Original article from Civil Society Europe
On 16th November, several members of the European Parliament working on civil liberties, human rights and development cooperation and representatives of European CSOs met for a breakfast exchange on shrinking civic space in Europe, at the initiative of Vice President Sylvie Guillaume and Civil Society Europe. The meeting started with a presentation of the results of a survey conducted by Civil Society Europe together with CIVICUS. The survey results confirmed some worrying developments, i.e. 58, 7 % of the respondents considered that conditions for civic space have deteriorated in the last year, which were also confirmed in the debate. The debate brought to light the need to work proactively to address these worrying trends by developing a wide debate between the European Parliament and Civil Society leading to the development of a strategy, as well as benchmarks. Also, there was a call by Heidi Hautala, a member of the Committee on Development, to mainstream civic space in the different EU policies including, for instance, budgetary issues. There are a number of opportunities at hand to address more consistently civic freedoms and fundamental rights such as the follow-up by the European Commission of the proposal by the European Parliament of a EU mechanism on the implementation of the rule law, democracy and fundamental rights in the EU, led by Sophie in’ t Veld, and the upcoming EP report and study on shrinking civic space in third countries. Members of the European Parliament present and civil society organizations agreed to follow up with concrete initiatives to make this issue high on the EU agenda. More information is available here.