BCSDN Newsletter 53, May - June 
BCSDN Mid-term Strategy 2012-2014

MAXCAP Kick-off conference served as the first forum for the exchange of ideas and viewpoints of the partners involved in the MAXCAP project as well as external guests.


 Gloomy Weather for Civil Society in 2013


 Freedom House notes that civil society in the Bakan countries are still very politicized and largely excluded from policy making procedures. They are also dependent on international funding and in the case of Romania their government is wasteful with funding received from the EU. This has resulted in many countries in the Balkans receiving downgrades on their overall democracy scores in this year’s report. 

BCSDN’s Monitoring Matrix on Enabling Environment for CSDev was also presented by Tanja Hafner Ademi at the 29th Meeting of the Western Balkans Contact Group in the EESC. Members of the Contact Group, consisting of representatives of organized civil society in EU MS, confirmed the usefulness of such a mechanism and gave specific suggestions. The work undertaken with the Matrix and the monitoring work which will grow out of it should inspire the development of similar mechanisms for social partners or inclusion of social dialogue in the Matrix. The Contact Group encouraged the sharing of the Matrix with social partners in countries  as well as working with them on common issues. 


In announcing IPA CSF in 2007, the Commission made a commitment to triple the support provided to civil society in comparison to the CARDS instrument. In relative terms, this meant a commitment of 2% of IPA being allocated to civil society activities. Throughout the years 2007-2011 this commitment has dropped from 2,2% to 1,2% of funds being allocated to IPA CSF.


 The annual gathering in Istanbul brought together representatives of 14 members and several guests to discuss the network’s work in the past and current year. 



IPA Balkan CS Acquis Strategy Finalized After 6 Months Inception Phase 

After a 6 months inception period, 18 projects (among them Balkan Civil Society Acquis-Strengthening the Advocacy and Monitoring Potential and Capacities of CSOs) presented their work strategies for the next 36 months at an Inception conference “EC and CSO Partners: Growing Together” held in Belgrade on 23 and 24 May. BCSDN Final Strategy presented was based on the BCSDN Annual plan 2013-2014 adopted at the Istanbul ACM. CPCD organized the last in a series of national kick-off events in Sarajevo on the 14th of May where participants were introduced to the overall BCSDN regional strategy as well as to the project activities which will be implemented in BiH. Special focus was put on the presentation of the basic and main characteristics of BCSDN’s Monitoring Matrix. BCSDN published the inception report with the finalized strategy available here.

BCSDN is Partnering with Top EU Academic Institutions to See How to Maximize EU Integration Capacity

BCSDN representatives, Tanja Hafner Ademi and Ilina Nesik participated in a 3-day formal launch of the “Maximizing the Integration Capacity of the EU: Lessons and Prospects for Enlargement and Beyond” (MAXCAP) project between 30 May and 1 June in Berlin, Germany. Besides discussing the activities, especially the theoretical framework, on which the forthcoming research in the next 30 months will be conducted, the kick-off featured a public event at the EU Representation in Berlin for a broader audience. Some of the main threads of the discussion were about the limits of EU integration, different modes and strategies, the role of non-state actors (civil society, but also the business sector), convergence of global and regional trends etc. BCSDN is one of the 9 partners in the project, and is in charge of research and the dissemination of citizens’ and civil society’s role in the EU accession process and the regional dissemination of project outputs. Read more about it on the project website and subscribe to the project Newsletter to stay updated.


European Civil Society House Plan Further Developed 

A Feasibility study has been commissioned and undertaken to see the possibilities for the different uses of space of the Brussels’ Etterbeck commune facility being put at disposal for the House. The Feasibility study provides a plan of the ECSH physical space that would allow for up to 16 offices, 2 meeting rooms, auditorium, multifunctional space, studios, reception, a green, and a reading room. The Feasibility study enables the ECSH to be renovated and organized in order for its management to be self-sustainable and thus, be able to offer its space and services free-of-charge or at least at lower than commercial prices. The project is still on track for the ECSH physical space to be available as of 2015. In terms of the virtual part of ECSH, a (voluntary) clinic in cooperation with the University of Kent has been launched in order to address legal and advocacy action with regards to the encroachment of EU citizens rights in terms of mobility etc. as there have been serious deteriorations in the aftermath of the financial crisis in EU MS. A support center for ECI is also functioning and is to be upgraded to support the launching of ECI’s from EU NMS. With regards to the role and interests of the CSOs from accession countries and their space in the ECSH, it is expected that BCSDN takes the lead (most of the local CSOs expressing interest in the ECSH are BCSDN members) in formulating the specific needs with regards to virtual ECSH (e.g. information-sharing, capacity-building) and at a later stage the usage of the ECSH physical space. This is a possibility for the network to help provide access to local CSOs to European level processes and institutions. 

CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report 2013: Western Balkans Overview

During April CIVICUS published the 2013 edition of their State of Civil Society Report. The 2013 report shows that CSOs still face many uphill battles and challenges towards establishing a truly enabling environment. However, although the report paints a pretty gloomy picture about the current global state of civil society it also highlights the fact that opportunities for civil society development continue to arise and that if CSOs seize these opportunities the prospects for establishing an enabling environment can become brighter. In Europe for example, the official recognition by the EC of the value of civil society, amidst the negative adjustment of many Member States’ budgets, have presented CSOs with the opportunity to engage the EU at different levels. It also presents opportunities for new engagements and partnerships between CSOs in the EU and CSOs in developing countries where the EU is active. This can be of special interest to CSOs operating in the Western Balkans and Turkey where funding is on a constant decrease and ratings related to enabling environments for CSOs are average:  (Slovenia – 0,70; Bulgaria – 0,60; Croatia – 0,59; Romania –  0,58; Macedonia – 0,55; Serbia – 0,54; Montenegro – 0,54; Albania – 0,53; Kosovo – 0,53; BiH – 0,52; Turkey – 0,52). Click here for the full report and indexes. Or here for TUSEVs view on the enabling environment in Turkey. BCSDN has also prepared a short analysis on the report in which opens opportunities for collaboration between CIVICUS and Western Balkan CSOs.

Nation in Transit 2013: Make a "U" Turn after Thessaloniki

In response to domestic pressure for democratic change, authoritarian regimes throughout Eurasia cracked down on civil society and political opposition leaders in 2012, according to the newly released edition of Nations in Transit, Freedom House’s annual analysis of democratic development from Central Europe to Central Asia. Although the Balkans has largely been democratized it has not completely escaped these developments. In Kosovo a new law was passed which allowed the central bank to convert nonprofit microfinance institutions into private businesses without preserving a previous requirement that such dissolved entities’ assets be redistributed to other nonprofit groups. Although the law has since been declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of Kosovo, Freedom House was also concerned about private universities which faced discrimination in the accreditation process for having staff members who opposed government policies. In other parts of the Balkans corruption seems to persist despite pressure from the EU and other international lending agencies. According to the report political interests and personal connections between government and business regularly influence public tender and privatization procedures across the region. Judicial institutions are also overburdened and subject to political interference. And journalists face political pressure, intimidation, and attacks. On the other hand, civil society is performing relatively well within the region with an overall score of 2.5, which reflects that of consolidated democracies. To view the full report and other related documents please visit Freedom House’s website. BCSDN has also prepared a short analysis on the report which can be viewed here.


BCSDN Monitoring Matrix Already Useful for EU Institutions

BCSDN’s Monitoring Matrix for CSDev has been reflected in the DG Enlargement’s strategy and Guidelines for CS Support. BCSDN representatives also participated actively in the development of indicators at several meetings organized in Brussels as well as at a national level. The main objective of these consultations was to improve the elaboration of the DG Enlargement Guidelines for EU Support to Civil Society in Enlargement Countries, 2014-2020, and in particular to expose the draft to comments, critical remarks and additions on the objectives, results and indicators. The EC has started the process of consultations by proposing that support to civil society within the Enlargement policy should be focused on enabling and stimulating participatory democracy. This should be achieved through focusing on two main goals: (1) achieving an environment that is conducive to civil society activities and (2) building the capacity of CSOs to be effective and accountable independent actors. The proposed draft was inspired largely by the Monitoring Matrix. To find out more click here.

On 14 June, 2013 BCSDN submitted its comments on the DG Enlargement’s draft Guidelines for EU support to civil society in enlargement countries, 2014-2020 which were sent to them in May, 2013. The draft Guidelines has included some positive changes, such as more flexible programming and the availability of longer-term program support for civil society. BCSDN has welcomed these changes. They have also welcomed the more inclusive way of developing the IPA 2014-2020 support as compared to the IPA 2007-2013 cycle, with special focus on the support to civil society under the Civil Society Facility (CSF). BCSDN additionally, highlighted some important points which need to be kept in mind by the DG Enlargement when drafting the final guidelines. First, the Guidelines need to benchmark achievement at the political level; second, civil society and especially CSOs need to be partners in the EU accession process; third, space needs to be left either at the regional level and/or the national level to ensure unhindered support to civil society to address strategic issues for development of the sector; finally, indicators for civic non-formal forms of activism needs to be brought into the Guidelines. Download the draft Guidelines and BCSDN's comments here. BCSDN would also like to hear what inputs other organizations gave and their overall experience of the national level consultations. Please let us know through Facebook or e-mail us at

In 2009, BCSDN published a policy paper critical of the IPA Civil Society Facility (CSF) design. Then, the EC failed to properly consult and reflect on the lessons-learned on supporting the role of civil society in the EU accession process and also failed to develop an approach complementary to the needs of indigenous local CSOs. Three years on, BCSDN has undertaken a comprehensive overview of the IPA CSF grant support implemented so far. The research has led to the publication of a Infograph: IPA CSF 2007-2011: Evolution not Revolution as the first in a series of analytical products to be published on the topic this year. The infograph was also promoted through our social media channels in the form of a picture story and questions were posed to users regarding different aspects of the research. Read more on the infograph here or view the picture story.
After being assessed as performing poorly in 2012 Aid Transparency Index, DG Enlargement has published the Common Standard implementation schedule on how it is to improve the transparency of IPA funding. Publish What You Find (PWYF) has assessed the Schedule as moderately ambitious using their Tracker website where you can follow the implementation of the Schedule. According to the Schedule, DG Enlargement will start their IATI publication in September this year. To see all the findings of the 2012 Aid Transparency Index, please visit Publish What You Fund’s website. The detailed analysis of the DG Enlargement Common Standard implementation schedule can be found here. Also visit BCSDN IPA CSF 2007-2011: Evolution not Revolution infograph to see that problem of data available on IPA funding is an issue preventing quality external assessment of IPA support delivered to WBT countries since 2007. PWYF, the global campaign for aid transparency advocating for a significant increase in the availability and accessibility of comprehensive, timely and comparable aid information, launched the Aid Transparency Index, which aimed to assess how closely donor organizations’ data conforms to best practice. The 2012 Aid Transparency Index found that donor transparency is on the rise but continues to fall short of best practice. The Index also found that the DG Enlargement performed poorly, particularly at the country level, where support to Turkey was assessed as the country receiving the largest amount of funding by the DG. The data for the 2012 assessment was provided by BCSDN and verified by PWYF. 


Statement of Support and Solidarity with Turkish Civil Society

On 31th May 2013, what started as a small peaceful demonstration over the plans to turn Gezi Park in Taksim Square, Istanbul into a shopping mall, turned into continues protest of citizens throughout Turkey. The police used disproportionate force on the peaceful demonstrators with the use of tear gas and water cannons. Violations of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, such as blockage of social media and restriction to public space of citizens, have been reported. While monitoring these developments closely, we share concerns of our Turkish member organization Third Sector Foundation (TUSEV) and shared a statement of support and solidarity to Turkish civil society. The full statement issues by BCSDN is available here. Read more…


5th Annual Council Meeting Approves Annual Report 2012

BCSDN Annual Council Meeting (ACM), hosted by TUSEV, took place on 24th April in Istanbul. It also approved the Annual Report 2012, Audit Report 2012 and Annual Plan 2013-2014. Board elections were held and in order to strengthen cooperation with relevant stakeholders such as public institutions, media, academia, donors etc., the Council established an Advisory Board to coordinate strategic discussions, foremost with the launch of the drafting of new mid-term strategy 2014-2016, to be launched in 2nd half of November. KCSF is to be the host of the 6th ACM to take place in Kosovo in 2014. BCSDN Board held its 2nd preparatory session before the ACM in order to lay out the proceedings of the ACM. All relevant documents from the ACM and Board are available to members on the Intranet, while the Annual Report and Audit are available on BCSDN website.

BCSDN Council Elects New Board Members

Elections of the Board took place in order to fill the emptied places by outgoing members and Tina Divjak (CNVOS, Slovenia), Ana Novakovic (CRNVO, Montenegro), Dubravka Velat (Civic Initiatives, Serbia) and Gjergji Vurmo (IDM, Albania) were elected to serve on the Board. The Board is the governing and supervisory organ of the BCSDN. Currently it has seven members: the Chairperson of the Board, the Deputy-Chairperson of the Board and five members. More information on the Board members is available here.


Balkan Public Policy Fund : Announcement of Call for Proposals, July
BCSDN, in cooperation with the Pontis Foundation from Slovakia, at the end of July 2013 are going to launch a Call for Proposals for organization and researchers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia to develop policy proposals dealing with issues on the EU Integration process.The Fund is organized within a framework of project Slovak and Balkan Policy Fund funded by EU and Slovak Aid. The aim of this Fund is to contribute to the capacity building of CSOs in Western Balkan countries and to strengthen their engagement in creation of public policy in regards to the EU integration. For this purpose, small grants (between EUR 3000 and EUR 5000) will be awarded. The main outcome of the granted projects are going to be policy documents published online by BCSDN and partners and disseminated according to the grantees’ strategy. This year with the support of the International Vishegrad Fund, a pilot internship programme will be introduced for young CSOs practitioners in Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic. 

EU Policy Workshop: Brainstorming on IPA CSF 2014-2020 Aid Modalities, September, Brussels

The aim of the workshop is to present the findings of the IPA CSF 2007-2011 support and offer best practice examples on how the DG Enlargement can support local CSO in Enlargement countries under the new IPA cycle 2014-2020. The workshop will offer a presentation of best practices from both EU and Enlargement countries on funding of grass-root and informal groups, networks and capacity-building initiatives.  More information are available from the BCSDN Executive office
The South Eastern European Indigenous Grantmakers Network (SIGN) will be hosting the 18th annual Grantmakers East Forum (GEF) on 16th – 18th October in Belgrade, Serbia. The forum will further provide funders with a platform to discuss their grant-making efforts which are aimed at inspiring participants and encouraging new donor activity. This year the forum will bring together innovative NGOs, entrepreneurs, politicians, and leaders to share how they address the issue of transparency while trying to tackle growing social and economic issues. The forum will also provide plenty of opportunities for networking and to learn, reflect and connect with peers. For more information about the forum and for future announcements please visit the GEF website
This Newsletter is publication of the Balkan Civil Society Development Network. It is published on a periodic basis in English. For  more  information  on  the  network  visit: 
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