European Civic Forum

The report on the situation in Hungary is adopted with two-third majority

Today, the European Parliament decided to support the report on the situation in Hungary. This report, drafted by Mrs. Sargentini (Greens/EFA, Netherlands) was backed by 448 members. More than two-third of MEPs voted in favour of the report (197 against, 49 abstentions), although several groups refused to take actions against Viktor Orban’s government.

The European Civic Forum is pleased to see that members of the European Parliament stood up for fundamental rights, Rule of Law and democracy. Days before the vote, we have actively called upon MEPs to support the vote. The ECF followed the adoption from an early stage and welcomes this move by the Parliament. Beyond the points mentioned here, the Parliament also had concerns about other issues. Among others, freedom of expression, corruption and conflicts of interest, but also freedom of association and rights of minorities and migrants were longly documented in Mrs. Sargentini’s report.

The Council now in charge of pursuing the dialogue with Hungarian authorities

EU member states will now have to take over the case against Hungary and open talks with the government. They may, acting by a majority of four fifths, determine the existence of a clear risk of a serious breach of the EU values in Hungary. The Council would first have to hear the views of the Hungarian authorities, and Parliament would need to give consent. The EU member states may also choose to address recommendations to Hungary to counter the risk.

At a later stage, the European Council may determine, by unanimity and with the Parliament’s consent, the existence in Hungary of a serious and persistent breach of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights. This could eventually lead to sanctions, such as the suspension of the voting rights in the Council.

Mark Zuckerberg continues Apologies Tour, though nothing on data protection

Yesterday, May 22, Mark Zuckerberg was invited to testify in front of the European Parliament, after a livestreaming-or-not drama which followed the announcement by the EP secretariat that the audition would take place behind closed doors and with no cameras in the room… ironic when the main topic was personal online privacy !

One could notice that only the leaders of the political groups, chair of the LIBE Committee Claude Moraes and EP President Antonio Tajani were authorised attended the meeting. However, this did not prevent Facebook’s CEO from answering some tricky questions.

Although he insisted on the fact that more than 200 apps were banned from Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica scandal*, Zuckerberg admitted that his company has put too little efforts in protecting personal data of their users. He assured the audience that Facebook would comply with the new GDPR, entering into force this Friday, May 25 (one would say that it is compulsory for any company working on EU territory…) and that he intended to better Artificial Intelligence to stop hate messages on the social media.

All in all, the MEPs were quite unsatisfied by the answers Mr. Zuckerberg gave, regretting the format of the hearing, which allowed him to “cherry-pick his responses”, while the Greens pointed out at the lack of seriousness in Zuckerberg’s answers to the EP representatives.

This debate came amid growing concerns about data protection within the EU, with several cases of misuse of personal data by third entities and private companies. It is very timely for the European Civic Forum, as we will precisely discuss the issue of civil liberties and online surveillance by both States and private actors at the Civil Society Days, to take place on 25 and 25 May in the European Economic and Social Committee. The workshop, organised together with the European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH) and the Transport, Energy and Information Society section of the EESC, will notably feature Mario Oetheimer from the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, but also EDRi, Yes We Hack and some inputs by Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who revealed the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

 

*British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica worked on US President Donald Trump’s campaign, and acquired the data of 87 million users, including up to 2.7 million in the EU, via Facebook.

The MEGA campaign for a MEGA change in Europe

On 19 February, the European Civic Forum, together with its members, called upon all civil society representatives, activists, decision-makers and citizens to join them for the kick-off event of the transnational civic campaign Make Europe Great for All – MEGA campaign. “With this campaign, we aim at mobilising horizontally all those who want to see a Europe with more solidarity, more inclusiveness, more equality, because we cannot hear their voices in the public debate at the moment.”, said Jean-Marc Roirant, the president of the ECF.

Between risk of disintegration and proposals for reform, Europe today is navigating through murky waters. Democratic representation is confronted to a crisis of legitimacy and a claim for accountability. Civil freedoms and Human rights are downsized in the name of security, as if the latter implies sacrificing the formers. Regressive policies in terms of democracy and social cohesion strengthen regressive forces.This is precisely what supporters of the MEGA campaign want to fix, or at least include the latter into the debate about the Future of Europe: what do  equality and solidarity mean for a quarter of Europeans facing poverty and social exclusion? What do inclusive societies mean when addressing the consequences of migrations from countries hit by war, poverty and dictatorship? How to build a more democratic Europe where social and environmental rights come before the economic interests of a few? How to combine political will, legal instruments and action through civil society to safeguard democratic values and translate them into concrete policies?

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With a wide scope of speakers, from CSOs representatives (Filip Pazderski from the Institute of Public Affairs in Poland, Francesca Chiavacci from ARCI in Italy, etc.) to institutional panelists such as Georges Dassis (president of the EESC), Michal Boni (MEP, Poland) and Philippe Lamberts (co-chair of the Greens group in the European Parliament), the European Civic Forum launched a wide reflection, which will feature multiple events throughout Europe, but also debates to include all these topics into the campaign for the 2019 European elections. This will ultimately enable civil society to put pressure so that political leaders, media representatives and citizens can appropriate the tools and take an active part in the debate.

Will Belgrade be the next participatory city? – Interview with Ne Da(vi)mo Beograd

After four years of local struggles and fights against the massive privatisation of public spaces, the citizens’ initiative Ne Da(vi)mo Beograd (Do not let Belgrade D(r)own) is now running for Belgrade local elections, which will be held on Sunday 4 March 2018. The grassroots’ movement which organised the biggest protests since the fall of Milosevic in 2000, aims at continuing its engagement at the institutional level. 

The European Civic Forum met them in their “headquarters” a few days ago and wanted to know more about this movement, which is committed to shift the struggle for common goods from the streets to the City Council! Ljubica Slavkovic, Dobrica Veselinovic and Marko Andjelic answered our questions. 

The Initiative Ne Da(vi)mo Beograd – Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own were created as a group of active citizens, but you are now running for municipal elections. How do you switch from one to another?

Dobrica Veselinovic: Initiative that uses all possible means to fight for a better life for citizens, which includes political involvement, but also protests in the streets, administrative procedure against the institutions/

Ljubica Slavkovic: this is one of our main beliefs, that citizens need to do politics and to get involved in this. In doing so, we are just continuing what we started four years ago. There are no “switches” because we are doing it all the time.

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Social issues are not a high priority in the political debate, especially in Serbia. We witness many discussions through a nationalistic approach. How do people react to your discourse when you bring forward social issues, a better environment? Is it a priority to them?

D.V: this nationalistic narrative is an easy tool to blur citizens’ perspectives and prevent them from looking into the real problems they are facing every day. In the media, you always see a scandal, something that diverts people’s attention from their problems.

When we discuss with people on the ground, they do not talk about nationalistic issues, they are facing so many problems in their daily life that talking about social matters is a relief for them. Also, we do it since our creation, while traditional politicians usually take measures just before the elections start.

 

“These movements gathered together with Ne Da(vi)mo Beograd do not necessarily share a political vision, but they want to improve life in their communities and environments.”Dobrica Veselinovic

 

How do you consider active citizenship in Belgrade and Serbia generally?

L.S: It is now related to a very positive feeling. In the beginning, we saw that people were not interested, because they felt helpless in resolving some systemic problems. Our primary goal was to bring them some hope back, that they could really change something in their environment. Four years later, more and more people are active politically; they are committed to bring a change in their communities themselves.

D.V: either we get closer to more themes of citizens’ interest, or there are more themes and struggles currently going on in Belgrade. Sometimes, it is not motivated by a broader vision to fight for a model, but all these movements we are gathering are here because of the need to improve their communities and their surroundings.

 

Do you feel an improvement in people’s participation, in their support to the Initiative?

L.S: a growing number of citizens are looking for information about us, creating new groups, coming to the protests and actions. Globally, we have much more people following and supporting us than we did at the beginning.

D.V: It started from a dozen of people, then grew in thousands, with some last events ended with more than 20,000 people. Definitely, the core group of people also increased and this shows that we are on the right path.

L.S: this is the result of really working on the issues that citizens face. Thus, we do not consider this as a political campaign, but rather the logical continuation of what we did in the previous years, in the neighbourhoods and on the streets.

 

“We are totally censored by the media, which operate under the regime’s thumb”Ljubica Slavkovic

 

You mentioned the engagement with people and information about the Initiative. How do they know about you? We have heard about the difficult situation of the media landscape* in Serbia…

D.V: not only are the channels of communication under control. All these places where politicians have a public space are also under strict scrutiny by the ruling party.

L.S: not to mention that we are totally censored by the media under the regime’s thumb.

D.V: for example, it is nowhere written on the official City’s website that there will be elections on 4 March. Also, the society is very polarised between pro- and anti-government supporters. It is always about some gossips, which does not enable a real debate to take place. Our biggest problem is that citizens barely know about us through mainstream media, otherwise we would have much more support. It also shows that they are scared of us, because we are pointing out at some real problems, which they try to cover up.

L.S: nevertheless, we have worked a lot on raising awareness among citizens. We have organised debates, conferences, workshops with citizens. We are mostly relying on the word to mouth method. Citizens who know us tell their friends and families and so on and so forth. Our informal network of communication is now well established.

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We spoke about the protests you organised, the freedom to associate and the media blackout on neutral information.  How would you consider this civic space in Serbia at the moment?

L.S: I would call it a simulacrum. The Serbian Constitution guarantees all these freedoms, but it is all about pretending to respect them, because the authorities do not respect them at all in practice. All parts of society are under strict watching by the government and the ruling party

D.V: In addition to that, they always put forward the fact that there are numerous candidates and lists – some of them created by the Government to show that they respect plurality– in elections, a growing number of organisations (created by them too). It shows to what extend the Government tries to reflect an image of an open and democratic country, while it is not the case.

 

One last question: you have now well established links with similar groups of citizens across Europe and beyond. You have the support from abroad. Do you consider it as an advantage or is it too time-consuming?

D.V: when people from here do not often have the possibility to travel, study and learn abroad. You start wondering if your vision is the right one, if you are doing the right thing for your city. Of course, each city and each local struggle is peculiar and you cannot copy/paste successful models.

L.S: it is very important, to maintain these links and see that you are not alone in your fight. We are all calling for the same model. We learn a lot from each other and in this sense, having these transnational networks of citizens’ movements is crucial for the Initiative.

Marko Andjelic: I would also like to add that people from the region that live abroad are a very powerful way of disseminating our activities and work to other audiences, which usually do not hear that much about Serbian activism.

 

Belgrade

Some of the members in their headquarters – Belgrade, Serbia

 

 

* Transparency Serbia’s latest report shows that SNS, the ruling party of president Vucic, is overwhelmingly represented on front covers of the main national newspapers, 70 times more than all the opposition parties put together.

#IStandWithNGOs: how did civil society react to Hungary’s law on NGOs

On 13 June 2017, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a new law on “Transparency of Organisations supported from abroad”. Behind these words stands a strong control of the government over civil society organisations, working especially on human rights and Rule of Law.

As explained by the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law in a briefing paper on 15 June 2017, the new law introduces a status of organisation supported from abroad, a term which will label any Hungary-based organisation receiving more than 7,2 million HUF (ca. 24 000 EUR) in a tax year. Beyond the administrative label which implies additional burden, such organisations will have to clearly show their status publicly, on their websites and any other communication material they produce.  Failure to comply with the required administrative and publication requirements might result in the dissolution of dissident NGOs.

Together with a limited access to funding, the law is worrying in the sense that it hinders NGOs’ daily work and creates concerns over possible multiplying effects throughout the EU. Although it is the first law of this kind in the EU, there are already similar legislations in other countries, another source of concern for civic actors. They namely consider this Hungary’s law as a strong attempt to silence NGOs and to shut down any dissident voice against Orban and his illiberal democracy.

Following a call launched by around 200 Hungarian associations and organisations under the banner #Civilvagyok , the European Civic Forum and Civil Society Europe called upon all active citizens, civic movements, volunteers who firmly defend the values of solidarity, democracy and equality, to demonstrate in front of their respective Hungarian embassies. The message was sent to Viktor Orban and wannabe leaders that NGOs and citizens will not disappear from the public sphere and will continue their work towards a more democratic European society, whatever their conditions are.

Below are some of the mobilisations that occured throughout Europe on 13 June, a few minutes before the law was passed. You can also find the full page dedicated to this mobilisation.

From France to Serbia, via Poland and Belgium, activists and ordinary citizens came out to show their solidarity with Hungarian NGOs. Their calls were notably supported by some MEPs and by the European Economic and Social Committee. Yet, even though the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe warned about the danger of such a law, no official measure was undertaken by the European Union against a Member State openly violating EU fundamental values.

 

Fundamental rights in Hungary: debate in EP plenary

On Wednesday from 15.00, MEPs will discuss the fundamental rights situation in Hungary with Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Political group leaders and MEPs will take the floor to give their views on a new law, perceived as targeting the Central European University, media pluralism, the independence of the judiciary and the tightening of rules for non-governmental organisations and asylum seekers.

 

European Citizenship Awards 2017 – Call for Nominations

The European Citizenship Awards 2017 are 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. The Awards celebrate the democratic and civic engagement of individuals, organisations, citizens’ groups, media platforms and social enterprises, recognising innovative initiatives and contributions which give real substance to European values*, create ownership of public space and improve the lives of our communities in terms of democracy, social justice and universal access to rights.

Against the continuous rise of extremist and populist discourse in the public sphere, inclusive societies should be more than rhetoric. Civil society is harnessing its energy to ensure that Europe is inclusive and to combat the forces that are building walls, rejecting the most vulnerable and reviving exclusion and nationalist feelings. The European Citizenship Awards 2017 seek to reward initiatives which contribute to combatting the root causes of extremism.

We are looking for eligible nominations from all current Member States of the Council of Europe, in the following four categories:

  1. Media Campaign of the Year will reward professional media and media-based collaborative initiatives, which give citizens effective tools to engage and bring about positive change in their communities. Successful media initiatives will have used different tools for engagement and enhanced citizens’ participation, fostered an informed citizenry and enabled the development of a common civic space.
  1. Social Enterprise of the Year will reward businesses or not-for-profit organisations founded on the basis of social goals, which are written into the enterprise’s vision and mission, the pursuit of which brings positive social change and cohesion to communities.
  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 cause, be it through a volunteering role in an NGO or in another form of an organisation or community association (including informal groups).
  1. Active Citizens’ Initiative of the Year will reward grassroots campaigns organised by both informal and formal groups of citizens, with a real and proven impact on community cohesion, and a high potential for driving transformative change.

 

Nominations and timeline

If you wish to make a nomination under one of the above categories, please complete the form below no later than by 31 March 2017. 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 10-24 April 2017. Please note that 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 June 1st 2017. The Awards Ceremony will take place on 5 November 2017 in Strasbourg, alongside the World Forum for Democracy.

Click here

 

Rewards

The Award winners will be given the opportunity to present their initiatives, projects and achievements during the Civil Society Days organised by the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels on 26-27/06/2017, the second edition of the European Civic Academy in Paris (29/09-1/10/2017) and at the World Forum for Democracy, taking place on 6-8 November 2017 in Strasbourg. The winners will also be invited for interviews within the European Civic Forum Activizenship Magazine and various European media, thus offering them further opportunities to celebrate their achievements and promote their outstanding work, ensuring that the values upon which the European project has been founded are upheld and respected across the continent.

For any question linked to this form and nomination procedure, please contact us at contact@civic-forum.eu. Before applying, all candidates are invited to carefully read the Rules of procedure for the nomination process.

*Respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men.

The ECF is looking for an Communication and Advocacy Officer (Internship)

The ECF secretariat is composed of a small but dynamic and multi-task team, responsible for the implementation of the work programme and the day-to-day management of the network. We are currently seeking an intern to assist the secretariat team in the field of policy and advocacy development, working in close cooperation with the network member organisations and partners.

MAIN TASKS:

Joining the ECF staff team based in Paris, the intern will contribute to the network communication and advocacy:

  • Support internal working groups on (1) Civic participation and (2) Civic Education and provide technical and policy assistance to develop monitoring tools on civic space developments across Europe (asses the state of the freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression);
  • Contribute to the drafting the monthly newsletter in English (monitoring European policies and agenda and writing articles particularly in areas such as justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, civil dialogue, transparency)
  • Contribute to the preparation of the annual magazine “Activizenship”
  • Contribute to the preparation of the European Civic Academy (to be held in La Rochelle on 8-9 October 2016)

CANDIDATE PROFILE:

  • Graduate of European Studies, Political Science or equivalent
  • Thorough knowledge of the European Union and its policies
  • Excellent oral and writing skills in English and French
  • Computer and social media literacy;
  • A first experience within NGO/volunteering sector would be an asset

TEMRS AND CONDITIONS

  • internship convention by a French university needed
  • Length of the internship: 3 months (renewable)
  • paid internship according to the French law
  • starting date: 27 June 2016
  • the intern will be based in the ECF office in Paris, located 167 bd. de la Villette

HOW TO APPLY

To apply, please send a cover letter and a CV in English to Alexandrina Najmowicz, ECF Director (anajmowicz@civic-forum.eu).

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS

Please send your applications by e-mail before the 16th June at the latest.

You can find the original call by clicking here.

PARIS: the days after

17th November 2015
 Dear colleagues and friends,

Last Friday, after Beirut, Ankara, the Russian plane flying over the Sinai, Paris, the city where the European Civic Forum headquarter is based, has been hit by terrorist attacks.

Since then, in France as also all over Europe and the world, people are gathering together to express their mourning, sadness, solidarity. Since then, much has been written and said.

In France, many associations have taken a public stance to reaffirm the values we believe in. They grasped the urgency to oppose terror by reiterating the power of living in an open and diverse society characterised by solidarity and a cherished wish of “living together”: precisely the very society that has been hit by bullets.

Those associations think that the sole proposal of “returning war for war” can only lead to a dead-end, to the very end of the society based on the values we cherish.

European leaders linking terror in Paris with the welcome in Europe of the refugees who flee war and escape from death in the Mediterranean Sea is the achievement of our main fear: a political “offer” guided by the wars between religions, the civil wars, the wars between all against all.

The European Civic Forum is willing to engage with the associations sharing the values of Equality, Solidarity, Inclusiveness and Democracy in Europe in order to propose a shared public expression towards the citizens who live in our continent and beyond. A common address which put some reason in the public debate and strength for the ideals which drive our action.

The European Civic Forum Steering Committee

Paris, Rome, Bucharest, London, Ljubljana, Brussels.

(you can download the statement in PDF format here).