TOWARDS A CIVIL SOCIETY FRIENDLY SOCIETY
The foremost political objective of the Western Balkan and Turkey
is accession to the European Union.
This step is not automatic: the negotiation and ratification of an Accession Treaty must come first. But the treaty itself is not enough to make accession a success: since new Member States are to share certain basic values with the existing Member States. These basic values of the Union must not only be accepted but have to be implemented in the society of new member states. New legislation has to be adopted, to be done at political level. New legislation needs then to be effectively implemented, which requires adaptation, capacity building and enforcement at administrative level. However, in order for European accession to succeed, new legislation and principles have also to be accepted by citizens and be monitored.
Both citizens at an individual level, and organised civil society at a political and general level, should ensure that society implements the necessary changes. To be able to properly advance towards and achieve accession to the EU, new legislation and principles have to be understood by the population and be monitored effectively. The role of civil society is crucial in this respect.
In order to reply to the need of fully engaging civil society in the EU integration process, an overall strategy for supporting civil society has been developed in the framework of IPA under the Civil Society Facility (CSF), which consists of three strands:
i. Support to civic initiatives and capacity-building thereby enforcing the role of civil society at local, national level.
ii. A people 2 people programme supporting visits to EU institutions and bodies to exchange experience, know-how and good practice between Beneficiary and EU civil society organisations (CSOs).
iii. Partnership Actions carried out between Beneficiary and EU CSOs leading to a transfer of knowledge and creation or strengthening of networks.
The CSF was presented at the DG Enlargement's civil society conference which was held in Brussels on 17 and 18 April 2008. All stakeholders consider it a useful method of enhancing civil society in the IPA region. Member States and other donors have expressed strong interest in providing expertise and in contributing to the implementation of the CSF.
The Facility focuses on Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), i.e. all not-for-profit structures outside government and public administrations. The CSF offers the opportunity to better meet the needs of the region by providing support to civil society development and dialogue. This will be coordinated and streamlined by focusing on different areas of intervention such as civic initiatives and capacity building at a national level, "People 2 People" visitor projects as well as activities carried out in multilateral partnerships between CSOs both in the Western Balkans and Turkey and in the EU, which may lead to a transfer of knowledge, the set-up of new networks, as well as trans-national innovative projects.
 The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) defines ‘civil society organisations’ as “all organisational structures whose members have objectives and responsibilities that are of general interest and who also act as mediators between the public authorities and citizens”.
 e.g. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), professional and business associations, employers’ organisations, trade unions, associations of local self-governments, foundations, religious communities, charities, Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.