Partnership or closed club?
One of the brick-set causes is the fact that the British people got tired of fighting with bulky and clumsy bureaucracy of the European Commission. EaP Civil Society Forum is a great example of how a good idea could got stuck in a quagmire. We have already spoken about the results of EaP CSF conference in Riga (http://www.west-east-fund.com/index.php/en/news/48-eastern-partnership-civil-society-forum-or-give-us-some-water-as-we-are-so-hungry-that-don-t-have-no-place-to-sleep). Unfortunately, 7th EaP CSFAnnual Assembly in Kyiv developed more questions rather than provided the participants with answers. The main paradox is that The Steering Committee EaP CSF has the same authority as the Belorussian president Lukashenko. Only the Steering Committee knows which EU organizations sent the application forms to participate in the next EaP CSF Annual Assembly and only Steering Committee decides what organizations are to be accepted or rejected. EaP CSF National Platforms have the right to recommend the organizations representing their countries at the EaP CSF Annual Assembly. We would like to remind that the participation in EaP CSF Annual Assembly gives the right for the organization to become a member of EaP CSF. Thus, even though the EU organization got the membership of EaP CSF to receive the information about other EU members, addresses and e-mails in particular, is impossible. This is a secret under lock and key. So, even when the EU Organization got the membership of EaP CSF it is still very restricted in its opportunities to influence anything. Such organizations have
much less rights in comparison with the organizations from EaP. The rules of EaP CSF functioning remind more the closed club rather than the structure aimed at spread and promotion of the ideas of democracy and equality. It is obvious that the majority of EU organizations are not satisfied with those rules. The attempts of our organization and our colleagues to rise these questions at the 7th EaP CSF Annual Assembly in Kyiv were not successful at all. As a result, West-East Bridges Foundation addressed the Director General DG Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations European Commission DANIELSSON Christian with the following letter. Its text could be found down below.
Stitching Respect International - West-East Bridges Foundation was created in 2011 for the promotion of democracy, equality and intercultural dialogue between the countries of Western and Eastern Europe. The organisation’s staff consists of Dutch, UK, French, German, Austrian, Turkish, Russian and Armenian citizens. In 2015 we carried out two successful Erasmus+ trainings in Georgia and Armenia with the representatives of NGOs from Albania, Armenia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, FYROM, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Latvia, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Turkey, UK and Ukraine.
In 2014 West-East Bridges Foundation applied for the participation in the 6th Annual Assembly of Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) that took place in Batumi. But our organisation was not selected to participate. In 2015 I participated in EaP CSF conference which took place in Riga and in the 7th EaP CSF Annual Assembly in Kyiv. All the expenses regarding our participation were covered by our organization. During my presentation at the plenary of EaP CSF conference in Riga I asked why the majority of the conference participants represented Eastern Europe? During the Annual Assembly in Kiev it has become obvious why. The participation conditions for the EU representatives of EaP CSF are discriminatory. Unlike Eastern Partnership countries, the representatives of EU don’t have their platform. We lack the opportunities to meet and discuss the results of EaP CSF Annual Assembly, to coordinate our strategy for the upcoming year, to work out the recommendations for the upcoming Annual Assembly. We can not even cooperate online as EaP CSF web platform doesn’t have lists of EU members and their contact details. National platforms from Eastern Partnership countries have opportunity to select participants from their countries for the next Annual Assembly, while the civil society representatives from EU lack this opportunity. We don’t know how many people applied and what the selection criteria were. We are also surprised by the non-availability of financial reports of EaP CSF on a web platform. No reports on this issue followed during 7th EaP CSF Annual Assembly in Kiev. During that Assembly me and some other colleagues suggested the establishment of EU platform, but the decision on this issue was not made.
In January 2016 me and my colleagues from Czech Republic, Latvia and Greece initiated a letter to you and to The Steering Committee with the suggestion to discuss the possibility of the establishment of EU platform. Please find the copies of these letters attached. The letter was sent to the address of The Steering Committee. No answer followed. We know that the similar letters to The Steering Committee were sent from such well-known EU organisations as The European Association for Local Democracy and Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association. Also no results. At the end, initiated by Antonella Valmorbida, Secretary General of The European Association for Local Democracy in Belgium, on June 2nd, 2016, the web conference was organized for the EU EaP CSF members. The representative of our organization took part in this conference. The conference showed that the members The Steering Committee and Secretariat of the Steering Committee are strictly against the establishment of EU platform. So it appears that there is no actual partnership between civil society institutions of Eastern partnership and EU, there is only partnership between Eastern partnership countries and The Steering Committee.
Since 2009, when the EaP CSF was established, the situation in Europe has dramatically changed. As the leaders of European countries were stating during the EaP CSF conference in Riga, the civil society institutions are playing an important role in the creation and development of all-European space where democracy, equality and human rights are deeply respected. The EaP is mostly financed by the EU budget, and we are sure that the representatives of civil society from EU countries shall have equal rights and opportunities in the frameworks of EaP CSF with the representatives from Eastern Partnership countries.
West-East Bridges Foundation asks you to minister the organization of civil society representatives - EaP CSF members from EU countries’ meeting this year to discuss the practicability of the establishment of the EU platform and the procedures of its efficient functioning.