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EU financial support to Turkey remains one of the most important aspects of EU-Turkey relations, and this financial support contributes to the development of civil society in Turkey.

What awaits Civil Society in the IPA III Era?

The main EU financial instrument is the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, abbreviated as IPA. This instrument is planned for a 7-year period as part of the EU budget. At the beginning of each 7-year period, you can observe that those who have been working in this field for many years express their wish not to witness the next IPA period. Behind this wish is the hope for Turkey's EU membership. Ironically, it is worth mentioning that the relations between the EU and Turkey have almost frozen in recent years, so the same people have expressed their hope for the next period.

Despite all the discussions, IPA continues to be the most dynamic dimension of Turkey-EU relations. For CSOs in Turkey, the EU remains the most important external donor. Considering the fluctuations in Turkey-EU relations (or shall we say the almost frozen situation in relations) and the rapidly changing global agenda, we see that the importance of civil society in EU- Turkey relations and the EU's emphasis on civil society are increasing day by day.

These developments are of course reflected in the financial resources allocated to civil society. If we consider together the funding of 67 million euros for the period 2021-2023 under the Civil Society Facility and the projects programmed by the Directorate for EU Affairs amounting to 11 million euros, we find that a total of 78 million euros has already been allocated for three years. Although this amount is limited, it is possible to increase it a little more with the projects that can be programmed by the Directorate for EU Affairs until 2023. Of course, this amount will increase even more until 2027, the end of IPA III.

This means that we will see more and more grant programs from which civil society organizations can benefit directly or sub-grant programs implemented through international organizations and organizations with relatively high capacity. Again, capacity-building support will be available to civil society organizations through these projects. EU projects that have been successfully implemented for many years (Sivil Düşün/Think Civil, STGM supports, TACSO project, etc.) will also continue in the coming years.

In order to benefit from these grant programs and prepare more qualified applications, it is useful to have a good understanding of the information we have tried to summarize above. At the very least, it is very important to know how to access the relevant documents when needed. Many calls for proposals that CSOs respond to or apply to are filtered through the programming process.

On the other hand, while the increasing emphasis on civil society and the allocated funds are positive developments for CSOs, we can also say that there is room for improvement. In particular, we see that civil society participation in the programming process or in the development phase of these projects is very limited.

This limitation begins with the obligation of public institutions to provide information. It is very difficult for many CSOs to obtain accurate information unless they are experts in the field. Apart from some well-intentioned initiatives, we can also say that consultation processes are very limited and not well structured. Consequently, many steps need to be taken to increase the participation of civil society, to develop accurate and needs-based projects, to act with a more strategic perspective, and to solve the chronic problems of civil society. At this point, however, it should not be forgotten that EU projects are only one tool and that the problems of civil society organisations can only be solved through the internal
dynamics of Turkey and civil society.

With this in mind, we have created a comprehensive information note on our website. In this information note, we have tried to outline what IPA is, how civil society will be involved in this instrument, how the projects will be determined, which projects will be implemented by 2022, and how you can access the relevant documents. We will try to update this infonote as new developments occur and enrich it with new information.

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