Human rights. Dignity. Solidarity. Equality.
We believe in these values. Unfortunately, not everybody does. Over the past years, civil society in Central Europe has been under pressure: They suffered smear campaigns and vilification, harassment and even restrictive legislation. Democratic backsliding, the weakening of rule of law and the dismantling of checks and balances are dangerous trends to our societies causing harm to the people. This calls for action.
What can we do?
“Reclaim Our Civil Space!” is our common effort to improve the quality of our democracies. Organisations must be equipped with skills and tools to defend themselves. We help them strengthen communities of active citizens and participate in public matters. We build their capacities, especially in rural regions far from the capitals. We create cross-border networking and cooperation, and together we bring their voice to Brussels to the European level: by developing the outlines of a comprehensive European civil society strategy.
About the Strategy
Civil society organisations strengthen democracy, protect human rights and support vulnerable groups across Europe. They are natural allies of EU institutions defending these values. Yet, the EU is currently addressing issues regarding civil society in a case-by-case, reactive manner instead of a systematic approach. Therefore putting civil society on the European agenda can't wait any longer. Civil society represents a value to the European community, and as such, should be protected by European Institutions.
A comprehensive civil society strategy should create the space for a flourishing European civil society. Our proposal is grouped around six major issues which need to be addressed by the European Commission. Each topic is discussed in depth in separate chapters and entails recommended actions highlighted at the beginning of each section. The six chapters of the proposal are as follows:
- The right to entry: Civil society organisations should be able to do their job under the same and simple conditions across Europe to improve their cross-border activity and international initiatives.
- The right to peaceful assembly: The EU should monitor Member States to address restrictions in civic activism and to encourage good practices.
- The right to operate free from unwarranted state interference: Civic actors should be able to signal attacks to the European Commission and the EU should step up against the stigmatisation and harassment of CSOs by its Member States.
- The right to free expression: EU Institutions should promote an enabling media environment and civic education to counter fake-news, desinformation and distorted reporting.
- The right to cooperation and communication: EU institutions should enter into an open and structured dialogue with civil society.
- The right to seek and secure resources: CSOs should have easy access to transparent, flexible and user-friendly grant programs to improve societies across Europe.