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European Commission

Štefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

ENP – Engaging with civil society on the transformation in the neighbourhood

Meeting with Civil Society Organisations, Brussels

29 October 2013

Commissioner Füle met with Civil Society Organisations in the framework of the annual consultation process with stakeholders in view of the preparation of the next European Neighbourhood Policy country progress reports. The meeting provided the opportunity to exchange views with representatives of the civil society based on their own experience and their perception of the European Neighbourhood Policy implementation. At the meeting Commissioner Füle said:

'I am delighted that I have this opportunity to talk, but more important to listen to, the civil society. It is extremely important to hear your views about the European Neighbourhood Policy implementation and about social, political and economic developments in the partner countries. All your contributions will be very helpful when preparing the next progress reports. I am very grateful for that.

1st: The ENP is a prime example of the EU's comprehensive approach to foreign policy - using all instruments and policies at our disposal in a coherent way under the umbrella of the ENP – from CFSP/CSDP to political cooperation and trade policy, but also sector policies such as energy, environment, transport, and others, and, of course, development cooperation policy. It is why, engaging with organisations, like yours, which are active in a wide range of areas, is so important.

Indeed, the EU attaches great importance to the civil society as it empowers citizens to express their concerns, contributes to sound and democratic policy-making and hold governments to account.

2nd:The EU Delegations in partner countries have started to build a structured dialogue with national and local organisations aimed at discussing key recommendations contained in the annual progress reports and the implementation of priorities from the Action Plans and the Association Agendas.

Moreover, the EU intends to further step up dialogue with civil society. In line with the Communication on civil society from last September, our Delegations will have to develop in 2014 EU roadmaps on working with civil society at country level, in order to increase structure, consistency and give a strategic approach to our engagement. Such effort will provide more impact, predictability and visibility to EU actions targeting civil society, as well as increased complementarity between EU instruments and the support offered by the Member States through its linkage to the EU cycle of external assistance.

3rd:We also want to strengthen the structured dialogue at the regional level. In the East, the Civil Society Forum has become a permanent feature of the work of the Eastern Partnership at the multilateral level. The success of the fifth civil society forum in Moldova in early October is a testimony of how far we have advanced in establishing a structured dialogue. This is an important achievement and one that must be constantly pursued.

In the South, we are not yet at the same situation. Many of you were in Marseilles earlier this year at the Anna Lindh Forum when I underlined the necessity for continued, structured dialogue between civil society, the authorities and the EU at a regional level. It is indeed a firmly held belief that the only way to progress is to move forward together.

4th: Among the findings from a recent evaluation of the EU's support to the two neighbourhoods were specific recommendations concerning our relations with civil society. These underline, inter alia, the need to build a new dialogue in the south, to create mechanisms to improve representativeness and communication of civil society organisations. This is what I have tasked my services to do, and I am happy to report that they are making good progress on this, consulting with you along the way on the most effective mechanisms to inspire and govern that dialogue.

One way for the EU to promote a stronger involvement of civil society in the on-going reform agenda in partner countries is to further encourage their engagement in the conception and supervision of budget support programmes, which the EU uses to support reforms in partner countries. This engagement can take many forms, depending on: the nature of the programme, the capacity of civil society on the ground and the level of openness of partner country authorities to engage with civil society. In this sense, civil society can be part of the steering committee overseeing the implementation of the budget support programmes, can be consulted on sector reform strategies, implement various components of the sector support programmes and monitor the implementation by the government of certain elements of the reforms financed.

5th: To underpin your effort and the engagement with civil society, various EU initiatives and programmes support civil society organisations in the Neighbourhood, such as the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the Non-State Actors and Local Authorities thematic programme (NSA-LA) and the Civil Society Facility. I can assure you that the Commission will continue to make significant funding opportunities available to support civil society's efforts to participate in the implementation of the transformation process. In particular we are keen to strengthen the local civil society organisations and their capacity to engage with public authorities.

6th: I am well aware that your organizations encounter difficulties in the development of your activities, at least in some partner countries. I will be very much interested to listen to your respective experiences and to your proposals to try to find appropriate solutions (under the second point of our agenda). It is the task now for partner governments to strengthen engagement with society as a whole, and ensure that reform programmes both reflect and have the support of society at large.

Finally, I want to ensure you, once more, that the EU remains firmly committed to enhancing the civil society's role in the European Neighbourhood Policy.

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