Steering Committee (SC) members of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) gathered on 28 and 29 January for their first meeting of this year to define the main priorities of the Forum and decide on its 2016 working programme. During the first meeting of the year, the Steering Committee elects its co-Chairs. This year, Krzysztof Bobiński of Unia & Polska Foundation was chosen to continue his work as EU co-Chair and Uladzislau Vialichka of International Consortium EUROBELARUS took the role of EaP co-Chair.

National Platform Facilitators updated the colleagues on the situation in their respective countries. A special attention was paid to the situation in Moldova as it was rapidly evolving at the moment of the SC meeting. The SC decided to address an open letter on Moldova to the High Representative Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn proposing the establishment of a EU-driven mediation task force for Moldova. The SC also issued a statement on the human rights situation in Armenia expressing its concerns about the violation of fundamental political and civil rights and freedoms of political opponents in the country.

The SC also discussed the timeline and the selection procedure of participants for the next Annual Assembly of the Forum. While National Platform Facilitators held a group meeting to plan regional NP activities in 2016, Working Group coordinators decided upon their WG Councils and annual meetings, as well as on their participation in EaP thematic Platforms and Panels.

The Steering Committee met a number of external guests from the EU institutions. Carmen Falkenberg-Ambrosio and Michalis Proteriotis, responsible for Regional Programmes Neighbourhood East in DG NEAR, talked about the priority areas for funding of EaP projects, including the Open Communication Programme. Boris Iarochevitch, the new Head of Eastern Partnership, Regional Cooperation and OSCE Division at the EEAS, presented the main points of the ENP review and current EEAS initiatives for Eastern Partnership. The meeting with DG NEAR Deputy Director General Katarina Mathernova and Sinziana Poiana, responsible for Civil Society support at DG NEAR, mostly focused on funding initiatives in support of civil society in the region. The external meetings gave to SC members the opportunity to raise a number of issues of major concern for the Forum and exchange views on ways of strengthening the civil society participation.