21 June 2022

European civil society calls for EU Strategy for Civil Society in letter to Ursula von der Leyen

Led and supported by Civil Society Europe and the European Civic Forum, more than 300 civil society organisations (CSOs), including Philea, have signed a joint letter to Ursula von der Leyen, asking the European Commission President to include a comprehensive European Civil Society Strategy in the European Commission work plan for 2023.

Civil society is one of the strongest guardians of democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights, values that form the basis of the European identity and that are an indispensable part of our pluralistic societies. Despite all the efforts and accomplishments, reports on shrinking civil society spaces – including the philanthropy space – in several EU Member States have made headlines in recent years: Civil society organisations need support from EU institutions to push back against this trend. Providing CSOs with financial and political resources is not just a way to protect citizens, it is also a safeguard of European values and European Union legitimacy.

The letter urgently calls upon the European Commission to develop a European Civil Society Strategy that recognises civil society as not only an essential element of democracy, but also enhances the crucial role of civil society in upholding EU rights and values.

The vision outlined for this strategy places emphasis on four main pillars: 

  1. Legislative initiatives to overcome barriers for cross-border action and improve access to agenda-setting and policymaking for civil society organisations
  2. Policy initiatives to strengthen the existing Rule of Law mechanism, creating a specific CSO point of access to the Commission for concerns related to the CSO space and rule of law concerns 
  3. Programming and establishing mid-term and long-term funding schemes for CSOs and carrying out an independent evaluation of the implementation to ensure CSOs’ meaningful participation in funding instruments 
  4. National-level measures to adopt national civil society strategies and to complement existing Union funding schemes with national funding

The “Civil Society and parliamentary elections in Hungary 2022: evaluation and European Outlook” event hosted on 31 May by the Ӧkotárs Foundation, represented a key moment in the process of building up a consistent, joint declaration from the entire European civil society community.

Read the letter.