The Regional Civil Society Forum was held in Skopje on 22 and 23rd January, 2020. The Forum was attended by over 110 representatives of CSOs from: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, as well as senior representatives from the European Commission and public institutions in the region.
The event was opened by: Nikola Bertolini, Head of Cooperation Sector in the EU Delegation to the Republic of North Macedonia, Kalinka Gaber, State Secretary at the Secretariat for European Affairs (SEA) in the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia, Georgios Chatzigiagkou, Regional Director for Southeast Europe at GDSI Limited, which manages EU TACSO 3.
At the Forum, the representatives of the European Commission presented the architecture of the new EU Pre-Accession Instrument for the EU budget period 2021-2027 (IPA II) for the first time and thereby opened a consultation process with CSOs on their recommendations for future support and use of EU funds in Western Balkan and Turkey.
The Forum also discussed the future of the EU support for CSOs in the region – the Civil Society Facility – in the context of the new EU budget cycle, as well as the process of the revision of the EU Guidelines for the Support to Civil Society in Enlargement countries, which in 2014 created the framework of expected standards for fulfilment by countries currently in the process of negotiations for EU membership in the area of support and cooperation with CSOs, as well as the manner and methodology by which the European Commission monitor how countries treat civil society.
The assessment report on the situation on the environment and capacities of civil society in IPA Beneficiary countries was presented. The report finds that there is a general trend of decline and increased pressures on civil society by public institutions and in this context, there was a discussion between representatives of CSOs and the European Commission on how best to respond appropriately with both policy and financial means at the EU disposal. These need to focus on helping CSOs be closer to the citizens and at the same time have open access and quality dialogue with public institutions. Participants agreed that a strong civil society is crucial for countries to successfully prepare for use of IPAII funds as well as a process of negotiations for EU membership.
Kosovo (*) – This designation refers to the status of the country, in line with the principles of UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.