The 14th EaP CSF Annual Assembly “Resilient Civil Society for a More Ambitious Eastern Partnership”. This was the first in-person gathering after three long and hard years of the Covid-19 pandemic which forced most of our lives and work into virtual space. However, this time we met during another devastating humanitarian crisis and increased security, energy and financial pressure on the international community caused by the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. Additionally, the Eastern Partnership policy is entering a new phase and should be revised to deliver to the new challenges the EaP and EU are facing.
Over 270 delegates, observers, decision-makers and guests from the Eastern Partnership and the European Union institutions and countries came to the Annual Assembly in Prague and discussed the current challenges, the future shape of Eastern Partnership multilateral cooperation, the role of civil society and how to ensure its future resilience.
Our diverse programme offered several lively and engaging panel debates, thematic discussions, workshops, documentary screening, two photo exhibitions, musical performance and plenty of networking opportunities.
It was wonderful to be connected again, to catch up with the old friends and to make new connections, to discuss current challenges and strategies on how to face and overcome them, exchange experiences, and to learn from each other.
The 2022 Annual Assembly brought together over 250 delegates, observers, decision-makers from the Eastern Partnership and the European Union institutions and countries. Our diverse programme offered several lively and engaging panel debates, thematic discussions, workshops, documentary screening, two photo exhibitions, musical performance and plenty of networking opportunities.
This year we honoured the brave Ukrainian civil society for their courage and heroism defending freedom, democracy and the European future of Ukraine and presented them with our Civil Society Award 2022 in a beautiful and touching ceremony in the spectacular Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament. This was the first time when our Award was financially backed by the Czech and Polish Ministries of Foreign Affairs. We are very grateful to the Czech Parliament for such a kind offer to host the Award ceremony in their beautiful house and to the Czech and Polish Ministries for the generous financial contribution.
During thee days of the Annual Assembly we covered a lot of topics and here are main highlights and takeaways:
• We learnt, that there are three phases of the Eastern Partnership since it was established under Czech presidency:
3. Political Turmoil/Fragmentation.
We are standing at another crossroad, where our concerted effort is needed to demonstrate our commitment to democratic values.
• Cooperation is key – be it bilateral, or multi-lateral. The Eastern Partnership is not a dead end, we have achieved positive change because we solved problems together. It can evolve and be shaped as a venue where we address common geopolitical challenges and shape a brighter future (with the EU acting as an honest broker), tackling challenges we ALL share: interconnectivity, energy, security, but also rule of law, anti-corruption, independent judiciary, gender equality, which are the foundation of everything.
• Building trust is key to all this. Civil society has had a major role here and continues to do so.
• The EU institutions, including the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European External Action Service stand by their support – be it financial, military, or economic – in many areas, including to the self-less and relentless work of CSOs not just in Ukraine, but in the whole region.
• Support includes to fight disinformation, work on energy security, support to activists – women and men, humanitarian aid. While external support is crucial, unity and solidarity are the real glue that keeps us together in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
• We are also in a battle for the hearts and minds of people, for democracy and against authoritarianism. Peace building and peace keeping are key tools for our journey. This includes developing a culture of democracy, learning how to deal and resolve conflict, education and media literacy to stand up against mis- and disinformation.
• We must plan ahead and work on a shared vision – for instance, by preparing to remedy at least some of the effects of the war in Ukraine. This also includes ensuring that – while of course defence capacities are crucial at the moment – we have what is needed to tackle the greatest challenges of our time: climate change & biodiversity loss, which concern all of us deeply.
• Current crisis is devastating, harsh and hard, but we need and can turn it into an opportunity. We are better prepared for energy issues across the region now and speeding up innovation in the energy sector. Many of us agree, that Russian capital and financial gains should be used for reconstruction.
• To keep up our resilience in a generally challenging environment our own mental health and well-being, including burn-out prevention and cybersecurity, are key.
• Enlargement and Eastern partnership paths are closely intertwined. Tools and opportunities must be complementary. The EaP CSF is key player and partner towards long-lasting and resilient democracy. It is what we make of it, what we build together, how we are united in diversity. It is up to us to make the best use of us collaborating, exchanging and learning and to give this meaning and impact – today, tomorrow and in the future.
We hope you all enjoyed the Annual Assembly, whether you were there in person or followed our discussions online, and that it provided us all with additional support, energy and inspiration towards achieving our common goal of a strong and independent civil society, democracy and European integration in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine!
We invite you to re-live the Annual Assembly 2022 experience by browsing through this photo album: tag yourselves, like the photos, share them with your networks: https://tinyurl.com/yb492yrj
Watch the EaP CSF Award 2022 video
Watch the video of the Award ceremony