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)
cropped-idc-logo2

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.

Civic space shrinking in 2017 shows Civil Society Europe’s report

Last Friday, 22 June, Carlotta Besozzi, coordinator of Civil Society Europe, was invited at a side event of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. She took the opportunity to present the report on Civic Space for Europe in 2017, invited by CIVICUS.

Trust in open civic space, but deteriorating in some countries

report  The survey, based on interviews and comments from organisations and activists, shows a general confidence of CSOs in the European Economic Area in the freedom  of association, assembly and of expression which is particularly striking if compared to candidate countries in the European neighborhood. However, there is a widespread perception of lack of progress and deterioration.

Among factors that raised concern about the shrinking of civic space is the decline of rule of law and transparency, and the emergence of forms of managed participation in countries traditionally supportive of civil society. Also worrying is the rise of right-wing populism and the spread of hate speech which give more visibility to extreme voices and contributes to the creation of informal barriers and discourages people, especially those belonging to vulnerable groups, from joining the political debate. Neoliberal policies, austerity, and lack of understanding of the specificity of civil society are also source of anxiety.

European institutions to be more proactive on the issue

The report calls for the European institutions to act more proactively on the shrinking civic space by  playing a greater role in upholding democratic principles and setting guidelines to ensure an enabling environment for civil society. The report points out at the fact that “when institutions failed to carry out a convincing and effective action to condemn and sanction breaches of EU values in a country, this had a negative resonance among civil society”.

 

The full report can be found on the website of Civil Society Europe.

The European Citizenship Awards are back!

The European Citizenship Awards 2018 is a joint initiative between the European Civic Forum and Volonteurope, two European networks which promote active citizenship and recognition of the importance of social justice to the cohesion of communities across Europe.

Logo-ECA

The Awards celebrate the democratic and civic engagement of individuals, organisations, citizens’ groups and social enterprises.  They recognise innovative initiatives and contributions which give real substance to European values, create ownership of public space and improve the lives of their communities in terms of democracy, social justice and universal access to rights.
The European Citizenship Awards 2018 seek to reward initiatives which promote solidarity and contribute to the creation of community cohesion, inclusion and social justice.” Eligible nominations are sought from all current Member States of the Council of Europe in the following categories:

  1. Volunteer of the Year will reward individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to democratic life and to the development of a community or a cause, through a volunteering role in an NGO or in another form of organisation or community association (including informal groups)
  2. Social Enterprise of the Year will reward businesses or not-for-profit organisations founded on the basis of social groups, which are written into the enterprise’s vision and mission, and which bring positive social change and create cohesion in communities
  3. Active Citizens’ Initiative of the Year will reward grassroots campaigns organised by both formal and informal groups of citizens, with a real and proven impact on community cohesion and which have a high potential for creating transformative change.

 

Promoting citizenship and shedding light on social engagement

If you wish to make a nomination under one of the above categories, please complete the form below no later than by 9 September 2018. An international judging panel will make a shortlist selection of nominees in each of the four categories, which will then be submitted to an online vote between 17 September and 1 October. The online vote will represent 50% of the overall final score, while the remaining 50% will be given by the judging panel.

The winners will be contacted shortly after the final meeting of the judging panel and the press announcement will be released on 8 October 2018. The Awards Ceremony will take place on 2 December 2018, in the Palace of Culture of Gdansk (Poland).

If you or your acquaintances know about any individual, initiative or social enterprise that deserves better visibility and genuinely acts for European values, it is your chance to make them widely known!

 APPLY BELOW

edit

Sofia, here we come! European Civic Days – 29-31 May 2018

BUILDING ON THE SUCCESS and carrying forward the legacy of civil society forums in countries holding the EU Presidencies over the last ten years, the European Civic Forum joins forces with
the Citizen Participation Forum, the BlueLink Foundation and the European Citizen Action Service to organize a European conference “Citizenship – Participation –Policies: Building Europe from Grassroots up” on 29 and 30 May in Sofia.

Taking stock of the current state of democracy and civic space in Europe, this conference will spot positive examples of civic engagement and co-decision in policy making, placing civic participation in the broader context of European democracy with growing demands from citizens to have a real say in shaping their future in common? As democratic representation is facing
an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy and the gap between politics and citizens has been widening, in many cities, regions, countries, and often transnationally, new forms of engagement are emerging, outside the box of representative democracy. Civic actors and movements build power upon strong local or regional support, but their claims need to be addressed in a wider context, as we leave now in a multi-level governance system where policy-making responsibility is shared among a variety of actors at European, national and local levels.

How can the European Union better take into account its citiznes concerns and expectations? What place should civil society organisations have in changing the way citizens are involved in decision-making? What are the challenges and opportunities of co-deciding with citizens at local, national and European levels.

This event provides a unique space for civic actors to share and learn from different experiences, hear from a variety of stakeholders and envision ways forward towards a renewal of the European democracy along core values of equality, solidarity and inclusiveness.

The full programme is accessible here, you can follow the debates with our hashtag #EUCivicDays2018

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.

From 30 April to 8 July – they will march for migrants !

An unprecedented initiative will kick-off in France on Monday, 30 April. Willing to gather together citizens and raise awareness about the situation of migrants coming to France, but also about the activists that give real substance to solidarity, l’Auberge des Migrants and Roya Citoyenne decided to organise a migrants’ march that will rock France from South to North.
A few days before starting this journey in the highly symbolic city of Vintimille, at the French-Italian border, Emilien and Anaïs agreed to answer a few questions for the MEGA campaign.

“How did this idea of crossing France come up? How many supports did you have at the beginning?”

François, the president of l’Auberge des Migrants, started to think about this a few months ago, as he wanted to raise awareness about the reception of migrants in France. In January we started contacting many organisations throughout the country, to know who would be on board in this journey. Indeed we were primarily looking for organisations working with migrants, but we also reached out at those which share our vision and help those in need. We now have several organisations that will help us alongside the march, but some of them unfortunately had to cancel their support, because of political pressures, especially in cities run by Front National mayors.

 “How do you see the march, a few days after the adoption by the National Assembly of a restrictive law on asylum and migration?”

We do not focus on the outcome of the vote, our idea is really to engage people into a dialogue, to reflect about the way migrants are treated when they arrive in France. We will bring together organisations, local representatives, citizens, everyone who wants basically. They are all invited to debate, whether they agree with us or not.

Our main point is to talk about the reception of migrants, but first and foremost about the criminalization of solidarity, which happens all over Europe and especially in France. From the French-Italian border to Calais, dozens of ordinary citizens are considered criminals because they help people who put their lives at risk to flee war and misery. We really need to raise awareness about the daily threats, intimidations and pressure from police authorities.

“Did you think of some concrete expectations from the March?”

We did not yet plan any solutions; they will be developed throughout the different stages. Though, we have already launched a petition, so that people can support us. Of course we set up a crowdfunding campaign to support those who will march and we will collect various items (shoes, clothes, cover decks…) during our journey. This action has a budget (60,000€) which is hardly covered by not-for-profit organisations, so any kind of support is more than welcome. Anyone can dedicate some time, some money to our cause.

Our biggest challenge will be to reassure those citizens who are afraid of welcoming migrants, because of the criminalization of solidarity. There are many people in this situation.

“Are you expecting some transnational support through the March?”

This would definitely be great if many organisations from other countries would join us. We understand that it is difficult to bring them to France, for several reasons. Some Italian organizations will join us for the first stage in Vintimille, but with the recent events in the region, it might be complicated to cross borders.

We should have around 15 to 20 people at each stage, but having some European back-up is a very good idea. That could also show that organisations can show solidarity among each other, because this is not an issue confined to the French boundaries. Together with citizens from across the continent, we can show that we are opposed to this unfair Dublin regulation and to the lack of cohesion among Member States on the question of migration.

“Speaking about organisations and solidarity: what kind of organisations will help or support you? How can others join the March?”

We clearly want to gather together individuals, activists and organisations, in order to work better collectively. There are not so many spaces for these different groups to speak and raise their voice together. This March will be one of them. We hope to see many groups of citizens on our way, not only in these places where migration is a burning question, but also in places which do not necessarily face the same situation. We want to involve the local organizations, regardless of their sector of activities.

We will have movies, debates, dinners, with locals at each stage, in order to get to know each other a bit better. Sharing of experience is essential in our approach. There are already several partner organisations for each stage, while we are closely working with La Roya Citoyenne on the overall event. Though, any organization can be helpful and it is up to them to determine how and when they want to help: this is the meaning of solidarity.

Complete information about the Marche Citoyenne can be found on the official website of the Auberge des Migrants: https://www.laubergedesmigrants.fr/fr/la-marche-citoyenne/

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.

Interview: Baobab Experience to fill an institutional void in the Italian capital

We interviewed Valerio Bevacqua for the group of volunteers Baobab Experience in Rome. Rome is the only European capital without a hub for migrants, and the actions of these citizens have prevented more than 60.000 migrants in three years to be left alone on the street. Nevertheless, the administration in Rome still does not recognise them as a partner to cooperate with.

26055734_1542100845866662_2755355240614041047_n

Tell us something about your organisation. For example, what kind of services does it provide to migrants and why are they important?

Baobab, as a group of volunteers, was born in Spring 2015 in via Cupa, Rome. The idea was to offer first aid to “transit-migrants”, who would stop in Rome only for a few days and then keep their journey to Northern Europe. However, we had to move from via Cupa due to an evacuation of the police. Since then, there were more than 20 evacuations. We now operate behind the Tiburtina station.

More than 60’000 migrants came to Baobab, but after three years the situation is much different. Now crossing borders is more difficult and dangerous, and, even when they are able to reach their destination in another European country, the local authorities can send them back to Italy. This is the case of the so-called “Dubliners”, migrants that had their fingerprints taken at their arrival in Sicily who do not have the right to ask for asylum elsewhere in Europe.

Until September 2017, the European Union had established a Relocation Scheme, an ad-hoc initiative to release the pressure from countries of the first arrival and ensure migrants from Syria, Iraq, and Eritrea with the right of applying for international protection in other European countries. This was an exception to the Dublin regulation, and the plan foresaw that 160.000 people would have been relocated across the EU Member States in two years time. In reality, only about 30’000 people were transferred to other EU countries, about 10.000 from Italy. We are still waiting for an extension of this regime. In the meanwhile, Syrians, Iraqis, and Eritreans are stuck here with migrants of other nationalities.

As the political environment has changed, also Baobab services did. At the beginning, we were offering first aid support, an arrival kit, some clean clothes and a map of Europe to keep on their journey. Now we have to provide a more structural help as it is harder for them to leave Italy and some are asking for international protection here. Our action really substitutes that of local authorities: we still cover for material needs like a warm meal three times a day and clean clothes once per week. Now we also coordinate with other local NGOs such as A Buon Diritto, the Italian Refugee Council, Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU), Doctors without Borders, the Italian Radicals, Right(s) to the Heart among others to offer legal help, medical and psychological support.

We go with them to the local authorities because legal proceedings are carried out in Italian, and it is easy to misunderstand each other. Imagine, the questura of Rome only accepts twenty people per day. This means that people to register with the local authorities have to start lining up at night. When the office opens, they are tired after a long wait, nervous and do not understand the language authorities speak in because there are no cultural mediators. The situation is really out of hands, a real torture for those waiting to file their asylum applications. This legal support is really essential to fill the void left by the authorities.

Complementary to this, we organise other kinds of activities: cultural, sports, and artistic. For example, football games once a week, run, we will take part in the marathon in Rome. These activities are so important for people who experienced trauma. Also, sport and art are two channels of integration in society. These activities also include tours in the city, to museums, monuments, and exhibitions. They live in the street, and the only part of Rome they see is a parking lot. We want them to see the beauty of Rome and culturally connect with the city. We want to show a different side of the Italian culture and society.

Despite all these activities, we still are just a group of volunteers. We do not receive public funds, only donations from private citizens or non-governmental institutions. We are not paid for our work, so we do this in our free time after working or studying. We still do not have a kitchen, or bathrooms, or even access to water, nor electricity. We prepare meals at home, and we carry them here. For the water, we go to the train station.

26815054_1565229213553825_3247987209488764421_n

BAOBAB Experience is probably is an emblematic case of criminalisation of solidarity as, from what I understand, it all began with the first evacuation of migrants and volunteers in Ponte Mammolo in June 2015. How is your relationship with the local administration and the police since then?

The relationship is fundamentally unidirectional. We went through three different local administrations with Ignazio Marino, the technical commission of Francesco Tronca, and now with Virginia Raggi. Nevertheless, we experience no change in their attitude to our work.

We ask their three councillors for social policies to establish a hub for migrants in transit. Rome is the only capital in Europe not to have one. They did promise us to build it, but still, there is no new development. If Baobab did not exist, they would out on the street. Marino said that he would renew the Ferrhotel next to Tiburtina station back in June 2015 and open it to the migrants. The structure was supposed to be able to welcome 80 people. This never happened but, even in the best case scenario, it would not be enough. Now that is winter, and the number of arrivals from the Mediterranean is decreased we host about 100 people. In the summer, we can reach 500-600. This is insufficient. This can only be a short-term solution, not a long-term one. There are many empty buildings in Rome, in the city centre too. Ideally, a hub should be established in Termini station, when the migrants reach Rome. But the local authorities have no interests in bringing the migrants in the heart of the city: “lontano dagli occhi, lontano dal cuore” (Translation: what you can’t see, can’t hurt). It is a way for the state not to see the problem, but for the migrants, this is like a punishment.

Occasionally, they tell us that a hub cannot be built because it would encourage more people to come to Italy. They even said to us that we, the volunteers from Baobab, are a ‘pull factor’ for migrants coming from Africa. I can only laugh at such a ridiculous statement. Really, it is ridiculous to think that people would leave their country and experience such a dangerous and difficult journey just because a small group of volunteers in Rome will welcome them in a parking lot, offering few tend to live in. The administration treats us as we were a luna park for migrants to have fun. It is so far away from the reality I hear in the stories of these people. They are so tragic.

An important initiative is the visit of schools, mostly high schools. We started by chance. You know some professors or some students… But then the word started spreading, and more and more schools began inviting us to share our experience with Baobab. We try to bring with us also migrants when they feel conformable. We let them free to talk about what they prefer: why they left, the journey to get to Europe, their staying in Italy. It is such a powerful experience for students. Most of them have never seen a migrant, only on the TV. Let alone talk to them. It is moving for everyone, students, volunteers, and migrants. Some student comes to us afterwards to ask how they can help.

Also, libraries in Rome recognised our role in managing the situation with migrants and last year they organised several conferences and meetings to share our experience. There were also filmmakers and high-level journalists, but we were always invited among the main speakers. It is funny, the local administration fails to recognise us as an essential partner to cooperate with, but other institutions consider our experience crucial to understand and handling migration in Rome.

25507859_1535234799886600_3217811973509561444_n

How did the public administration justify these evacuations?

 

Well, the decisions were made by the local police, state officers, and local institutions. The reason was either public decency or even public security. Often these evacuations happened after terror attacks in other European cities. Baobab was treated as a group of terrorists.

When citizens were profoundly worried about their security, as a measure to release tensions, they would come, force the migrants on a bus, and then throw everything away. They throw everything they find, including documents and personal belongs. This is everything a migrant holds on to; this is such a psychological violence. But it is also a waste of public money and time, because when they bring the migrants to the questurea to have their fingerprints taken but their fingerprints are already in the system form their arrival in Italy. For these reasons we filed a legal complaint, but it will take time to give results.

I think it is such nonsense to treat these measure as functional to security. Quite the opposite. Investing in protection for migrants is an investment in security because you prevent people with multiple psychological traumas from living in the street. Without Baobab these people would still be in Rome, just they would be alone in the street, easy prey for micro criminality and organised crime. Otherwise, how would they survive?

26731010_1549414695135277_120259175838186121_n

How can the European institution improve EU migration policies to encourage cooperation between civil society and public administration?

 

I think that a discussion to change the Dublin regulation is already a positive step. The EU must encourage solidarity among member states and moderate the tones of the conversation: talking about an invasion is misleading, there are not the numbers for this. Especially in comparison with other realities across the world. ⅓ of Lebanon population is migrants. Also, the EU should think migration policies more comprehensively, including integration in the work market.


Images form Baobab Facebook page

 

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.

Following the LIBE hearing on Hungary today

Today, the LIBE Committee of the European parliament organised a public hearing on the situation of fundamental rights and the Rule of Law in Hungary. Sitting in the panel with Judith SARGENTINI and Claude MORAES were also Marta PARDAVI from the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Gábor POLYÁK from Mertek Media Monitor, Miklós SZÁNTHÓ (Centre for Fundamental Rights) and eventually Péter SZIJJÀRTÓ, Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Hungarian government.

After an initial introduction by the two MEPs, Mr. Szijjarto, coming as representative of the Hungarian government delivered a speech every demagogue in Europe would label as a model. Without referring to allegations of systemic breach of the Rule of law and fundamental rights, he drew dangerous parallels between migrants fleeing war zones and the number of terror attacks in the EU. While admitting that Hungary joined the European Union in 2004 because of the values it stands for, Mr. Szijjarto accused once again NGOs funded by foreign sources – mainly by George Soros – of working against the interest of the Hungarian people. Eventhough his party was condemned a few days ago by the Hungarian court to apologise to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee for similar allegations, Mr. Szijjarto opposed the vision of his government to the one of the EU, saying that “if the EU does not like what they hear in Hungary, the Hungarians do not like what they here in Brussels neither”.  On this claim that Orban’s government represents the one and only view of all Hungarians, Mrs. Sargentini reminded him that “Fidesz is a party, not a government, not a state and not the people”.

The audience had to wait until Marta Pardavi took the floor to hear some further aspects about the shrinking space for civil society and attempts to undermine democracy. She notably explained that Hungarian NGOs are already compelled to disclose information about their financial sources and their funds.

                               “The law on NGOs receiving funds from abroad is only meant at stigmatising those organisations, by forcing them to put a label “Funded from abroad” on all their communication materials.- Marta Pardavi, Hungarian Helsinki Committee”

These outcomes were confirmed by the Venice Commission opinion on the Lex NGO, as well as by the UN experts, who urged the Hungarian government to repeal the law.

When it came to laws on the media, Gabor Polyak, whose organisation Mertek is monitoring the legislative acts related to media gave a precise timeline of the crackdown on the audiovisual sector by Viktor Orban since his first election. Quoting official statistics, he said that TV channels owned by oligarchs close to Fidesz were given huge amounts of state advertising in comparison to more popular and independent channels. Mr. Polyak also warned about high ownership concentration and the purge that occurred in public broadcasting services following the arrival of Orban into power, while regulatory bodies were progressively dismantled by several laws.

Represented by Mr. Szantho, the Centre for Fundamental Rights – an organisation close to the government – argued that the values laid out in Article 2 TEU were undefined and could therefore be interpreted differently in Hungary than they were by the European institutions. As Israel Butler reminded him in a Tweet posted during the debate, the numerous guidelines and case-laws produced by the United Nations, European and national institutions proved he was wrong.

One could also have reminded Mr. Szantho that Hungary also signed the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and that these terms are well defined in the Charter.

As members of the LIBE committee took the floor, several MEPs – including some EPP members and far-right groups – defended the opinion of the government. Sophie In’t Veld (NL, ALDE), who was rapporteur for a report on democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law in 2016, reminded Mr. Szijjarto that investigations were opened against Hungary for a long time, even before the dispute over the migrants relocation scheme. In a very intensive manner, she also called upon the EPP group to ban Fidesz from its group in the European Parliament. Barbara Kudrycka (PL, EPP) insisted on the fact that the Hungarian government should stop presenting the EU as an enemy, as it does at the moment through media propaganda.

In the end, the hearing showed the determination of the Hungarian government not to comply with EU legislation when it comes to the migration policy, but also their will to maintain the anti-NGO law, even if the Commission referred Hungary to the European Court of Justice today, because of this precise law. To conclude, Hungarian Foreign Minister set a rendez-vous with the European institutions in the European Court of Justice.

Mrs. Sargentini had the last word, saying that she will have the report ready by March 2018 on whether the European Parliament should trigger sanctions foreseen by Article 7 TEU.