(ECNL) A new report from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) confirms that it has become harder for civil society organisations in the European Union to promote fundamental rights – due to both legal and practical restrictions.
Verbal and physical attacks against activists, legal changes that negatively affect civil society, increased difficulties in getting funding and the widespread problem of ’pro-forma’ public participation all curtail the work of human rights’ groups within the EU.
The report, titled Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU, also features promising practices that are being used in EU member states to address these challenges.
ECNL’s Executive Director, Katerina Hadzi-Miceva Evans was one of the panellists at the launch event of the report. She highlighted during her speech that the report is crucial because it alerts, it helps stakeholders learn and reflect on what can be seen in the field, and it stimulates discussion regarding the action that can be taken.
“[…] We have been for the past 16 years working to create a better environment for civil society, for the past 5 years we have been actively trying to prevent or respond to backlash. Europe was the cradle of innovation and good examples. Now those are dismantling. Organisations who promote and protect EU values, who provide services for EU citizens are being called taxies for migrants, leaches to budgets, terrorists. Through this report we finally have an EU institution saying – Europe we have a problem here.” – Katerina Hadzi-Miceva Evans said on January 19.
She warned that the situation is urgent: in just one year three countries launched full-blown attack on the CSOs. In other countries, restrictions may not be so harsh: but this is not about stand-alone challenges, it is about the fact that the issues reinforce each-other and in combination create a chilling effect in the society and make it hard for CSOs to work.
Ms. Hadzi-Miceva Evans called on the EU to lead by example so that EU-level measures cannot be used as justification to adopt more restriction at home and to set up an endowment fund to give flexibility and allow for human rights groups’ resilience.
Originally published on ECNL