European Commission pledges to introduce a Defence of Democracy Package to uphold civil society
In October 2022, the European Commission included in its 2023 work programme a pledge to develop a defence of democracy package, a set of measures aimed at reinforcing democracy and the integrity of elections within the European Union.
Alongside our civil society partners, we are glad to see a strong commitment to defend democracy by “developing civic space and citizen participation to bolster democratic resilience from within”.
Following the work programme publication, Philea and Civil Society Europe jointly called on the Commission to adopt within this new policy package a pillar on building resilient democracy and a strong, vibrant space for civil society. Among the measures suggested, we proposed to include in the annual Rule of Law Report a systematic evaluation of the enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders. The research methodology, we believe, should be transparent, clear, and co-designed with representatives from civil society. The Commission should also monitor any attempt from Member States to restrict civic space or criminalise activists for human rights. In addition, a commitment to enhancing civil dialogue should be adopted, with a view to empowering citizens and organisations with no access to the internet, public transportation or basic services.
With this pledge, the Commission committed to deepening the European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP), originally designed in 2020 to safeguard individual rights within the EU.
The package tackles three specific policy areas:
- Advocating for free and fair elections
- Enhancing media freedom
- Fighting misinformation
Following the EDAP announcement, we evaluated this step towards improving fundamental rights and rule of law within the EU, but also highlighted the need to further recognise civil society as a fundamental pillar of democracy.
In 2023, one year before the next European elections, the implementation of the plan will be evaluated by the Commission.
Philea, together with our civil society partners, provided input into the consultation on the European Democracy Action Plan, and we are glad to see that the role of civil society as an enabler for democracy has been recognised. Philanthropic organisations are ideally positioned to promote and defend democracy, and civil society space should be considered as key pillar of it.