The Civic Space Watch contributed to the report that will be launched on 22 June during a side event of the 38th Session of the Human Right Council. The report states that while civil society organisations in the European Economic Area are generally confident on fundamental liberties,”there is a widespread perception of lack of progress and deterioration. This trend is particularly strong in EU Eastern and Southern countries. […]

Among factors that raised concern about the shrinking of civic space is the decline of rule of law and transparency, and the emergence of forms of managed participation in countries traditionally supportive of civil society. Also worrying is the rise of right-wing populism and the spread of hate speech which give more visibility to extreme voices and contributes to the creation of informal barriers and discourages people, especially those belonging to vulnerable groups, from joining the political debate. Neoliberal policies, austerity, and lack of understanding of the specificity of civil society are also source of anxiety. […]

The report calls for the European institutions to act more proactively on the shrinking civic space. Several respondents find greater recognition at the European level than nationally and showed desire to engage with European institutions, but stressed that barriers such as lack of structured dialogue, decreased funding, and differing interest make it inaccessible. Generally, there is a desire for the European Union to play a greater role in upholding democratic principles and setting guidelines to ensure an enabling environment for civil society.

When institutions failed to carry out a convincing and effective action to condemn and sanction breaches of EU values in a country, this had a negative resonance among civil society beyond that country.”

Civic Space in Europe – report 2017

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