"Despite criticism, the Eastern Partnership policy continues to prove its effectiveness," said Deputy Minister Orłowski whilst welcoming the guests. "We're aware that there's much work ahead of us, but the process of change has started for good," he added.
As he pointed out, the Civil Society Forum is one of the prime examples of the changes taking place. It is witness to the fact that citizens of the Partnership countries, which have different historical experiences and divergent social and economic needs, are indeed able to set up an effective cooperation forum.
Speaking to representatives of the Civil Society Forum, the deputy minister underscored the importance of civil society for political transformation. He identified challenges facing the third sector in the EaP countries, while at the same time recalling that Poland has been consistently involved in fostering grass-roots initiatives in countries of the Eastern Neighbourhood.
Tomasz Orłowski reiterated that eastern partners must consistently carry out reforms, including by engaging their societies on a larger scale.
Much attention was also paid to challenges facing the Eastern Partnership, especially in the context of an increasingly complicated security situation in the region, and the 4th Eastern Partnership Summit, scheduled for May 2015.
NGO representatives from EaP and EU countries included Leila Alieva, President of the Centre for International and National Studies, an Azerbaijani think-tank; Hennadiy Maksak of the Foundation for International and Regional Studies, Ukraine; Ivane Chkhikvadze of the Open Society Georgia Foundation; Jan Piekło of the Polish-Ukrainian Cooperation Foundation; and Ivanna Volochiy of the Civil Society Forum Secretariat.
Founded in 2009, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum brings together NGO representatives from Partnership and EU countries. The Forum actively supports the development of civil society in EaP countries, promotes constructive dialogue between NGOs and government officials, and helps intensify cooperation among civil society outfits from Partnership and EU countries.