Blame it on the NGOs!

05 October 2017 | Civic Space

Source: ECF monthly newsletter

So here we are again! Two weeks ago, in the EP plenary in Strasbourg, in a vote to the report on Transparency, Accountability and Integrity in EU institutions, a strong majority of MEPs rejected some last minute amendments aimed at restricting civic freedoms and participation of civil society organisations to express critical voice in the decision making process. By targeting NGOs, these amendments diverted attention, as Civil Society Europe underlines, “from undue influence of corporate interests and from the duty that EU institutions themselves have to respect transparency and prevent risk of conflicts between private and public interests”.

As alleged in an opinion in the EU Observer, funding NGOs which also engage politically while bridging the ‘democratic deficit’ between institutions and citizens is undemocratic and too expensive. So “European NGOs, which lobby the EU institutions” won. They can now continue to enjoy their oligarchic influence over European affairs, bypassing transparency rules and “disseminating untruths” that, on the top of it, “are contrary to the policy objectives of the European Union”.

In a time when NGOs’ legitimacy to criticise the ruling authorities is seriously questioned by authoritarian leaders and corporate lobbyists, it is important to remind that numerous big or small NGOs funded by the European Union, gather and empower citizens to speak up collectively reclaiming the values of equality, solidarity, democracy, inclusiveness in the European building processes and policies. They call for more social justice, a genuine European democracy and fair access to fundamental rights for all.

We have to keep in mind how often corporate interests misused figures and numbers in order to frame policies going against the general interest.  Thus, the 3028 registered NGOs within the Transparency Register, might be well fit to counter weight the registered 4486 companies and corporate interest groups who decided to register (and the so many others who don’t). Let be serious. The field of play is not a field where the poor corporate lobbyists were “outnumbered by hundreds of EU-funded environmentalist protesters with whistles and large banners”.

Civil Society Europe, the European coordination of organised civil society, has been repeatedly calling for increased transparency regarding EU funding and decision making.

In the end, while accusing NGOs of hiding the “black sheep” among them, the right question could be: Who wants to undermine the democratic legitimacy of representatives of the general interest?