Supporting vs. Fostering: The Effectiveness of EU’s Regional Support for CSO Partnerships


Recent research on the effectiveness of the EU integration policy suggests that the EU strategies intended to bring domestic improvements in the areas of democracy, judiciary and rule of law are most successful if they ensure structural inclusion of CSOs. BCSDN is proud to present its latest policy brief, authored by Biljana Spasovska, BCSDN’s Policy and Advocacy Officer, assessing how the EU support for regional partnerships of civil society has contributed to fostering democratic reforms and more effective policies in the democracy and rule of law areas (incl. human rights, social dialogue) in current Enlargement countries.

The paper finds that EU’s regional support to civil society was tailored to meet the policy challenges identified within the Commission’s Enlargement Strategy. The Commission has been moving away from action-focused, shorter-term interventions towards a more strategic development support, recognizing the need to support independent civil society activities, rather than encourage donor-driven actions. Strengthening the capacities of the participating CSOs, or strengthening the capacities of the networks and their members, is perceived by the organizations as one of their projects’ biggest achievements and the biggest added-value of this type of EU support, despite this not being the primary goal of the assistance in some cases. More than 25% of the projects resulted with a creation of a formalized network, suggesting a high probability for sustainability of the projects.

Despite the tangible outcomes and the increased cooperation with the Commission, the paper points to the further need by the Commission to go beyond financial and project support, and to provide political support for the networks and the outcomes of their projects. In this way, civil society will be made an effective and de-facto partner EU needs for enforcing domestic democratic and accession related reforms, by creating a so-called triangular reform relationship: Government-CSO-EU.

The full policy brief is available for download here.


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