Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum
The View of a Participant from Armenia
Autor(en): Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan
Herausgeber: Iris Kempe, Matthias Neumann, Robert Orttung, Jeronim Perovic, Lili Di Puppo, Hans Gutbrod
Serie: Caucasus Analytical Digest (CAD)
Verlag(e): Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich; Research Centre for East European Studies, University of Bremen; Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, George Washington University
Civil Society is considered a major component in the architecture of change and development in the European Neighborhood. The EU supports civil society in its Neighborhood in a variety of ways: funding; supporting the issues raised by NGOs and public advocates; and joining in the struggle for human rights, free and fair elections, and other causes. While building the strategy of the Eastern Partnership and assimilating the lessons learned from the Arab spring, the EU leadership, particularly the European Commission, included a very specific element in the architecture of relations with eastern neighbors: the Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF). This is an entity which, if it works, will achieve a change in the traditional conduct of relations between the EU and its Eastern neighbors: diplomacy between governmental and EU officials will be complemented with interactions involving a third actor, namely civil society. For the first time, civil society is being asked to join a process which has been traditionally confined to the domain of governments. This is a challenging idea, and its significance surpasses any particular project support that the EC has given to civil society so far or is planning to give in the future. This effort is about making civil society a participant in power sharing on reform and raising the country closer to EU standards. This article describes the experience of a group of NGOs from Armenia in the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum. This narrative, based on elements of a participant observation, concludes that whatever support the EU and EC provide to civil society, if NGOs are incapable of ethical and professional self-determination, the reform and Civil Society Forum will not succeed. Thus, despite the fact that EU support is crucial, what is most important is the capacity of NGOs, the media, and other pillars of civil society to be able to unite for a good cause and to clean their ranks, getting rid of those who are working for the failure of reform, based on the post-Soviet traditions of imitating reform and building Potemkin Villages instead of promoting genuine change and progress.