Increased threats, harassment and smears against Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has limited the capacity of civic space to operate in the last years. Recently, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights reported that up to 60 per cent of CSOs have experienced a deterioration of the situation since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To counter this development, the report of Anna Donáth MEP (Momentum, HU) on the Shrinking Space for Civil Society, expected to be adopted this week by the European Parliament, sets out a number of proposals to preserve and strengthen civic space at local, regional and national level throughout the EU.
Donáth, Member of the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and rapporteur on the report on the Shrinking Space for Civil Society, said:
"We have seen time and time again how crucial it is for our democracies to have a nurturing and safe environment for civil society organisations. CSOs step up whenever the fabric of our democracies is under threat or whenever there are gaps in the services the state should offer. Just think about how important their work is right now, helping hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine. Looking after them, feeding them, helping them to find shelter.
This report is coming out at a crucial time when we must ensure that the environment that CSOs operate in are free from harassment and stigmatisation, and make sure that laws and policies are not put in place by governments to shrink the space they work in."
The report stresses that for Civic Space to thrive, it must be an environment free from undue interference and intimidation by both state and non-state actors. The report asks the European Commission to adopt a comprehensive Civil Society Strategy, which should include minimum legal standards, a statute of European cross-border associations and non-profit organisation, and developing flexible access to European Union funding.
The report also asks for the creation of a European Civic Space Index and for the inclusion of a dedicated chapter on civic space, including country-specific recommendations, in the European Commission's annual Rule of Law reports.
#RenewEurope leads report on the protection of civil society from undue governmental influence!— Renew Europe (@RenewEurope) March 7, 2022
"Civil Society Organisations step up whenever the fabric of our democracies is under threat or whenever there are gaps in the services the state should offer"https://t.co/1Efn3pGy78 pic.twitter.com/QPIwgdBPwv
Photo credit: Anna Júlia Donáth