Open Letter to Ms Von der Leyen, Ms Jourova and Mr Reynders: CSOs must be able to act in response to social emergencies

10 April 2020 | Open letter

*Translated versions below


Ursula von der Leyen
Věra Jourová
Didier Reynders

European Commission
Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 200
1049 Brussels

Brussels, 10 April 2020




Dear Ms Ursula Von Der Leyen,
Dear Ms Věra Jourová,
Dear Mr Didier Reynders,

Our societies are going through an unprecedented crisis in Europe in times of peace. The institutions of the European Union and the Member States have taken decisions dictated by the urgency to slow down the spread of the pandemic. Production is disorganized. Workers’ incomes are already massively affected. Support measures are being taken, aimed at companies and employees. This is necessary and must continue. It must be generalized where institutional intervention is still awaited.

For decades, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the third sector have played an essential role in supporting vulnerable communities and populations. From one country to another, our organisations have different status and modus operandi. The tasks they perform also vary. But everywhere they are in the front line to witness the precarious situations people suffer from, trying to respond to people’s needs for effective access to rights, to alert on the limitations and adverse consequences of public policies.

This onset of crisis shows how diverse and fundamental civil society organisations roles are. The crisis has increased the vulnerabilities experienced by those who were already vulnerable. New populations are being added to those who are already fragile. The CSOs need to see their means of action strengthened. Many are already in difficulty.

The CSOs need the authorities to listen to them so that their alerts are taken into account without delay. In some Member States this is often the case, in others not at all. And often, not because of a lack of will but because of a lack of capacity, the institutions do not react with the necessary urgency. Like the health workers in hospitals, they have too many problems to solve at once.

The CSOs are there. They know what is going on in the field. They have the confidence of the people. They must be supported and given the means to better address vulnerabilities in our societies.

We call on the European Commission to pay attention, in all the initiatives it takes, to including the CSOs in order to give them the place they deserve. This concerns in particular:

  • Ensuring that CSOs benefit in all Member States from all measures taken to help maintain the capacities of companies, and in particular so that they can keep their premises and staff. This is important during the crisis. And it is equally important in the post-crisis period. Our societies must not lose the unique expertise and capacity of CSOs in dealing with vulnerable groups.
  • Ensuring that CSOs have access to public authorities, at all levels, in all Member States, so that their alerts, analyses and proposals are included in the decision-making process, both during and after the crisis.
  • Taking action vis-a-vis public authorities where they do not conduct this civil dialogue with CSOs.

The management of the crisis has changed the way in which many States considered their role. More than a regulatory role, States play a direct role. Rather than organizing individualization in society, States take direct responsibility and action aiming at general economic and social cohesion. There is a very good reason for this change: it is to act for the common good, which is not the sum of individual interests.

CSOs have always been the actors whose action is guided by the objective of the common good. The States, which seek to act in this direction in the context of emergency, will find experienced partners in the associations. Provided they take measures that prevent the collapse of the fragile world of CSOs.

We are counting on the European Commission to act swiftly and publicly in support of the CSOs’ role and action capacities during the crisis and in the reconstruction of the social fabric beyond the present moment.

Read the open letter

lettre – FRANçais

lettre – PORTUGUêS


  • European Civic Forum – Europe
  • Centre for Information Service, Cooperation and Development of NGOs (CNVOS) – Slovenia
  • Interest Group of Public Benefit Organizations (IGO) – Austria
  • Plataforma de ONG de acción social – Spain
  • Spiralis –Czech Republic
  • Ökotárs Alapítvány – Hungary
  • The Wheel – Ireland
  • De Verenigde Verenigingen – Belgium
  • National Federation of Polish NGOs (OFOP) – Poland
  • Civil Society Development Foundation (FDSC) – Romania
  • National Network for Civil Society  (B.B.E) – Germany
  • NGO Information and Support Centre (NISC) – Lithuania 
  • Finnish Development NGOs (Fingo) – Finland 
  • Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) – Wales
  • Croatian Platform for International Citizen Solidarity (CROSOL) – Croatia
  • Le Mouvement associatif – France
  • Civic Alliance – Latvia 
  • Forum del Terzo Settore – Italy
  • Frivillighet Norge – Norway
  • Network of Estonian Non-profit Organizations – Estonia
  • SolidarityNow, Greece


  • SOLIDAR – Europe
  • European Volunteer Centre – Europe
  • Volonteurope – Europe
  • CARITAS Europa – Europe
  • European Humanist Federation – Europe
  • Association Européenne de Défense des Droits de l’Homme – Europe
  • AEGEE / European Students’ Forum, Europe
  • Terre des Hommes International Federation, Europe
  • Democracy International – Germany
  • Cap Magellan – France
  • New Europeans – United Kingdom 
  • ARCI Nazionale – Italy
  • Ligue des Droits de l’Homme – France
  • Maison de l’Europe de Paris – France 
  • CIPSI – Italy 
  • Union of European Federalists – Czech Republic
  • Europa Haz – Hungary
  • Association Européenne de l’Éducation – France
  • A Buon Diritto – Italy 
  • European Movement (CIME) – Italy
  • European Institute Foundation – Bulgaria
  • Stefan Batory Foundation – Poland
  • Institute of Public Affairs – Poland
  • We Are Europe – Germany
  • Center for Philanthropy – Slovakia
  • AOI – Italy
  • Forum Femmes Méditerranée Paris – France
  • CReA Onlus – Italy
  • Fundatia Missio Link International – Romania
  • Norwegian Helsinki Committee – Norway
  • Business & Professional Women CR – Czech Republic
  • International Youth Association TIP – Georgia
  • Circular Economy Club Batumi – Georgia
  • Netherlands Helsinki Committee – Netherlands
  • Luxembourg League for Human Rights – Luxembourg
  • Stichting Netwerk Democratie – Netherlands
  • GSI Italia – Italy
  • Association for Democratic Initiatives – North Macedonia
  • Youth Work – Ireland
  • Refugee Legal Support (RLS), Greece
  • Network for Children’s Rights, Greece
  • Jesuit Refugee Service, Greece
  • FENIX Humanitarian Legal Aid, Greece
  • Action for Education, Greece
  • VELOS YOUTH, Greece
  • ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth, Greece
  • ReFOCUS Media Labs, Poland, Greece
  • CHEERing: Center for Health Equity, Education and Research International Group, Greece
  • Zaatar NGO, Greece
  • HuBB – Humans Before Borders, Portugal
  • Free Movement Skateboarding, Greece
  • Refugee Rescue, United Kingdom
  • Mobile Info Team, Greece
  • Humanistische Vereinigung Würzburg, Germany
  • NIOK Foundation, Hungary
  • Védegylet Egyesület, Hungary
  • Northern Lights Aid, Greece
  • Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Hungary
  • Clean Air Action Group, Hungary
  • Avocats Sans Frontières France, France
  • Youth Professionals Society, Hungary
  • Mertek Media Monitor, Hungary
  • Real Pearl Foundation, Hungary
  • Nyomtass te is!, Hungary
  • ÉLETFA Segítő Szolgálat Egyesület, Hungary
  • Nők a Balatonért Egyesület (Women for the Lake Balaton), Hungary
  • Veszprémi Nők Kerakasztala Egyesület, Hungary
  • SZOCSOMA, Hungary
  • Freedom stage, Hungary
  • Közösségfejlesztők Egyesülete, Hungary
  • Roma Parliament Association of Hungary, Hungary
  • Hívatlanul Hálózat, Hungary
  • European Cultural Foundation Budapest, Hungary
  • Szegényeket Támogató Alap Egri Alapítványa, Hungary
  • Fauna Alapítvány, Hungary
  • Independent Hungarian Artists Organisation, Hungary
  • Hungarian Art- and Socio-therapy Community-building Association, Hungary
  • OHA, Hungary
  • Civil Művek Közművelődési Egyesület, Hungary
  • Diversity Foundation, Hungary
  • Carpathian Foundation-Hungary, Hungary
  • Missio Link International Foundation, Romania
  • Association of the European Freelancer Artists, Hungary
  • Magyar Pedagogiai Társaság, Hungary
  • Union of European Federalists, Hungary
  • Roots & Wings Foundation, Hungary
  • Oktatói Hálózat – Network of Academics, Hungary
  • Asociatia Saraci Anonimi, Romania
  • Jogismeret Alapítvány, Hungary
  • Hálózat a Tanszabadságért, Hungary
  • Ligetvédők (CityPark Defenders), Civil Zugló Egyesület, Hungary
  • Szociális Innováció Alapítvány – Social Innovation Foundation, Hungary
  • Association of vVillage caretakers between Duna and Tisza, Hungary
  • Civil Közösségi Házak Magyarországi Egyesülete, Hungary
  • Élettér Közösség- és Településfejlesztő Egyesület, Hungary
  • Magosfa Foundation, Hungary
  • Validity Foundation – Mental Disability Advocacy Centre, International
  • Amnesty International, Hungary
  • Magyar Zsonglőr Egyesület, Hungary
  • Szivárvány Misszió Alapítvány (Rainbow Mission Fundation), Hungary
  • Hungarian Society for Environmental Education, Hungary
  • Campaign to Stop Killer Robots activist network, Hungary
  • Home inside of soul Foundation, Hungary
  • Európa Ifjúsága Egyesület, Hungary
  • Refugee Rescue, UK & Greece
  • Érdekvédelmi Szövetség, Hungary
  • Hegedűs Károly Eleven Vecsésért Egyesület, Hungary
  • Patent Association, Hungary
  • JOL-LET (Well-being) Foundation, Hungary
  • EJHA – Network of Human Rights Trainers, Hungary
  • Civil Kozoktatasi Platform (Civil Platform for Public Education), Hungary
  • Liget Műhely Alapítvány, Hungary
  • Hungarian History Teachers’ Association, Hungary
  • Contreras Roberto, Hungary
  • Gaja Környezetvédő Egyesület, Hungary