Chapter 4: Recommendations for a stronger civil society in Europe

Recommendations

To summarize we have gathered some of the more central points from throughout the report and reformulated these into concrete recommendations. These recommendations aim to strengthen civic space and improve the conditions for democracy champions and civic engagement. The recommendations target a) political institutions, both national and on an EU-level b) civil society working to protect our fundamental rights in Europe.


1. Fundamental rights must feature more prominently in both EU-level and national policymaking We have showed how the absence of legal protections for minorities and at-risk groups, as well as government sponsored hostility to CSO’s, has contributed to more discrimination against these groups, particularly against people of LGBT+ and those with ethnic minority backgrounds. We need more robust protections on EU-level and also on a national level that help to protect societies’ most vulnerable groups. Doing so would not only give them better legal protections, but also allow for advocacy that can lead to long-term improvement.


2. National governments must not hinder the work of CSO’s working to protect and strengthen fundamental rights We have seen how civil society is prevented from providing services for at risk groups, or well-informed advocacy for a government, when there is a lack of government support for their work, or even politicized roadblocks that prevent civil society organizations for offering their services. Governments across the EU must not inhibit civil society through unnecessary or harmful policies that prevent them from functioning and providing essential services. Particularly legislation such as the lex-NGO law from Hungary that forces unnecessary financial requirements on civil society organizations must be avoided and discouraged.


3. There must be a reprioritization of budgets towards support for CSO’s throughout Europe For civil society to continue to play an important role we need the resources to provide support to society’s most vulnerable. Particularly the covid-19 crisis and the economic recession that has accompanied it, has meant that CSO’s are unable to access reliable funding or have been cut out of previous revenue streams. Funding sources for civil society could come from providing increased resources for programs such as the EU’s MFF, Rights and Values Program or the EU4Health Program. This also entail government critical organizations to ensure that the work of each CSO is free from political pressure.


4. EU institutions and civil society must take proactive steps to support the freedom rights in Europe The EU must play an increased role, by both calling out European states on illegal behavior, as well as initiating legal proceedings where fundamental rights and the rule of law in the EU are at risk. The EU Commission should not hesitate with bringing infringement proceedings where the treaties of the EU give it the authority to do so, as this has been proved as having a positive effect on preventing or delaying legislation and policies with malicious intent from within EU member states.