15 Feb, 2022

Renew Europe seeks to preserve and strengthen EU civic space

In recent years, Europeans have witnessed how threats, harassment, stigmatisation and smear campaigns against Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have shrunken their ability to function in several EU Member States. For CSOs to thrive, civic space must be an environment free from undue interference and intimidation by both state and non-state actors.

In a new report led by Anna Donáth MEP (Momentum, HU), Renew Europe calls for a series of actions to ensure civic space is preserved and strengthened at the local, regional and national levels throughout the EU.

Donáth, Member of the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee and rapporteur on the Shrinking Space for Civil Society report, said:

“Civil society is the beating heart of democracy, and a vibrant civic space is inseparable from rule of law and fundamental rights. Civil society not only nurtures freedom of expression and association as values but relies on these rights to properly function.

The work of CSOs, often seen as controversial, is an essential ingredient of democracy, like free speech and elections. But it needs a safe and enabling environment. However, shrinking civic space has been widely documented already even before the pandemic hit. This new report is an important stepping stone to ensure that citizens can continue to protect EU values, contribute to public debate and give a voice to the marginalised.”

As a part of this, Renew Europe asked the European Commission to adopt a comprehensive Civil Society Strategy, create a European Civic Space Index and include a dedicated chapter on civic space, including country recommendations, in its annual Rule of Law reports.

Renew Europe also wants the European Commission to set up guidelines to protect the freedom of peaceful assembly even in times of health emergencies, and an EU alert mechanism allowing CSOs to report attacks, register alerts and seek support. Alongside this, Renew Europe asks Member States to secure long-term funding to CSOs.

Photo credit: Michel Christen, European Parliament 2021. 

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