The general strategic direction of actions of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum
Suggestions of the Belarusian delegation
The role of civil society
The Eastern Partnership initiative has set a new trend in the EU policy of good neighborhood (ENP). The purposes of rapprochement of Eastern neighbors with the EU space assume a pro-active campaign of the EU in its foreign policy. The Eastern Partnership is to give a new impulse to processes of European transformation in the countries, to accelerate processes of desovetization of some nations, to stimulate processes of national building, formation of a national identity and self-esteem of societies of the countries of the Eastern Partnership, and to provide a possibility of integration with the space of the European Union by developing stable democratic structures and strengthening the role of civil society. A more active position of the EU does not cancel the fact that the driving forces of the initiative should come from the countries of the Eastern Partnership, namely from their pro-European-focused reformist governments and civil society.
In the situation when the governments of the countries of the region of the Eastern Partnership are oriented on short-term benefits and profits from the European Union, the role of civil society increases in order to keep the strategic line of rapprochement, as well as the purposes and bases of the Eastern Partnership. The role of the basic promoter and engine of the Eastern Partnership assumes that not only the governments, but also civil society should receive precise advantages and stimuli of its involvement in the initiative. Civil society can and should receive possibilities to influence the acceptance of strategic decisions in the Eastern Partnership. However, for this purpose, civil society should have its own perspective conceptualization about the development of the initiative. The Civil Society Forum provides possibilities and mechanisms to present such a position, and only the activity and quality of the offered contents can influence the fact whether they will be accepted and heard by the governments of the countries.
Strategic purposes and interests of civil society
Within the scope of the initiative of the Eastern Partnership, the Civil Society Forum has its own purposes and priorities:
* to become a valid and full-fledged participant of the EaP initiative, i.e. to form and fix mechanisms to include the voice of civil society of six partner countries and European countries in the processes of interstate interaction and rapprochement.
* to influence substantially the direction and development of interaction between the partner countries and EU, as well as the future of the EaP initiative.
* to use the EaP initiative to develop and strengthen civil society in the partner countries by including them in mechanisms of decision-making at the interstate level, as well as by creating a consistent regional network of interrelations between civil society organizations in the partner countries.
A special role of civil society consists of the following: 1) in the processes of the Eastern Partnership, it is to provide the presence of not only a pragmatic constituent, but also a valuable one, i.e. expansion of the European norms and standards, implementation of reforms in the social and political life of the partner countries; 2) it is to provide publicity and a wide public participation in the processes of the Eastern Partnership; 3) its active participation is to complement interaction of governmental structures, adding a wider spectrum of spheres and levels where there is rapprochement with Europe.
Instruments and mechanisms: multilateral monitoring of the movement
If bilateral relations and rapprochement of the EU and separate countries within the framework of the policy of good neighborhood (ENP) are regulated by the Action Plans (except for Belarus), then there are no similar mechanisms concerning multilateral rapprochement. Nowadays, it is not possible to definitely say to what degree the Eastern Partnership, as a whole, has come nearer to the implementation of its purposes. There are no adequate tools to define comparative successes in the advancement of separate countries in their adaptation of the EU norms and standards in concrete thematic areas of good governance, ecology, power safety, contacts between people, development of education, culture, etc.
The depth of interaction of the EU and each separate country is determined by the actually developed political conjuncture and contemporary history of political relations, and, as a matter of fact, has nothing to do with integrated criteria of separate countries’ real affinity to the EU space. On the one hand, it seriously limits the EU possibilities in granting positive stimuli for the governments of the partner countries because the conditions of granting such stimuli are adhered exclusively to the progress in the field of democracy and human rights, but not to the progress in adaptation of the EU standards. On the other hand, there is no possibility to see the real character of transformations in each separate country from a comparative prospect, which gives a chance to the governments of the partner countries to insist unreasonably on the expansion of integration with the EU only on the basis of the history and actually given depth of relations.
Civil society is involved in the mechanisms of evaluation of progress and monitoring of bilateral rapprochement (monitoring and alternative reports on the execution of the Action Plans). However, the degree of such involvement is not sufficient and can be expanded. At the level of multilateral rapprochement, civil society has no possibility to carry out monitoring, which, in case of Belarus (that has no bilateral relations in the EaP), basically excludes a possibility of any control of actions of the government. The Civil Society Forum, as a multilateral structure, is also deprived of formal mechanisms to control multilateral interaction at the level of thematic platforms. The level of interaction of the Forum with thematic platforms is reduced only to unidirectional informing of interstate thematic platforms about the position of civil society; the Forum can receive neither feedback, nor other information from the platforms.
The strategic contribution of the Civil Society Forum to the development of the Eastern Partnership is a proposal of a flexible and open procedure to form the "agenda" and monitoring of the Eastern Partnership, which civil society of the partner countries and EU countries can actively join. The open method of coordination (OMC), as a means of a coordinated movement without unification, can become a prototype for such a procedure. This procedure should include:
* to suggest and coordinate the partner countries’ common priorities within the scope of rapprochement with the European norms, values, and standards, both from the national governments and from civil society.
* to define and coordinate criteria and indicators which will be used when evaluating the advancement to these priorities and purposes; to form an open system of monitoring and estimation according to these indicators.
* to define "road maps"  for each of the partner countries, including the agenda for the national governments and for civil society.
* monitoring and comparative analysis of the advancement in the partner countries according to the accepted "road maps". Public discussions, evaluation and recommendations to form "road maps" for the following period.
* to exchange the best practices in the achievement of the common priorities.
The instrument of the Action Plans, already existing within the scope of the European policy of good neighborhood, works only in a bilateral order and only at the intergovernmental level. The majority of experts and politicians admit that the European policy of good neighborhood and its tools happen to be inefficient, in particular concerning democratization processes. The tool offered here, is aimed at providing involvement of a wide range of subjects (first of all, civil society), multilateral mutual coordination of the partner countries in their movement to the common priorities, expansion of levels and ways of interaction, flexibility and absence of unification.
It is necessary to include civil society not only as a monitor and a source of recommendations for the governments and EC structures, but also as an active figure of the implementation of agendas and an organizer of public discussions of processes of rapprochement with Europe in society.
The CSF should organize a procedure of open monitoring and governance with the help of the following steps:
1. Coordination of development priorities and preparation of "road maps" on the EaP thematic directions, which will direct the activity of civil society, its interaction with the national governments and EU structures. The general basis coordinating the priorities, can be thematic international documents (conventions, agreements, charters).
2. On the basis of structures of civil society and independent experts, formation of a common for the EaP partner countries system of evaluation, examination, and monitoring according to the coordinated criteria and indicators.
3. Preparation of reports on the execution of "road maps" and changes which have taken place in the partner countries.
4. Organization of wide public discussions of the prepared reports at the national and European levels, exchange of the best practices.
Introduction of this method and procedure of formation of "road maps" and monitoring is aimed, first of all, at increasing transparency of the EaP processes, at providing access to information on the activity of the national governments within the scope of the EaP structures of civil society and the wide public of the partner countries, at developing the dialogue between civil society, national governments, and EU structures.
Within the framework of the 2nd Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership, the Belarusian delegation is ready to offer a number of developed "road maps" which can become a basis and a starting point to launch the described above procedure (open coordination of the advancement within the scope of the Eastern Partnership).
1. As the partner countries are various conditions, forms of documents, organizing activity, can be various, too
Belarus National Platform Proposals for the II Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum
The general strategic direction of actions of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum