Civil Society Europe has presented on 22 June 2018 at a side event at the Human Rights Council in Geneva its second report on civic space in Europe 2017.
The report maps out key trends on civic space in Europe, based on the perception of civil society organisations.
Civic Space is understood as the ability to enjoy civic freedoms: the freedoms of association, assembly and expression which give people the freedom to form and join groups, peacefully protest, and advocate for the things they desire – and to counter the things they do not want. These freedoms are an essential part of a vibrant democracy; where debate and discussion thrive, and where people are able to contribute to important decisions that affect them.
The survey was open to civil society organisations (CSOs) at national or local level in the European Union, European Economic space and candidate countries.
The survey shows a general confidence of CSOs in the European Economic Area in the freedom of association, assembly and of expression which is particularly striking if compared to candidate countries in the European neighborhood. However, there is a widespread perception of lack of progress and deterioration.
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 by playing a greater role in upholding democratic principles and setting guidelines to ensure an enabling environment for civil society.
Please find below the full report :