Environment and Climate Forum is incorporated in ECRAN as part of its horizontal component, enabling for closer connection between NGOs representatives and representatives of national authorities, which has been identified as one of the weakest points hindering the evolution of civil society at the national level. Preparatory meetings are the opportunity to promote wider consultation at the national level and maintain a high level of attention on environmental approximation issues throughout the project. The purpose of the preparatory meeting is to allow for a wide consultation/information with as many relevant NGOs as possible in each of the beneficiary country. Yet, the intention is to involve in these meetings not only the representatives of the civil society, but also the representatives of relevant national authorities and other stakeholders (e.g., business, academia).

Preparatory meetings provide inputs into agenda for the annual meeting in Brussels between ECF and the European Commission. Taking into account the timeframe for implementation of the project and usual timing for organisation and implementation of preparatory meetings as a basis for organisation of annual meetings, there are two rounds of preparatory meetings scheduled during the project implementation. The ECF NGOs are expected to act as organizers of the in-country preparatory meetings (backed by the project team). The foreseen tasks include at minimum following:

• To facilitate the preparatory meetings, the project team will prepare in close collaboration with NGOs short discussion papers (5 pages max.) highlighting possible issues for discussion.

Agenda development (reflecting the most relevant issues and challenges in the EU accession process for the country and given stage of the process);

Organizing the event (½ to 1 day event is expected in capital city);

• Involve key stakeholders (besides NGOs, it is planned to use this meeting for consultation with governmental agencies involved in the EU enlargement, business, academia and others);

• Process outcomes of the meeting and provide information for the ECRAN/ECF web page;

• Outline, discuss and summarize main points for the Annual Meeting.

The fact that the Environment and Climate Forum is part of ECRAN can facilitate broader involvement of the key national stakeholders. The project team will for this purpose use the contacts with national Focal Points appointed by the Ministers of Environment of the ECRAN beneficiary countries. Direct invitations to relevant national authorities to attend the preparatory meetings will be drafted in collaboration with NGOs and sent by ECRAN Secretariat to the national Focal Points.

The Discussion Papers will consist of discussion of structural issues of participation within the countries as well as the approximation processes and thematic areas. The papers will, therefore, set out some background information on the identified issues as well as posing a series of questions for discussion at the meeting. Each paper will be specific to the country in question depending on their political, structural and environmental situation.

One of the main outcomes of the meetings is to define points for Annual Meeting agenda. It is probable, that a number of the same issues may be identified by a number of countries. These issues would be potential main topics for discussion at the annual meetings, while the others may serve as inputs into thematic sessions for the Annual Meetings.

Last but not least, preparatory meetings could also provide a suitable opportunity for NGOs to provide inputs into the preparation of the European Commission annual progress reports for candidate countries and potential candidates. At the end of each of these meetings the results will be summarized in a closing session with the participants and a record of the meeting will be posted on the ECRAN website.