3 May 2023

Philea signs civil society statement on EU foreign interference law

Philea, alongside 230 other civil society organisations, including several members of Philea, has signed a statement addressed to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, urging the European Commission to scrap plans for a directive on foreign-funded organisations, warning that it mirrors restrictive laws seen in other countries in the world and could have a serious impact on democracy and civil society in the EU and beyond.

Civil society plays an essential role in vibrant, democratic societies. Civil society organisations (including philanthropy) are key actors in addressing different societal issues and in moving the green, digital and social agendas forward as well as defending rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights. Yet, while an enabling space for civil society is essential, experience across Europe shows how fragile that space can be. The proposed ‘foreign interference’ directive which would create a register of Foreign Funded organisations could have unintended negative consequences, hindering CSOs’ ability to fulfil their role as defenders of democracy and would also limit the EU’s capacity to support civil society at risk and human rights defenders globally. It could also jeopardise the credibility of the European Union’s action to defend the rule law, and human rights globally.

As signatories of the statement, we underline the importance of the EC upholding and being consistent with the proposal for a directive on covert foreign interference risks inconsistency with international and EU human rights law, and in particular the exercise of civic freedoms. We demand to the European Commission that:

  • on the basis of the information published, the proposal for “a legal instrument introducing common transparency and accountability standards for interest representation services directed or paid for from outside the EU” should not be pursued;
  • a fundamental rights impact assessment should be considered ahead of any legislative proposal
  • an open and structured dialogue must be ensured with all stakeholders, in particular all proposals or review of legislation affecting civil society must be prepared in close dialogue with civil society.

The proposal for a directive featured in the Call for Evidence for the upcoming Defence of Democracy package, and subsequent meetings of Philea and civil society partners with Vice President Jourova and Commissioner Reynders over the past couple of weeks. 

Read the full statement here.


Hanna Surmatz
Head of Policy