Statement on behalf of the International Fund for Cooperation and Partnership of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea at the 6th Assembly of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum Batumi, Georgia November 20-21, 2014

Dear participants of the Forum,

First of all, I would like to thank you for the invitation to participate in the 6th Assembly of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (CSF) and the opportunity to speak on behalf of the International Fund for Cooperation and Partnership of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea (International Fund).This year, the International Fund, as well as the Eastern Partnership CSF initiative, celebrated its fifth anniversary. The International Fund brings together representatives from the European Union and member countries of the Eastern Partnership. Today the International Fund is composed of the members who are well-known, authoritative and worthy representatives of intellectuals, researchers and academics from 32 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa.Such wide geographical representation in the International Fund and strategic research projects of this think-tank focused on the challenges and threats related to the security and sustainable development of the wider Black Sea-Caspian region, and the role of civil society in overcoming difficulties and monitoring activities of civil society, gives us the advantage of a better understanding of the actual processes and needs of the entire region on the whole and of its countries individually.The five-years’ anniversary and the recent dramatic events in Ukraine should be the reason for the analysis of the work already done in the framework of the Eastern Partnership CSF, identification of gaps and suggesting proposals for further effective work of this initiative.In this regard, I would like to draw your attention to the Communication of the European Commission under the number COM (2008) 823 final, sent in 2008 to the European Parliament and the EU Council, which served as a basis for the establishment of the Eastern Partnership CSF.The text of the Communication states that the purpose of creating of the Eastern Partnership CSF is to facilitate the contacts between civil society organizations and their dialogue with public authorities.This formulation is the key to understanding the mission and objectives that are assigned to the Eastern Partnership CSF. It clearly and specifically refers to the two main components of activity within the CSF: development of contacts and dialogue.In this regard, it should be noted that the Eastern Partnership CSF should not be associated with the club, where only specifically selected representatives of non-governmental organizations meet. This may damage the image of the Eastern Partnership CSF and implementation of its stated objectives.Perhaps you will agree, that this Forum should reflect the whole spectrum of civil society both in the partner countries and in the EU member states. It should facilitate discussions with the participation of all layers of civil society with the active involvement of independent non-governmental organizations, experts and analysts from the Eastern Partnership countries and the EU.It seems unlikely that without the above mentioned approach the forum would be able to ensure the development of contacts between all representatives of civil society and to build an effective dialogue with public authorities.These issues could be considered in the discussion and adoption of the “Strategy for the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum for the period 2015-2017” which is offered to adopt during the 6th Assembly.

Thank you for your attention.

Julia Akhunova

BSCSIF Project Coordinator,

Adviser to Secretary General

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