European Civic Forum
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New Europeans nominated for the Europe Award

Great news: New Europeans is in the running for the prestigious Europe Award 2019! Now it’s up to the young Europeans to vote for the winner. If you’re 35 years old or younger, then your vote is needed — and we need it today!

This nomination couldn’t come at a better time. The #GreenCard4Europe campaign to protect the freedom of movement in Europe after Brexit has gained lots of traction — but now, with the summer break coming up, we can’t risk losing our momentum.

This vote is a great opportunity to keep up the pressure on lawmakers, and show the scale of young Europeans’ support to our #GreenCard4Europe initiative.

Winning the Award would boost the visibility of our campaign and help put our demands firmly on the agenda of the Brexit negotiators on both sides of the table. That’s exactly what we need right now to keep up the pressure, and make sure the future relations between the UE and the UK respect our rights. But we can only win if enough of us vote!

So if you are under 35, do not lose any more time, vote for New Europeans by clicking here
If you are over 35, your voice is still very important. Thus, you can share the call for votes on social media. To this end, please have a look at New European’s pages (Facebook and Twitter)

New Europeans were nominated for the prestigious Schwarzkopf Europe Award 2019 for our #GreenCard4Europe campaign to unilaterally guarantee the freedom of movement rights of the three million EU27 citizens living in the UK and 1,5 million British citizens living in other EU member states.

Our proposal for a Green Card for Europe is unique – no other group, party or person proposed a realistic and fair solution to end the uncertainty around citizens’ rights after Brexit while upholding our shared values of integration, equality and diversity.

Our campaign has already received the Financial Times Award in the Future for Britain competition. But this time we have a chance to win a truly European prize.

The Schwarzkopf Foundation has been granting its Europe Award since 2003 for distinguished work for a better, closer, more united Europe. We’re so proud to have our work recognised and appreciated by young Europeans. It’s our shared success — yours, too.

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.

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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

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How big is your Active Citizen footprint? Active Citizens: from the local to the global level

What is an active citizen? What is the impact of your activism? How does the shift from a local campaign to a global campaign happen?
These are some of the questions that we will try to answer during the event: How big is your Active Citizen footprint? Active Citizens: from the local to the global level.

The event will be held on 19 February 2018 from 18:00 – 20:00 at Volonteurope and European Civic Forum‘s Brussels office at 4-6 Rue de Pascale, 1040, Brussels.

The event concludes a three year campaign exploring the meaning of active citizenship. The campaign has carried out research into what constitutes active engagement and identified barriers and enablers to active citizenship. This research was used to build a tool to measure active citizenship. Volonteurope and the European Civic Forum will present the results of this campaign. They will be joined by the two activists: Marta Lempart, the initiator and organiser of the Polish Women’s strike and Daisy Kendrick, founder of the Ocean Generation, who will share their experience, discuss with the public the meaning of activism and share insights on how to increase the impact of a campaign, taking it from the local to the global level.

The event will be followed by a networking reception.

Come and discuss with us the ways in which we can work together to build a Europe of engaged citizens.

Please register here.

#MEGA – MAKE EUROPE GREAT FOR ALL !

We are kicking-off the pan-European campaign for EU2019 elections: the #MEGAcampaign

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. European founding values are threatened by lack of ambitious policies, while nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric strikes back as a boomerang.

To break this vicious circle, the EU must answer some crucial questions: What means equality and solidarity for a quarter of Europeans facing poverty and social exclusion? What means inclusive societies 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?

This kick-off event paves the way to our #MEGA campaign in the run up to the European elections, aimed to feed the public debate and address those questions with political leaders and institutions responsible for tracing Europe’s future. Putting democracy and civic participation at the core of the debate on Europe’s future, we will engage with civic actors all across Europe empowering them to speak better and louder to promote openness and tolerance, transmit the democratic values that guide their work, combat Euroscepticism and demystify xenophobic and nationalist narratives.

We are deeply concerned that the space for civil society to voice criticism and hold ruling authorities to account in shrinking all across Europe, alongside legislative acts meant to silence down NGOs seen as opponents or ‘foreign agents’, government control over distribution of funds, cuts in public funding for NGOs or disproportionate anti-terrorist or money laundering measures affecting the freedoms of assembly and association.

After the launch of Civic Space Watch, a collaborative tool to monitor and share resources on civic space in Europe, our #MEGA campaign will engage civic actors across Europe to stand better and louder for democratic values, openness and tolerance, empowering citizens to become politically aware, active and responsible, undertaking actions of solidarity and contributing to building a democratic political culture to withstand the anti-European, xenophobic, nationalistic and authoritarian trends.

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.

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.

European Civic Academy 2017

Join us in Brussels on 30 September and 1st of October 2017 to discuss with academics about

“NGOs as Drivers for Enhanced, Civic and Democratic Spaces in Europe”

In a context when the space for civil society to express critical views and articulate dissenting voices is shrinking both at European and national level, under threat of budgetary constraints, the rise of illiberal regimes or disproportionate security measures etc., it is crucial for civil society actors to collectively and critically assess the current challenges and build bridges with the academic spheres in order to renew and rethink their social and political action.

The objectives of this European Civic Academy are three-fold:

(1) mapping civil society needs in terms of research priorities;

(2) enable civic actors to gain knowledge about existing research, methodology and approaches to inspire a renewal of their social and political action;

(3) increase awareness among academic researchers about civil society needs and priorities and identify collaborative opportunities for future research.

The event will be highly participative and interactive and will allow you to discover new perspectives on challenges faced by civil society’, but also to reflect on our work and engagement.

ECIT Summer University 2017: time for learning, discussing and sharing ideas on #EUcitizenship!

From 30th August to 1st September 2017, students, academics, policy makers and civil society representatives from all over Europe will meet in Brussels to exchange views on the gaps and future challenges of European citizenship. You will find this event very different from the usual European conference: there is real content, brainstorming and the right atmosphere and environment to test out your ideas and learn from others.

About 75 participants are expected at the Summer University which will take the form of a dialogue among the three main protagonists of European citizenship: civil society representatives, academics, students and public authorities. Over 200 people are expected for the public debate in the evening.

Participation Fees: To attend the 3-day Summer University a participation fee of 100€ is requested to cover the costs. A special participation fee of 60€ is foreseen for students and unemployed.

European Citizenship Awards: this year’s laureates are…

Organised jointly by Volonteurope and the European Civic Forum The European Citizenship Awards 2017 promote and give visibility to outstanding and inspiring initiatives and individuals who have put European democratic citizenship into practice, and in so doing have had a positive impact on their communities. This year, the European Citizenship Awards aimed at rewarding initiatives which contribute to combatting the root causes of extremism.

The candidates were selected through an international jury and public online voting – which garnered over 1 300 votes in just a few days – and we can now announce the Laureates for 2017:

Media initiative

 We Are Here Academy. In 2012, a group of refugees in limbo organised themselves into a collective to highlight the problems they have encountered as refugees in the Netherlands. Under the banner of We Are Here they campaigned for political recognition and to underline the reality and impact of current Dutch asylum policies, bringing refugee issues to the forefront of the political agenda. One of their flagship programmes is the Media Academy, which focuses on educating the We Are Here community in journalism so that they feel empowered to engage in public discourse about the refugee and migrant crisis.

Social Enterprise

 Taste of Home

started as a culinary cultural research project of the Centre for Peace Studies in Croatia. Its aim was to celebrate the culture, customs and countries of origin of refugees and migrants in Croatia through the medium of cooking. Refugees, migrants and Croatians came together to share culinary skills and life stories, and it served as an opportunity for migrants and refugees to explore their memories of home through the smells and tastes of their cuisines. Within only a few years, Taste of Home has  been established as  a social cooperative.

Volunteer

Said JASSER is a young Syrian refugee, born in Aleppo. He escaped from civil war and Daesh via the so called Balkan Route, arriving in Germany in November 2015. Since the day of his arrival, he dedicated himself to studying German,  , using Internet-based learning tools and books from public libraries. Thanks to his dedication he was soon able to communicate fluently in German, which has subsequently allowed him to support other refugees from Arabic speaking countries. In August 2016 he asked to join the community interpreting service, run by FaZIT, with the participation of volunteers originating from about 35 countries.

Active citizens initiative

 Polish Women’s Strike: An independent social movement of angry women (as they called themselves) and supportive men, that began in Poland. Polish Women’s Strike initiated and organised the nationwide protest against the Polish government’s plans for a total ban on abortion on 3 October 2016. Theirs was the first major mass mobilisation of Polish women in defence of their rights, and more than 100,000 women and men took part in the strike, with participation spread across Poland’s major cities and towns.

Besides these outstanding Laureates, the jury chose to reward two other candidates: Makers for Change, a France-based organisation, for their work as a social enterprise, as well as Wynne Edwards who was nominated for the Volunteer of the Year and who is one of the pillars of the Coalition of UK Citizens’ groups in the EU.

After London last year, this year’s Awards ceremony will take place in Strasbourg on 5 November 2017, ahead of the World Forum for Democracy. The World Forum for Democracy is  an event organised by the city of Strasbourg and the Council of Europe, which brings over 700 participants from all over the world.

Winners and jury awards will also be invited to take part in various events and meetings linked to civic space and democracy across Europe, such as the Civil Society Days in Brussels (26-27 June 2017).

The organisers would again like to thank all the nominees and applicants for this year’s edition. There were nominees with really brilliant and transformative ideas, and inspiring initiatives and volunteers bringing very positive narratives to combating extremism in Europe.

#ECAwards17