Open Letter: Call for a European Civil Society Strategy

June 21, 2022, 9:48 am

Today, Culture Action Europe joins over 300 civil society organisations across Europe in calling on the European Commission for a European Civil Society Strategy. In order to promote a thriving civic space at EU and national levels, the European Commission should launch a proactive EU strategy toward open civic space and resilient civil society, giving “genuine political recognition to the crucial role played by CSOs” by filling monitoring, support and protection gaps, and clearly linking monitoring and reporting tools to EU enforcement mechanisms to ensure follow-up. In its recently released report, the European Civic Forum points at the gaps and challenges in the existing European measures and builds on broadly shared proposals for European actions towards a vibrant European civic space. 

The signatories of the letter believe that it is now more urgent than ever for civil society to stand together and call the European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen to include the development of an EU Civil Society Strategy in the 2023 European Commission workplan. Read the letter below:

 

Honourable President,

We, civil society organisations acting at local, national and European levels, call on the European Commission to include in the work programme of 2023 a proposal for a European Civil Society Strategy.

Civil society organisations, such as citizens’ associations, NGOs and public benefits foundations, and human rights defenders are instrumental to make effective the values enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union and the rights proclaimed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, on a daily basis, both at European and national level.

Our action strives to leave no one behind and is crucial in the area of culture, social care, education, health, anti-corruption, environment, anti-discrimination and much more.

We intervene as democratic antibodies when rights, democracy and the rule of law are under attack.

Our role is key to build public spaces, upscale participatory democracy and channel citizens’ participation.

Our rapid mobilisations and recommendations have been and are essential in the context of the multifaceted crises affecting our societies which each time exacerbate the many vulnerabilities people are confronted with, such as the financial crisis in the early 2010s, the COVID-19 pandemic, the humanitarian crisis following the Russian invasion of Ukraine or the environmental catastrophes resulting from the climate emergency.

Unfortunately, evidence from the field shows growing obstacles and attacks affecting 2 civil society’s ability to act in full capacities and independence, as research3 and the findings of the European Commission rule of law report confirm. As a result of these attacks, our collective European future is jeopardised.

The ongoing measures and actions taken at the European level in support of civic actors’ activities have mostly been limited in scope and impact. It is now urgent to provide an overarching solution to fill the gaps of existing policies and mainstream positive practices.

The call for a civil society strategy has been a long-term demand of CSOs at European and national level. This demand is now supported by a European Parliament resolution on the shrinking space for civil society in Europe (2021/2103(INI)) voted with a large majority on 8 March 2022, and recommendation 36.8 of the final report of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

We urge the European Commission to consider all this, and in consequence to give substance to the mandate of the Vice President of the European Commission for values and transparency and resources for carrying out a regular, open and transparent civil dialogue – along the provision of Article 11 of the Treaty – and safeguard civil society space by developing, in cooperation with CSOs and human rights defenders, a comprehensive European civil society strategy before the end of the current five-years term.

We remain at your disposal to discuss the overall content of such a strategy, and the steps to be started immediately. For further communication, you can contact the initiators of the letter: Civil Society Europe (Carlotta Besozzi, carlotta.besozzi@civilsocietyeurope.eu) and European Civic Forum (Alexandrina Najmowicz, anajmowicz@civic-forum.eu).

See the letter and the full list of signatories here.

Join the call by signing the letter here.

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