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050630 - The European Commission today decided to launch a civil society dialogue between the EU and the Candidate Countries.
Brussels, 29th June 2005
Commission initiates civil society dialogue on enlargement
The European Commission today decided to launch a civil society dialogue between the EU and the Candidate Countries. Its aim is to create and reinforce links between civil society in the Member States and in the Candidate Countries, to respond to concerns, to improve mutual understanding, and to encourage a debate in the society at large about enlargement.
On the adoption of this proposal Commissioner for enlargement, Olli Rehn said: “We have to listen better to citizens. That is why the Commission is launching the civil society dialogue to engage with the EU’s citizens. We have to facilitate a deeper dialogue between the people of the EU Member States and the candidate countries.“
What are the main objectives of the dialogue?
The civil society dialogue will encourage a debate in society at large about enlargement. The long-term objective is to prepare all citizens in the EU and in the candidate countries (Turkey and Croatia) for future accession. The Commission’s proposal has a special focus on Turkey, since misconceptions and concerns are more widespread about that country. Thanks to the Stabilisation and Association Process for the Western Balkans, we already have a framework for civil society dialogue with Croatia; in addition to the Community programmes, we encourage bilateral activities between Croatia and the EU Member States.
How will the dialogue take place?
From 2006 the Commission will contribute by funding new bilateral exchange projects involving counterparts from the EU and from Turkey, under the existing pre-accession assistance programmes for candidate countries. About € 40 million will be earmarked in 2006.
The Commission’s proposal sets out general guidelines, while project details and relevant funding will be decided on a yearly basis during the future programming exercises. The civil society dialogue is a long-term process, and is bound to evolve in line with the needs and suggestions expressed by civil society.
It is expected that the Communication will encourage public and private institutions and civil society organisations both in the EU and in the candidate countries to contribute to the dialogue. The Commission may endorse future events which respond to the objectives of the civil society dialogue.

Who can participate in the dialogue?
The communication focuses on the broadest and the most inclusive definition of civil society, i.e. all society structures outside of government: social partners; organisations representing social and economic players at large (for example consumer and environment protection organisations); non-governmental organisations (NGOs – including those active on women’s rights and equal opportunities) and community-based organisations, such as youth or family associations; religious communities. The education, the media and the culture sectors are expected to play a key role. Supporting the establishment of town-twinning between local communities in the EU and Turkey will also be a priority. Leading personalities from the EU and Turkey will be consulted by the Commission, with the purpose of seeking their advice on making proposals for future actions.


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