Business as Usual? What is the Environment in Which CSOs Work, and What Can the EC and Governments Do to Improve it

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On 27th May, BCSDN in partnership with European Center for Non-profit Law (ECNL) presented the 1st-ever Regional Report on Enabling Environment for CSDev in Enlargement Countries. The presentation of findings and recommendations steaming from the expert Report opened by Venera Hajrullahu, BCSDN Board Chair who commended the incredible development and partnership that the Monitoring Matrix and Reports created between civil society, European Commission and Governments. Gordana Delic, Director of Balkan Trust for Democracy stressed that civil society and its inclusion on policy-making is crucial for a quality reform process and the need for the EU to send strong and clear message to political leaders in Enlargement countries on its importance.

IMG_4600webSummarizing the Report, Tanja Hafner Ademi, Executive Director of BCSDN said: “While all countries of the Western Balkans are showing general trend of improving the legal environment for civil society, its implementation in practice is still very much problematic. Most of the violations have been recognized in Turkey, where legal guarantees on fundamental freedoms are still not fully established. In all of the countries there are issues that require further focus and investment, in order to ensure full compliance with the international and European standards and best practices and especially the long-term sustainability of civil society. Considering all reform challenges faced by Enlargement countries, the improvement in operation and the supportive environment civil society needs, should not be business as usual, but an area of priority for the EC in its upcoming Enlargement Strategy and Progress Reports, 2014-2015″.

IMG_4606web3The presentation was accompanied by a panel discussion featuring Andris Kesteris, Principle Advisor for Civil Society and Media of the DG Enlargement, Marina Skrabalo, EESC Members/GONG, Gjergji Vurmo, BCSDN Board member/Albanian CSO Task Force and Oliver Henman, ENNA/NCVO. Responding to the Report, Andris Kesteris confirmed the support of the Commission in putting importance of inclusion of and development civil society in EU Accession process as a way to transparent, predictable and quality reform policies and processes.
IMG_4612webMarina Skrabalo confirmed that indeed, the Monitoring Matrix, the Report, the EU Guidelines, the EESC Opinion on transparency and inclusive Accession process provide for more tools for a never-ending struggle of securing basic freedoms and rights, but suggested a more radical approach via which focus on grass-root, participatory democracy should be insured by mainstreaming civil society issues in Acquis-related issues. Gjergji Vurmo agreed that in the Western Balkans the problem is both in political elites and “unresponsive society”, which is leading to democracy not being the only game in the region anymore. This should be a concern to the Commission and the only way to counter such trends is in supporting and cooperating with civil society. According to Oliver Henman, the Monitoring Matrix offers standards and indicators of what could be termed as “health democracy” and it seems that not only in the Western Balkans and Turkey the space is becoming restricted, but also looking at the EU in the backdrop of EP Elections.

The workshop gathered over 40 representatives of the European Commission, European networks, experts and civil society from Western Balkans and Turkey.

For more information please read:

Regional Report Executive Summary

Regional Report

Country Reports

Civil Society in Enlargement Countries Statistics

Monitoring Matrix

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