Syarhey Matskevich, leader of the Assembly of Pro-democratic Non-governmental Organizations, told BelaPAN on Thursday that he was satisfied with the Belarusian delegation’s participation in the first meeting of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, which was held in Brussels on November 16 and 17.
About 240 NGOs in the six post-Soviet countries involved in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program, including 27 Belarusian NGOs, were reportedly represented at the meeting, which had been organized by the Swedish presidency of the EU together with the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee.
Participants at the meeting approved the Belarusian delegation’s proposal to make the Forum a "constantly functioning mechanism influencing decision-making within the framework of the Eastern Partnership," Mr. Matskevich said.
The delegation also achieved its goal of legitimizing Belarus’ third sector, he noted. "No one can say now that the third sector cannot take part in negotiations with the authorities," he said. "We hope that civil society organizations will now have the opportunity to talk to the authorities on a qualitatively new level."
Mr. Matskevich expressed hope that civil society organizations would formulate a "national platform" and present it to the EU Council at a conference to be held in December. Mr. Matskevich is expected to attend the meeting as coordinator of the Forum’s largest thematic working group "Democracy, Human Rights, Good Governance and Stability."
Mr. Matskevich and Ulad Vyalichka, leader of International Consortium EuroBelarus, were elected to the Council of the Civil Society Forum.