The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has found that civil society is under threat in many parts of the EU.
A report from FRA, Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU explores the challenges and how they vary across the EU.
It points to:
– Threats, physical and verbal attacks against activists, as well as smear campaigns;
– Legal changes that negatively affect civil society, such as freedom of assembly restrictions, often a by-product of counter-terrorism laws;
– Shrinking budgets and increased difficulties in getting funding;
– Lack of appropriate involvement of civil society in law-making and policy-making.
In the report, FRA states that Member States should abide by the laws, including international standards that recommend civil society participation in policy cycles. It also says that due attention must also be paid to ensure that new or redrafted laws and policies do not undermine the work of civil society, with civil society funding also needing to be protected.
In addition, FRA states that channels of dialogue between civil society and the EU need to be strengthened to ensure concerns are heard and addressed. This includes finding ways to collect comparable and reliable data on the challenges civil society face, such as threats, intimidation and attacks.
FRA director Michael O’Flaherty said:
“A thriving democracy needs a healthy civil society. Unfortunately, the EU’s own civil society is facing a pattern of threats and pressures in many parts of the EU. Addressing this unacceptable situation should be a high priority for policy makers at EU and national level.”