Ongoing events in Ukraine are leaving many of us worried about peace and stability for the people affected in the region, as well as the implications for an unnecessary conflict, right on the borders of the European Union.
In my first blog last year I talked about the need to focus more on our NGO members in Central and Eastern Europe, whose countries joined the EU after 2004.
WATCH THE LIVESTREAM debate on the issue at CONCORD, 18 March from 09:00 CET:
Our members work in Ukraine
(Photo credit BBC, link here)
Ukraine shares a border with four EU member states – Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.
The country is very important for many of our members in the region, who are active in supporting civil society and in providing assistance in Ukraine.
This week we’ve been in contact with several of our national platforms, such as Grupa Zagranica in Poland, Fors in the Czech Republic and Fond in Romania, who’ve highlighted that many citizens and NGOs from Central and Eastern Europe are gravely concerned by the implications for human rights and freedom of expression in their neighboring country.
Czech NGO ‘People in Need’ has set up an emergency room in Kiev to help provide medical assistance.
“The biggest need we see in the medium and long term horizon is assistance to the victims of violence in Kiev. There will be need especially for medical expenses, aftercare, rehabilitation and other services that may be needed to help people return to their everyday lives We assume that help will be also needed by families of those who lost their lives during the protests,” says Simon Panek, director of People in Need.
Commenting from Romania, Bianca Toma, Researcher, Romanian Center for European Policies (FOND Member) says that “Romania fully supports a fast, constructive and diplomatic solution on the conflict in Crimea, an aggression against Ukraine. The unrest in Ukraine may have an impact on the neighborhood countries, especially on Moldova, a relationship where Bucharest has heavily invested in the last years. It is for the EU to support and for the civil society to assist the speed up of the reform process in both countries.”
Key role for civil society
This backing shows that civil society organisations from new member states can be key in providing support and mobilizing help in the region. Many of them have a unique geographical, historical and socio-political connection with Europe’s neighbourhood countries.
The CONCORD forum for discussion on this issue is the Enlargement, Pre-Accession and Neighbourhood (EPAN) working group, led this year by Antonella Valmorbida, from our Associate member ALDA, the Association of Local Democracy Agencies.
Commenting on the situation, Antonella says that “We’d like to see a strong involvement of the EU and all international institutions and political representatives for stabilizing the new political setting in Ukraine. Support to the civil society involvement in fostering democratic process in Ukraine and to facilitate/reducing burdens for receiving foreign aid in Ukraine. We hope that Ukraine can be an important stakeholder for the future of Europe in particular in its role in the Eastern Partnership process.”
Clearly, the situation in Ukraine exposes the need for better cooperation in the region.
I look forward to your feedback and hope we can discuss further this really important issue together across our confederation.