The study reviews the ways in which the EU provides support and cooperates with civil society in its neighbourhood, in light of:EU official statements, policy mechanisms and assistance to support civil society in the neighbourhood; recent proposals reviewing the ENP and the ENPI, including the new approach on the European Neighbourhood Policy, and the European Commission's proposals for new assistance regulations; CSO's reports, policy briefs and documents; and political, economic, social developments in the Eastern and Southern neighbourhoods.
Although the EU has recently improved its record of working towards developing better environment for civil society in partner countries, still a lot has to be done. The EU needs to think long term and embark on the proactive strategy of turning civil society in neighbouring countries into a real reform partner rather than reacting to unwelcome developments. The EU should better include CSOs in the EU-partner countries dialogue, better monitor civil society's situation in partner countries, pay increased attention to the regulatory framework and effectively apply targeted conditionality. Under existing EU assistance schemes, only a few CSOs can actually have access to EU funding. A number of provisions in the current regulations already give the opportunity to mitigate some of the identified obstacles, but this also crucially hinges on the evolution of practices in the field. In addition, the proposed regulations on common rules for the implementation of EU external action and on the European Neighbourhood Instrument do not seem to significantly strengthen CSO's access to EU funds. The study proposes recommendations in this respect.
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