Improving the EU's Support for the Civil Society in its Neighbourhood : Rethinking Procedures, Ensuring that Practices Evolve

23-07-2012

The study reviews the ways in which the EU provides support and cooperates with civil society in its neighbourhood. Although the EU has recently improved its record of working towards developing better environment for civil society in partner countries, still a lot has to be done. The EU needs to think long term and embark on the proactive strategy of turning civil society in neighbouring countries into a real reform partner rather than reacting to unwelcome developments. The EU should better include CSOs in the EU-partner countries dialogue, better monitor civil society’s situation in partner countries, pay increased attention to the regulatory framework and effectively apply targeted conditionality. Under existing EU assistance schemes, only a few CSOs can actually have access to EU funding. A number of provisions in the current regulations already give the opportunity to mitigate some of the identified obstacles, but this also crucially hinges on the evolution of practices in the field. In addition, the proposed regulations on common rules for the implementation of EU external action and on the European Neighbourhood Instrument do not seem to significantly strengthen CSOs’ access to EU funds. The study proposes recommendations in this respect.

The study reviews the ways in which the EU provides support and cooperates with civil society in its neighbourhood. Although the EU has recently improved its record of working towards developing better environment for civil society in partner countries, still a lot has to be done. The EU needs to think long term and embark on the proactive strategy of turning civil society in neighbouring countries into a real reform partner rather than reacting to unwelcome developments. The EU should better include CSOs in the EU-partner countries dialogue, better monitor civil society’s situation in partner countries, pay increased attention to the regulatory framework and effectively apply targeted conditionality. Under existing EU assistance schemes, only a few CSOs can actually have access to EU funding. A number of provisions in the current regulations already give the opportunity to mitigate some of the identified obstacles, but this also crucially hinges on the evolution of practices in the field. In addition, the proposed regulations on common rules for the implementation of EU external action and on the European Neighbourhood Instrument do not seem to significantly strengthen CSOs’ access to EU funds. The study proposes recommendations in this respect.

External author

Julien BOUSAC (Independent expert), Laure DELCOUR (IRIS), Věra ŘIHÁČKOVÁ (EUROPEUM), Iryna SOLONENKO (International Renaissance Foundation, Kiev), Gevorg TER-GABRIELYAN (Eurasia Partnership Foundation)