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Stockholm, 29 November 2012
Civil Society Forum one of the most dynamic elements of the Eastern Partnership
European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle took part in the fourth assembly of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in Stockholm on Thursday. He addressed the meeting of over 200 representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) from Eastern European countries and the European Union.
Representatives of civil society from six partner countries and their counterparts from the European Union discussed further the contribution of the Forum to the implementation of the Eastern Partnership. The participants exchanged views on the further steps to be undertaken, in particular in the areas of freedom of media and combating corruption. They also discussed the role of civil society in ensuring free and fair elections in Eastern European countries.
In his opening remarks at the Forum, Commissioner Füle outlined the political agenda of the Eastern Partnership until the next Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013: “If the reform process is accelerated and we maintain the current pace of negotiations of Association Agreements, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, then the prospects of finalising these negotiations by the time of the Vilnius Summit in November 2013 are good. I also believe that the Vilnius Summit could see the signature of Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, with Ukraine. But to make it happen, the European Union’s firm commitment to pursue political association and economic integration with Ukraine needs to be mirrored by determined actions of the Ukrainian government and the new Parliament to address well know and oft repeated concerns.“
He added that the process of political association and economic integration of partner countries with the EU requires strong involvement and support from civil society. Therefore, the EU has encouraged partner countries' governments to establish a regular structured dialogue with representatives of civil society.
Commissioner Füle also signed an agreement for almost EUR 1 million in support to strengthen capacities of national platforms of the Civil Society Forum that have been established in all six partner countries and announced the European Commission´s decision to financially support the newly established permanent secretariat which will support the work of the Civil Society Forum.
At the same time he informed the Forum of the smooth implementation of the Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility which offers increased financial opportunities for CSOs and the establishment of the European Endowment for Democracy which will also provide additional support for those who fight for democratic causes in neighbouring countries.