More and more acknowledge the need for a EU civil strategy - next steps for 2023

eu flag
All organisations
All countries

We aim to convince decision makers that the issue of civil society needs to be on the agenda of the European Commission for 2023.

Civil society organisations working in the field, on the local level, especially in Central Europe face a variety of problems every day: the lack of necessary funding and resources, excessive administration and complicated legislation, to name a few. Instead of getting better, the situation in some countries even deteriorates continually.

The governments of European Union Member States are rather free to decide how they treat – regulate, fund – CSOs in their countries. In turn, the leaders and members of CSOs often struggle to try to meet the rules and obligations alone, feeling abandoned and isolated. However, we live in a democratic European Union that should treat civil society as an ally, a partner in many fields, and therefore help create an environment in which it can flourish. In order to do so, it must rely on the experience and the issues of those most affected: civil society organisations themselves.

Based on what we hear and see from our partners, the local and regional organisations in Central Europe we support and work with, we aim to bring and amplify their voice, the difficulties they face to Brussels. However, in order to do so, we needed to adapt to the “EU speak”, the technical and often complex world of European institutions and legislative instruments. 

The result of these efforts is the set of draft recommendations we have developed in our Reclaim Our Civil Space! project about what and how EU institutions should do to improve the working conditions of CSOs across Europe, and to provide a safety net for organisations in countries that experience the shrinking of civil space. We have started advocating for the adoption of this proposal for a European civil society strategy several years ago, and after the initial indifference, recently more and more actors have acknowledged the need for this strategy. Our demand has recently been taken up not only by major European civil society networks and umbrella organisations, but also by Members of the European Parliament.

We must keep up the pressure now, as in 2023, important windows of opportunity will open up:

  1. The European Commission will put forward a defence of democracy package, first mentioned the State of the European Union address of Ursula von der Leyen in September 2022. Among many other issues, this must include actions to develop “civic space and citizen participation to bolster democratic resilience”. We must make sure these actions meet real needs and take into account the real experiences of those affected.
  2. In December 2022, the Commission published its annual report on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, this time specifically discussing the issues of protecting, supporting and empowering civil society. As a follow up, a series of thematic seminars are to be organised, and we should be at the table with our suggestions, as the conclusions of the process will be presented to a European high-level roundtable later in the year. We are committed to use these opportunities to advocate further for the adoption of our proposal for a European civil society strategy, but we need your help to do so! You can do it in two main ways:
  • Spread the word: promote the proposal among your partners, networks and like-minded CSOs – the more people know about and support the idea the better!
  • Make your contribution: the recommendations continuously need to be updated, amended and refined in the light of new experience – and you are the ones who have it! Send us your comments, notes and critiques so we can truly bring the Central European civil society voice to the Union and its bodies.

Read and comment the strategy!