Renew Europe seeks to increase the fight against undue state interference and threats to civil society

Author: Caroline Rhawi

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In recent years, we have witnessed how threats, harassment, stigmatisation and smearing campaigns against Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has shrunken civil society's ability to function in several Member States. For it to thrive, civic space must be an environment free from undue interference and intimidations by both state and non-state actors.

In a report led by Renew Europe MEP Anna Donath and due to be adopted by the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) tomorrow, we call for a series of actions to ensure the civic space is preserved and strengthened at local, regional and national level throughout the EU.

Anna Donáth (Hungary, Momentum), Member of LIBE and rapporteur on the report on the Shrinking Space for Civil Society, says ahead of the vote:

”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.

Their work, 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. Tomorrow's adoption of my report will be an important stepping stone to ensure that citizens' can continue to protect EU values, contribute to the public debate and give a voice to the marginalised.”

As a part of this, we ask 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 Rule of Law annual reports.

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