European Civic Forum

CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS REQUEST WITHDRAWAL OF THE DRAFT LAW ON AMENDMENTS ON THE LAW ON SOCIAL PROTECTION

A group of civil society organisations is contesting the Draft Law on amendments on the Law on social protection in Serbia, after a non-transparent process of consultation by the Serbian government and several paragraphs that could undermine the rights of workers and the social welfare system in the country.
The ECF, through its member organisation Initiative for Development and Cooperation, is sharing the open letter addressed to EU decision-makers (Serbian below)
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The group of civil society organizations consisting of Trag Foundation, A11 – Initiative for Economic and Social Rights, European Movement in Serbia, Astra, Autonomous Women’s Center, Civic Initiatives, Foundation Center for Democracy, Initiative for Development and Cooperation, National Coalition for Decentralization, SeCons – Development Initiative Group and CRTA have launched the Initiative for withdrawal from the procedure of the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Social Protection, demanding from the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs  to include key domestic and international actors in a discussion on the priorities of the reform of the social protection system. By 5th August, the date of the end of the public discussion, the initiative had been supported by 506 signatures, among which 115 of CSOs from Serbia.

As representatives of civil society in Serbia we are concerned about human rights violation and undermining of interests of beneficiaries which could be the consequence of the introduced changes of the Draft Law. The Draft Law inadequately regulates the legal matter and it is inconsistent with other relevant national regulations and obligations that Republic of Serbia has undertaken by the ratification of international treaties guaranteeing fundamental human rights. Furthermore, overall social protection system is being more centralised, which is contrary to the recommendations of the European Commission on the decentralization of the social protection system. We wish to remind that the overall process of drafting legislative proposal is non-transparent and without involvement of relevant actors including civil society organizations dealing with social protection issues. The most concerning elements of the Draft Law are:

  • Forced Labour. The Draft Law prescribes that the right on social support can only be granted to the person capable to work, if that person has not refused to work or  take part even in direct job creation measures. Contrary to the Article 20 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, it undermines level of achieved rights and violates international obligations of the Republic of Serbia for prevention of forced labour and discrimination prescribed by the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Labour Convention C 29 from 1930.
  • Centralisation of the social protection system. The possibility that a number of by-laws are brought by the Minister without defining basic terms and conditions is contrary to the fundamental principles of legal certainty and it can lead to the subsequent reduction of the rights of beneficiaries within social protection system. Additionally, contrary to the recommendations of the European Commission on the decentralization of the social protection system, the local self-government could not appoint or dismiss the director of the Center for Social Welfare without prior approval of the Ministry.
  • Conditioning of the financial support. The Draft Law stipulates that financial assistance is conditioned by regular education and achieving success within the education system. Conditioning financial assistance is in contradiction with the regulations governing the education system, and contrary to the principle of the best interests of the child referred to in Article 3, Paragraph 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Wide range of authority of the Centers for Social Welfare. Centers for Social Welfare are given widen range of authority in terms of collecting user data, which creates the risk of disproportionate interference with citizens’ rights and violation of the right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

We call for the support from the European institutions and the international community in influencing the Government of Serbia and the Ministry of Labor to withdraw the existing Draft Law and to initiate new process of legislative changes based on national laws, taking care of protection and promotion of the highest level of human rights.


 

ORGANIZACIJE GRAĐANSKOG DRUŠTVA ZAHTEVAJU POVLAČENJE NACRTA ZAKONA O IZMENAMA i DOPUNAMA ZAKONA O SOCIJALNOJ ZAŠTITI

Grupa organizacija civilnog društva koju čine Trag fondacija, A 11 – Inicijativa za ekonomska i socijalna prava, Evropski pokret u Srbiji, Astra, Autonomni ženski centar, Građanske inicijative, Fondacija Centar za demokratiju, Inicijativa za razvoj i saradnju, Nacionalna koalicija za decentralizacijuSeCons – Grupa za razvojnu inicijativu i CRTA u toku prošle nedelje pokrenula je Inicijativu za povlačenje iz procedure Nacrta zakona o izmenama i dopunama Zakona o socijalnoj zaštiti, zahtevajući od Ministarstva za rad, zapošljavanje, boračka i socijalna pitanja da se otvori javna diskusija sa ključnim domaćim i međunarodnim akterima o prioritetima reforme sistema socijalne zaštite. Do 5. avgusta kada je bio rok za javnu raspravu, putem platforme, Ministarstvu je upućeno ukupno 506 zahteva za povlačenje Nacrta zakona o izmenama i dopunama Zakona o socijalnoj zaštiti, a od toga 115 zahteva od strane organizacija civilnog društva (OCD).

Kao predstavnici civilnog društva u Srbiji, duboko smo zabrinuti zbog posledica koje bi Nacrt zakona proizveo imajući u vidu da se predloženim zakonskim izmenama ozbiljno ograničavaju osnovna ljudska prava, ugrožavaju interesi korisnika i korisnica usluga socijalne zaštite, a sistem socijalne zaštite se centralizuje suprotno preporukama Evropske komisije o decentralizaciji sistema socijalne zaštite. Nacrt zakona na neadekvatan način reguliše zakonsku materiju, neusaglašen je sa drugim propisima, kao i sa obavezama koje je Republika Srbija preuzela ratifikacijom međunarodnih ugovora kojima se garantuju osnovna ljudska prava.

Navedenim Nacrtom zakona, između ostalog,  predviđa se:

  • Prinudni rad. Tekstom je definisano da pravo na novčanu socijalnu pomoć može ostvariti radno sposoban pojedinac, ukoliko u poslednjih šest meseci nije odbio, između ostalog, učešće u javnim radovima. Predloženim nacrtom zakonskog teksta se, suprotno garancijama iz člana 20. Ustava Republike Srbije umanjuje dostignuti nivo ljudskih prava i krše međunarodne obaveze Republike Srbije u vezi sa sprečavanjem prinudnog rada i diskriminacije.
  • Centralizacija sistema socijalne zaštite. Mogućnost da brojne podzakonske akte propisuje ministar bez prethodnog propisivanja osnovnih pojmova i uslova u suprotnosti je sa osnovnim načelima pravne sigurnosti i može dovesti do naknadnog umanjenja prava korisnika novčane socijalne pomoći. Dodatno, suprotno preporukama Evropske komisije o decentralizaciji sistema socijalne zaštite, lokalna samouprava neće smeti ni da postavi ni da smeni direktora centra za socijalni rad bez prethodne saglasnosti nadležnog ministarstva.
  • Uslovljavanje novčane socijalne pomoći. Nacrtom Zakona propisano je da se novčana socijalna pomoć uslovljava redovnim školovanjem i ostvarivanjem uspeha u obrazovnom sistemu. Ovakvo propisivanje uslova za ostvarivanje novčane socijalne pomoći u suprotnosti je sa propisima kojima se uređuje sistem obrazovanja i vaspitanja, ali i u suprotnosti sa principom najboljeg interesa deteta iz člana 3. stav 1 Konvencije o pravima deteta.
  • Preširoka ovlašćenja centara za socijalni rad. Centrima za socijalni rad data su preširoka ovlašćenja u pogledu prikupljanja podataka o korisnicima, što stvara rizik od neproporcionalnog zadiranja u prava građana i kršenja prava na privatnost iz člana 8. Evropske konvencije o ljudskim pravima.

Zbog gore navedenih argumenata, ovom prilikom pozivamo Evropske institucije i međunarodnu zajednicu da nas podrže u ovom zahtevu kako bi zajedno uticali na Vladu Republike Srbije i Ministarstvo za rad, zapošljavanje, boračka i socijalna pitanja  da povuku postojeći Nacrt zakona i pokrenu novi proces izrade zakonskih izmena poštujući pozitivne propise i međunarodne konvencije i vodeći računa o poštovanju, zaštiti i promociji osnovnih ljudskih prava.

European Ombudsman severly criticises the lack of transparency within the Council

Following her inquiry into the transparency of legislative discussions in the preparatory bodies of the Council of the EU (the ‘Council’), the Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, has issued a special report to the European Parliament to seek its support on the matter.

She notably pointed out that the Council, the body representing the Member States at the European level, was not a “star pupil” when it comes to transparency in its meetings and decision-making processes. While aknowledging that other institutions, such as the European Commission have made efforts towards more transparent functioning, Mr. O’Reilly asked the European Parliament to support her and so backed the numerous findings from civil society organisations on this issue.

In order also for citizens to be able to hold their governments to account for the decisions they make on EU laws, they need to know how their governments positioned themselves during the legislative process. Making such information public would also oblige Member State governments to assume greater responsibility for this legislation and discourage them from ‘blaming Brussels’ for EU laws they themselves helped to shape and adopt.

She insisted on the need to document and make accessible the preparatory discussions and work that takes place in advance of meetings between heads of states or ministers.

National representatives are democratically accountable to national parliaments . . . To hold government to account they need to know how governments position themselves in the legislative process. This is lacking [at the European Council level].

In a consultation she launched last year, the Ombudsman asked for inputs and recommendations from all stakeholders, including civil society organisations. A recommendation was formulated by Transparency International EU’s office too, which welcomed the move made by Mrs. O’Reilly.

Although the meetings between heads of states and/or ministers are generally covered by the media and commented, it is very hard to access information on the different positions by the member states. The European Council, where the national egos are naturally the strongest, is in charge of co-deciding with the European Parliament on proposals formulated by the European Commission.

2005-2015: ten years of fight for democracy and civil dialogue

In 2005, several NGOs’ representative from across Europe started reflecting upon the widening gap between European institutions and the citizens they were supposed to serve and represent, following French and Dutch NOs to the referendum on a new European Treaty.

Ten years later, we wanted to look back at the past achievements and explore the future engagements of the European Civic Forum network.
Citizens-consultation

Public consultation on EU funds in the area of values and mobility

To prepare the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework, the Commission has launched an open public consultation on EU funds in the area of values and mobility.

The questionnaire related to the consultation can be found by clicking on the following link: https://ec.europa.eu/info/consultations/public-consultation-eu-funds-area-values-and-mobility_en. All citizens and organisations are welcome to respond to this consultation.

In 2018, the Commission will make comprehensive proposals for the next generation of financial programmes for the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework, which is the EU’s long–term budget.  The Commission’s proposals will be designed to make it possible for the EU to deliver on the things that matter most, in areas where it can achieve more than Member States acting alone. This requires a careful assessment both of what has worked well in the past and what could be improved in the future. This consultation is an integral part of the process and its objective is to collect the views of all interested parties on how to make the most of every euro of the EU budget.

Consultations have taken place in the context of evaluations of existing EU financial programmes covering several policy areas, including on current performance and future challenges. The views expressed by stakeholders in these consultations will be taken into account as part of the current process for the future Multiannual Financial Framework.

In parallel, to this consultation, there are others running in parallel, covering the entire spectrum of EU future funding in the following areas: Cohesion; Investment; Security; Migration and Asylum; Strategic Infrastructure.

Survey on the future evolution of organised civil society in the EU

The role of civil society organisations has evolved significantly and will continue to change in the future. Their capacity to contribute to political and societal development will depend on a variety of factors, including funding, technological development and the increasing role of social media.

This survey seeks to analyse the main challenges for CSOs at national and European level, the trends and drivers of change, and future prospects for relations between policy-makers at national and European level and CSOs. The survey is part of the study that will develop a set of scenarios looking forward to 2030 setting out possible futures for CSOs, along with an overview of the possible consequences of those changes in terms of CSOs’ relations with public authorities. The survey is conducted on behalf of the European Economic and Social Committee by ENNA and CNVOS Slovenia. The survey has 8 questions and will take app. 15 minutes of your time. We kindly ask you to answer them and help us with the study. Your responses will be confidential.

The link to the survey can be found here.

Europe for Citizens mid-term review: European Civic Forum contribution

The European Commission invited beneficiaries and applicants to complete an online survey aimed at  collecting views and opinions on the results and impacts of activities and projects co-financed by the Europe for Citizens programme between 2014 and 2016 and to assess their relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and EU added value.

This public consultation is part of a process to evaluate the results achieved by the actions implemented through the Europe for Citizens programme and aims at offering to citizens and stakeholders the opportunity to share their views, ideas and analysis. It should also provide further reflection on how the programme can have a wider impact in the coming years, also in relation to other projects for citizens of the EU.

This position paper is the outcome of a joint reflection promoted by the Task Force on the Europe for Citizens Programme held by the organisations listed below within the framework of Civil Society Europe. As beneficiaries of the programme, the subscribers exchanged their multi-annual experience in partnering up with the programme and identified a set of recommendations for its improvement.

The document is divided into two parts, namely the added value of the programme and the recommendations to the European Commission about its functioning and implementation.

These contributions are all the more important in view of current discussions about budgetary control of NGO funding led by the European Parliament. It is notably reminded that the Europe for Citizens programme is unique as it is a listening exercise on civil society’s debate, as it stimulates critical thinking on the European project, its history and that of the movements and ideas that have promoted it and as it contributes to a better knowledge of the European
decision-making process.

The complete recommendations can be found here.

Join us for the first European Civic Academy

The first European Civic Academy (8-9 October, la Rochelle, France) will look into the complex questions raised by citizens’ disenchantment, practice, and expectation with regard to democracy and in relation to the “democratic deficit” in Europe.

The vote for Brexit is the latest illustration of the risk of the disintegration of the European project.

For a long time now, democratic disenchantment has constantly been on the increase because of the growing gap between electoral promises and what elected representatives actually do, by the corruption that occurs where the vested interests of economic and political forces meet, by the lack of transparency of decision-making processes which affect peoples’ lives, by growing social inequalities, by institutional disregard of popular mobilizations about access to rights, by the fear of exclusion, by growing poverty, and by growing state racism.

For an increasing number of the population, this leads to questioning democracy as a relevant instrument to make their aspirations and claims heard and to be taken into account. Regressive populism is blossoming on this fertile ground. Its leitmotif is denying equal access to rights for all.

While decreasing electoral participation is often an indicator of growing democratic disenchantment, we are also witnessing the mobilisation of citizens’ to cast their votes, in last year’s elections in Greece, Scotland or Catalonia.

Similarly, while social conflicts are on a globally decreasing trend, the economic crisis triggered massive democratic citizens’ mobilisation, about a wide range of concerns and in forms of action from the local to the global level. These mobilisations around our values have an empowering effect, yet they remain fragmented, thematically and geographically.

There is a need for a better understanding of this combination of obstacles and opportunities in their complexities, and in their interactions, in order to overcome the fragmentation of forces for social and democratic change.

To register, please fill in the form here. Full programme and list of speakers is available here.

Hearing Union Citizenship in Practice: Our common values, rights and democratic participation

The ECF took part in the hearing on Union Citizenship in Practice: Our common values, rights and democratic participation organised by the European Commission and the European Parliament on 15 March 2016 in Brussels. The key objective of this hearing was to present the outcomes of the public consultation and recent flash Eurobarometer surveys, gather further input and reflect, with all actors concerned, on concrete avenues to advance EU citizenship and promote European common values and democratic participation.

Through panel discussions and open debate with the audience have been addressed specific issues related to the exercise of free movement and consular protection rights, as well as ways to enhance participation in the democratic life of the EU. While EU citizens seem to become more aware of their rights and the ways to exercise them (87% say they are familiar with the term “citizen of the EU” but only 56% claim to know what it means…), they also claim more efforts to get a stronger say on EU policy making (88% of the respondents in the public consultation), mainly through consultation and dialogue mechanisms.

The ECF welcomes both the consultation and open hearing opportunity as a step forward towards shaping a holistic and more inclusive citizenship policy, which should no longer be reduced to fostering “individual mobility rights” but should tackle citizens’ participation in policy making, both individually and through civil society associations.

From this perspective, the ECF deplores that this later dimension of citizens’ participation has been completely missing in the debate and strongly hopes the 2016 EU citizenship report will take good account of citizens’ expectations to see their right to have a say on European policies reinforced both by better use of existing consultation and the creation of new dialogue mechanisms.

For us, citizenship and the common good should become a cross-cutting dimension of European policies and a key priority in all areas of the Union’s action, by means of:

  • measuring the social and environmental impact of all EU policies and legislation,
  • giving citizens and civil society organsiations the opportunity to voice concerns about those policies and the extent to which they reflect the EU founding values,
  • taking these into account when discussing political strategies, framing policy proposals, implementing policies.

You can click here for further information on the hearing.

Citi-Rights – claim your rights

A vast gap exists between the rights guaranteed by the EU and the exercise of these rights. Unclear laws, disempowerment or fear of reprisal can prevent people from knowing and enjoying their rights.

This reflection is shared not only by the European Civic Forum members, but also by many other European networks, such as European Alternatives. This is what led this network composed of activists, intellectuals, artists, etc. to implement the Citi-Rights project, together with the ECF and other organisations.

Together, we want to look at how, when and where people in the EU can individually and collectively protect and advance rights. We also want to see where they are limited from exercising their rights and how transnational collaboration can imagine and build a future where rights are actively protected.  The project has several components: researching citizen rights in the EU, teaching about rights in schools and universities and drafting EU policy proposals and providing trainings for civil-society activists to improve their capacity to protect and extend rights.

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 These trainings, the CREATE I REACT programme seeks to build on the momentum of activists, artists, tech-  developers and citizen movements across Europe to work collaboratively to build a strong voice for rights protection.  As a partner organisation, the European Civic Forum will notably organise the ultimate stage of the programme,  around Policy making and advocacy, scheduled on 17 and 18 February 2016 in Brussels.

 Around workshops and open sessions, participants will have the opportunity to exchange and learn about effective  advocacy towards European institutions, citizen lobbying, and the use of European level tools to influence policy for  rights protection.

Full information can be found on the project’s official website.