29 February 2024

ECNL and Philea publish second edition of ‘How to Use EU Law to Protect Civic Space’

The ECNL and Philea have published the second edition of the handbook on “How to Use EU Law to Protect Civic Space” that highlights how CSOs can use EU law and participatory tools to protect civic space and uphold the rule of law. 

ECNL and Philea joined forces to highlight how CSOs can use EU law and participatory tools to protect civic space and uphold the rule of law. Originally published in May 2020, the user-friendly guide for CSOs (including philanthropic organisations) and lawyers offers an overview of EU law arguments and legal avenues available to defend their civic rights and freedoms in the EU. 

Philea has contributed to the overall update and provided the new chapter on the Rule of Law toolbox. The Handbook also benefitted from input from key civil society and European Commission representatives, through online sessions co-organised by Philea, ECNL and Ariadne.

The updated version includes:

  • 40+ examples of cases incompatible with EU law, based on real experiences as well as potential scenarios
  • A new chapter outlining the three key EU rule of law tools, with special attention paid to the Rule of Law Mechanism and its Annual Reporting Cycle
  • Civil society’s recommendations to the European Commission on how to continue strengthening the EU Rule of Law Mechanism as an effective and meaningful participatory tool for civil society to uphold the rule of law

It also complements the initial information compiled for CSOs on:

  • What EU law is and how it affects individuals and organisations
  • When and how CSOs can challenge national provisions or measures that impact their mission, activities and operations on the basis of EU law, including the CFR
  • Which legal avenues and resources are available for CSOs to defend their civic space within the EU law framework
  • How the EU is using and developing tools for civil society to meaningfully participate in EU policymaking


Hanna Surmatz
Head of Policy