Civil Society Europe (CSE) welcomes the Commission’s Communication on Further Strengthening the Rule of Law within the Union State of Play and possible next steps. In the current context where persistent and longstanding abuses to the rule of law and EU values have occurred, this Communication is much needed. CSE is concerned that the lack of action to address this trend has started to undermine the EU’s own credibility. Through its reports on Civic Space in Europe, CSE has highlighted evidence of shrinking space in several EU countries and that when rule of law is challenged or weakened, also those acting as watchdogs are consistently attacked. CSE calls for a strategy on strengthening the rule of law which contributes to the active promotion of civic space, including through funding.
- Civil society organisations should be part of a regular, meaningful and structured dialogue with the EU institutions on the rule of law, as well as considered a key partner to identify violations, promote democracy and fundamental rights and raise awareness to rights of redress and litigation.
- The Commission needs to include in its impact assessment on fundamental rights civic space in order also to prevent transposition problems of EU legislation at national level
- The Commission should encourage more expert exchange at EU level among different actors such as the judiciary, Member States and civil society organisations, instead of compartmentalizing such dialogue
- The creation of a a EU Coordinator on the rule of law and civic space is a stepping stone to ensure monitoring, verification and analysis on civic space
- The Commission should create a “rapid response system mechanisms” on violations to the rule of law, in cooperation with relevant national and European stakeholders.