Forum in Brussels last year. A “baseline” product should be a periodical monitoring of human rights situation and important events from all 6 EaP countries, put together bi-yearly in March and September (roughly one month before the intergovernmental Platform 1 meetings). 

We believe this smaller report is very important to WG1 and the CSF on the whole as it allows, on the one hand, the organizations from EaP6 countries to cooperate on a regional level, and on the other hand, to have something tangible, a practical outcome of these meetings. We keep referring to the recommendations for the European Commission. This monitoring report would be a practical basis for us to ground our recommendations on, at least within human rights sphere. 

This report will build on existing reports from the six countries, which will be provided by selected human rights subgroup members (1-2 pages plus 3-4 bullet point recommendations from each country) and then put together by group coordinator under one format. 

The section on each country will dwell on five areas: 
1. Freedom of expression 
2. Freedom of assembly 
3. Freedom of association 
4. Other human rights issues relevant for the country 
5. Electoral processes (if the elections are taking place in that particular country) The report from each country will be tailored according to the situation in that country. In some countries, concerns will mainly be caused by the freedom of expression, in others by freedom of assembly and in some, by other human rights. We provide these five areas as general guidelines. 

The final part of each section will contain recommendations to the European Union of what to look into when having talks with each particular country. 

The submissions should be sent to Marek Svoboda and Katerina Przybylska. First deadline is January 31, 2011. More details will be discussed in Berlin. 

Other topics to focus on: 
• Lobbying the issue of human rights to be included in the agenda of the meetings 
• Monitoring how the issue of human rights is included in the agenda of the intergovernmental meetings and how it is taken into consideration while deciding on bi-lateral projects 
• Monitoring of how governmental declarations on the progress with human rights actually look on the ground. 
• Defining criteria of progress, once we are considered a more relevant partner for the commission. 
This subgroup is not exclusive and if during the Forum or even now we have people willing to join, please contact the coordinators Marek Svoboda and Katerina Przybylska. In the subgroup on the monitoring during the CSF, we will present this idea, where people can also join the team. 

During the month our group will concentrate on setting some clear objectives and indicators of success – to know where we are heading and to be able to define how successful we are. These objectives would be revised during the upcoming Forum and during next Forums as a one year evaluation. 

Prepared by: Marek Svoboda, People in Need Czech Republic 
Katerina Przybylska, Robert Schumann Foundation Belarus 


Report from the meeting of the Media subgroup 

The participants of the Media subgroup lead by Mr. Boris Navasardian (Armenia) discussed the media situation in their countries (Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine) focusing on the developments in the fields of public TV broadcasting, digital TV, and Internet freedom as well as defamation, access to information, and self-regulation of media outlets. 

The participants concluded that to some extent the above-mentioned issues are highly prioritized in the media development agendas of all countries. The Media subgroup suggested its recommendations to the Civil Society Forum (being conceived both as the annual event and as permanent activities of the participants in line with EaP priorities) within the 3 levels: 
• Realms of activities 
• Forms of activities 
• Proposals of the particular projects to be implemented. 
Media group suggested to closely monitor the state-of-play of Public Broadcasting System functioning in the EaP countries focusing mainly at administration of the system and funding. Also it was proposed to develop expert recommendations based on the monitoring to be delivered to the national governments and the European Commission. The same mechanism of work could be applied to civil society activities related to the Internet freedom. Expert attention and watch-dog methodology are to be focused on the threat of controlling of the web by public authorities in EaP area. 

The following forms of civil lobbying concerning the defamation were proposed by the group: exclusion of the criminal prosecution from the national legislations and erasing the possibilities to bankrupt media companies based on defamation. As for the access to the information media experts suggested implementing of the corresponding laws and harmonization of the national legislations on access to information with the EU standards. The group also recommended media expert community is to pay particular attention to the possible threats made by digitalization of TV in EaP countries. Monopolization of media sphere and disappearing of small local TV broadcasters could seriously threaten media 
plurality and diversity. 

At the level of forms of activities it was suggested to create Media Sub-Groups at the national level within the EaP platforms and finally of the Network of such groups. Annual Public Hearings on Media Freedom in a particular country from the EaP area resulted in resolution papers was considered as an example of joint work to be done by the newly-created Network. Also the group participants agreed to provide the Second Civil Society Forum to be held in Berlin with the informational support by encouraging the national journalists to cover the Forum. 

The Group outlined the ideas for future projects to be implemented. It was proposed to launch information campaigns promoting of the essence and goals of EaP at national levels with the regular sociological surveys to measure the public opinion in dynamics. The group suggested creating the interactive web-portal aiming at the description of the media landscapes of EaP countries based on the common methodology and indicators. Also it was proposed to hold civil society monitoring of the relations between the EU and EaP countries by means of in-depth journalistic investigation program based on multilateral media cooperation. 

As a recommendation for the European Commission the participants of Media Subgroup suggested to include the media issues into official agenda of Platform # 1 to be discussed on intergovernmental level. Also the group defined its top priority – to adapt of national media laws to the EU standards. 

Prepared by: Boris Navasardian, Yerevan Press Club, Armenia; 
Andriy Kulakov, Internews-Ukraine, Ukraine
2011.12.30

<< Back