Representatives of CSOs within the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) and the CEI Member States, met in Sofia on 15 – 16 October 2018 to take part in the debate of the 5th Danube Participation Day, on 17 October and the 7th Annual Forum of the Danube Strategy on 18-19 October under the Bulgarian Presidency.

The seminar focused on Expanding Civic Space in the Danube Region. It was organised by the Citizen Participation Forum, an umbrella association of the Bulgarian NGOs, the Danube Civil Society Forum and the Foster Europe Foundation, with the support of the CEI Cooperation Fund and the EUSDR Priority Area 10 (Capacity Building, Urban Dimension, Civil Society).

About 30 participants from the Danube and the Western Balkan region, discussed the challenges to civil society resulting from the shrinking of civic space across Europe. The fruitful reflection was driven to operational conclusions by Iva Taralezhkova, Chairperson of Citizen Participation Forum and Stefan Luetgenau, President of the Danube Civil Society Forum.

To identify common strategies to meet these challenges the proceedings were set in three Working Groups on Media Landscape: beyond the limitations to democracy;  Digital Transformation: new environment, new booby traps; Public Outreach: strengthening the environment for participation.

The common belief among participants was that while the challenges mainly occur at the national level and below, the counterstrategies to civil society should include the supra-national level. The macro-regional dimension of the Danube and the Adriatic-Ionian area, and more, in general, the EU should pave the way for more lasting cooperation among the citizens’ organisations.

The closing session of the seminar was set as a “Donors’ Conference”, to facilitate the dialogue between CSO representatives and financing institutions on future funding opportunities for CSO initiatives and citizens’ participation. CEI representative, Ugo Poli, illustrated the financial tools of its donor role and in particular, the relevance and impact of the CEI Cooperation Fund has thanks to its flexibility, quick delivery and leverage effect with regard to the fund-raising abilities of the beneficiaries.

The seminar conclusions and ideas were presented the day after at the 5th Danube Participation Day.

For more information poli@cei.int

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