Letter to the Delegation of the European Union and Embassies of the EU Member States to Türkiye

We are the representatives of civil society organizations that have carried out projects in Türkiye and the EU countries with respect to themes such as fundamental rights, environment, culture and arts, education, business world, sectoral cooperation and the media, with grant support in the scope of the “Civil Society Dialogue between Türkiye and the EU” and the “Civil Society Support Programme”, which have both been financed mostly by the European Union.

 We have had the opportunity to touch the lives of thousands of people via the projects that we have implemented with the support of the EU. We have developed new collaborations with the civil society organisations (CSOs) in the EU through sharing the core values of the EU, getting inspired by best practices, and have exchanged our knowledge and experience with other European partners. We have thus become a bridge between the European Union and candidate Türkiye. We have improved our capacity with the support provided and have endeavoured to create more transparent and accountable structures. We have also taken important steps to strengthen cooperation mechanisms with public authorities, to participate in decision-making processes, to conduct effective advocacy campaigns and to build volunteer and professional teams.

 Prior to the projects we have completed, we were in need of increasing our institutional capacity and communication skills in order to be more active in the democratic participation processes. Previously, we had limited access to networking and cooperation opportunities and other practices in our fields of focus. There was a need to raise awareness in the field of public-civil society-private sector cooperation and collaboration with universities inasmuch as partnerships and dialogues were limited.

 Thanks to the support provided through the programmes, we have had the opportunity to work with competent experts in developing our strategic planning and organizational capacities; we have been able to expand our sphere of influence; we have become one of the main actors that can develop policies at local and national levels and we have gained the ability to work systematically on the basis of common concepts and values. Thus, we have contributed to the positive change in public perceptions on civil society and both our visibility at the national level and the number of our volunteers have increased. The interest of academia in civil society and its contribution to scientific studies have also been enhanced with these supports.

 Prior to the implementation of the projects financed by the EU under these programmes, there were prejudices between CSOs in the EU and Türkiye. Our knowledge of EU acquis and EU values was insufficient. During the EU accession process, the CSOs that were involved in the work carried out in terms of harmonisation were hardly known by the public. We have cooperated with organizations in the EU throughout the implementation of joint projects, and dialogue has eventually increased. We have developed models that can also be applied in our own country by observing good practices on site and sharing experience in different fields such as social policies, regional policies, education policies, fundamental rights, freedoms, agriculture, fisheries, animal welfare, transportation, environment, and energy, etc. Likewise, we have shared good practices in our country with stakeholders in EU countries. Consequently, we have seen that we can collaboratively defend and disseminate the common values we share with the EU through dialogue.

 We believe that when/if the Dialogue and Support Programmes cease, the already established cooperation and networking mechanisms, the common working culture and mutual understanding, and all in all, the achievements we have made to date through the dialogue and support programmes will disappear. We therefore are in need of resources and new support mechanisms to further improve the established dialogues. Furthermore, we kindly expect facilitation of visa processes by the EU to be able to carry out visits to EU member states in the scope of the activities of our projects. We would also like to draw attention to the importance of the continuation of the programmes and mechanisms on civil society cooperation and dialogue carried out by the Directorate for EU Affairs through additional funding support. In our opinion, the grant support to be allocated to specific areas such as networking, youth, social inclusion, digitalization, social entrepreneurship and combating climate change will increase the effectiveness of civil society on these issues.

 The Civil Society Dialogue and Civil Society Support Programmes have enabled a common working culture towards the solution of common problems through mutual trust and understanding and we would like to see the bonds that have been established with the EU continue. These programmes have provided us with the instruments to develop cooperation mechanisms with our peers in EU as well as to build friendships around the common dream to make our Europe and world more worth living. We are committed to strengthen the bonds we forged through our projects so far and we kindly expect the EU to embrace this 15-years old common heritage acquired thanks to the “Support” and “Dialogue” programmes. It will then be possible to ensure the sustainability of the achievements to date and to encourage taking further actions in the civil society sector. We therefore kindly request you to assess the importance of the dialogue and support programmes and to reconsider their continuation in an even more effective manner, which is a necessity for us to make Türkiye to be an integral part of the EU.

  “Civil Society Support Programme” and “Civil Society Dialogue Between Türkiye and EU” Grant Schemes

 National Consultation Meeting’s Participants

Antalya, 20 December 2022