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On 22 June 2018, at the EaP 10th Informal Partnership Dialogue in Minsk, Mikalai Kvantaliani, member of the Steering Committee (SC) of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF), delivered a speech on behalf of the Forum in presence of EU’s Commissioner of Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Johannes Hahn, and the ministers of Foreign Affairs of the six EaP countries.

In his speech, Mr Kvantaliani stressed the important role played by independent civil society in providing input to the EaP reform agenda embodied by the 20 Deliverables for 2020. He announced that the Forum will continue monitoring the implementation of the 2020 Deliverables and produce a monitoring report ahead of the next Ministerial meeting, featuring the input of EaP civil society organisations.

«We appreciate the role given to the EaP CSF as EU’s best and only counterpart and ally to channel structured dialogue with civil society in the EaP region.»

Mikalai Kvantaliani

Steering Committee, Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

The SC member raised concerns on the proposal to unify most of the EU external funding instruments of territorial and thematic nature under one Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument within the next EU multiannual budget covering the period 2021-2027. The Forum advocated ensuring the current structure and approach to civil society support under European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), including the Civil Society Facility.

Mr Kvantaliani also welcomed the involvement of civil society at the Human Rights Dialogues between the EU and some EaP countries (Moldova and Belarus) and called on other states to follow these examples. Furthermore, he invited all the present stakeholders to join civil society at the EaP CSF 10th Annual Assembly in Tbilisi, which will take place on 6-7 December 2018.

Following these general remarks, the EaP CSF representative presented the main developments in the Eastern Partnership countries:

Armenia

«The civil society is supportive of the efforts of the new government to fight corruption, crime and artificial monopolies. We hope that the ambitious reform agenda will be harmonised with the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Armenia and the EU to ensure that the efforts of the authorities, civil society and the EU are focused on the same areas. We are concerned that in spite of the important role given to civil society in CEPA, the role of the Armenian National Platform, the process for the creation of the bilateral platform envisioned by CEPA, as well as the ways of financing both platforms remain unclear.»

Azerbaijan

«We welcome the negotiations on the new Partnership Agreement between Azerbaijan and the EU and reiterate the importance of the presence of the human rights related clauses and conditionality in the agreement. We call on the authorities of Azerbaijan to stop the arbitrary detentions of opposition and human rights activists and other dissenting groups, the disbarring of human rights lawyers, and pressure on the independent news outlets in and outside the country.»

Belarus

«We welcome the work of the EU and Belarus officials on the Partnership Priorities, their openness to the involvement of civil society in this process and look forward to the speedy signing and start of the implementation of the Priorities. Human rights should be at the core of the Priorities and the EU-Belarus cooperation. The reforms of higher education in the framework of the Bologna process should be more transparent and open for civil society participation. We call on the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus to recognise the Belarusian National Platform as stakeholder and partner for the Strategic Action Plan implementation.»

Georgia

«Georgia has seen its Prime Minister and the cabinet resign after a wave of protests. The citizens’ trust into the justice system is low even after the three waves of judiciary reforms in the country. The investigation of the Afgan Mukhtarli case is ongoing but allegedly, there is not enough evidence to open the criminal investigation. We are concerned Georgia is no longer a place where human right defenders can feel safe. We welcome the positive effects brought about by the introduction of the visa free regime – over 60.000 people travelled to the EU without visa since March 2017. The assessment of the AA/DCFTA implementation has been positive by both the European Commission and civil society.»

Moldova

«We express our deep concern over the escalating pressure on the representatives of civil society fighting against corruption and state capture in Moldova and call on the Moldovan authorities to stop attacks on the activists. We condemn the non-transparent and baseless invalidation of the mandate of Andrei Nastase in the Chisinau mayoral election by the Chisinau City Court and call on all European Union institutions and EU member states to take a strong stance on this violation of democratic principles. The invalidation of the elections in such a manner undermines the trust of the Moldovan people in the state institutions».

Ukraine

«We support the efforts of the Ukrainian government to recover its citizens detained in Russia, in particular in the case of Oleg Sentsov. We call on the Ukrainian authorities to reconsider their policy on access to Crimea and facilitate the work of journalists and activists. We welcome the adoption of the Law on the High Anti-Corruption Court. However, it is worrisome that the provisions on appealing the already ongoing high-profile cases may hinder its application, effectively weakening the institution and delaying its work. We call on the Ukrainian authorities to ensure the unrestrained activity of anti-corruption NGOs.»

Commissioner Hahn, during his opening speech at the meeting, reassured that the neighbourhood will remain as a priority for the next multi annual financial framework with an increase of 22 billion Euros (26%) compared to the current budget. He also presented the state of play and the challenges on the implementation of the EaP 2020 Deliverables.

«There are some areas where we need to improve our common efforts: key judicial reforms on rule of law, needed notably for the fight against corruption; stronger commitment of partner countries on the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate.»

Johannes Hahn

EC Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, European Union