Civil Society Europe Newsletter - October 2023

What’s coming up?

European Ombudsman opens an enquiry into the European Commission's refusal to give public access to a study related to its Defence and Democracy Package

This follows a complaint presented by Carlotta Besozzi on behalf of Civil Society Europe (CSE). We asked the European Commission to grant public access to a study related to its Defence and Democracy Package. The Commission claimed the study had not yet been completed and that it therefore could not grant access to it. We then asked the Commission to review its decision (by making a 'confirmatory application'). The Commission failed to make a decision within the applicable time frame. You can find more information about the enquiry on the European Ombudsman's website.

EP’s AFCO Committee adopts report on proposals for the amendment of the EU Treaties

We welcome the adoption within the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) of the report on proposals of the European Parliament for the amendment of the EU Treaties as it marks an important follow-up step to the Conference on the Future of Europe and other efforts to improve the EU.

We call on MEPs to strengthen the report’s proposals concerning democracy, civil dialogue (i.e. dialogue between institutions and civil society organisations) and fundamental rights. This can be achieved by making ambitious proposals in the report to (better) include civil society organisations and citizens in EU policy- and decision-making processes, including when it comes to future changes to the EU Treaties. Such ambitious proposals would also guarantee the respect and implementation of fundamental rights.

Stay tuned for the continued work on this file and much more of our Working Group on the Civil Society State of the Union (CS SOTEU)!

And if you have not yet done so, check out our Civil Society State of the Union 2023 report (launched on the 6th of September this year)!

European Citizen's Prize 2023 Award Ceremony

Jean-Marc Roirant, CSE’s former President, was a jury member for this year’s edition of the European Citizen's Prize, organised by the European Parliament. The Prize recognises initiatives that contribute to European cooperation and the promotion of common values. The award ceremony will take place in Brussels on the 7th of November from 17:00 to 18:30 CET, in the European Parliament’s Hemicycle. You can find more information about the 38 winning projects here.

Transparency and accountability of NGOs funded by the EU

The European Parliament's Budgetary Control Committee (CONT) is working on an initiative report on transparency and accountability of NGOs funded by the Union’s budget. The report is due to be adopted by the CONT Committee in December. CSE, together with the Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN), has sent a letter to the political group coordinators and shadow rapporteurs to express our shared concerns about the draft report. The latter seems largely based on assumptions or opinions of the report's author rather than on accurate facts. It employs an alarmist tone that is not justified by any substantiated analysis of verified risks and malpractices in this area found in any studies undertaken by the EU or other bodies.

The report makes a blanket attack on NGOs funded by the EU budget while lacking information on the procedures in place to select and control beneficiaries of the EU budget and their implementation of EU funding. NGOs have legal requirements related to audited financial records to be eligible for donor funding, including from the EU. Like all other entities funded by the European budget, NGOs receiving European funds must comply with the financial regulations and related reporting obligations.

Excessive red tape, requirements and controls can kill private initiative in this area, especially for smaller and medium-sized organisations. Increasing bureaucratic requirements will also have as a consequence that NGOs will have to use more donor funding for administrative purposes, when donors, including the EU, tend to cap expenditures in this area. For more information, please contact CSE's Director at

What has CSE been up to since September?

Analysis of the Permanent Representations to the EU's transparency

On the 4th of October, CSE made public an analysis of the level of transparency of all Permanent Representations to the EU. The analysis took into consideration the disclosure of the Permanent Representations' internal structure and staff contact details, as well as of the list of meetings held between ambassadors and interest representatives.

Following the release of our analysis, the Maltese Permanent Representation disclosed the full contact list of its staff, including phone numbers and email addresses.

Civil Society For EU campaign 

On the 12th of October, CSE contributed to the event “Where do we stand with the civil society strategy” organised by Ökotárs. CSE's Director, Carlotta Besozzi, took part in the panel discussion about the role of the EU in protecting and promoting civil society, while Riccardo Rossella, coordinator of the campaign “Civil Society for EU”, presented the campaign's requests about civic space and civil dialogue during the debate with MEPs René Repasi (S&D) and Andrzej Halicki (EPP).

Join our campaign and sign the Civil Society for EU manifesto!

European Cross-Border Association status proposal for a Directive

On the 24th of October, the European Commission presented to the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) its proposal for a Directive on European cross-border associations. The proposal aims to ease the operations of non-profit associations in the European single market. Crucially, it proposes the creation of a new national legal form, the European Cross-Border Association (ECBA), established by natural or legal persons in at least two Member States. The Parliament will produce a report (rapporteur: MEP Sergey Lagodinsky, Greens/EFA, DE), while the file will be discussed in the Council during the Spanish and Belgian presidencies.

CSE is coordinating civil society’s response to the Directive. If you are interested in contributing to our efforts, please write to

EnTrust corner

EnTrust report on practices of enhanced trust in governance

Within the “Enlightened trust in governance” (EnTrust) project, CSE has led a work package on the perception of trust and distrust between civil society organisations and EU institutions during the policymaking process. The resulting report, which is based on desk research, a survey, focus groups and individual interviews with pan-European NGOs, aims to shed light on the complex dynamics between trust, civil society and EU governance. It offers evidence-based recommendations to strengthen trust and foster meaningful civil society engagement within EU governance structures.

EnTrust policy brief:  A vibrant civic space and trustworthy civil dialogue at the EU level

Based on the aforementioned report on practices of enhanced trust in governance, the EnTrust project has published a new European Policy Brief on how to strengthen civic space and civil dialogue at the EU level. This seventh policy brief examines the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in EU policymaking, provides insights into the conditions of trust and mistrust between CSOs and EU institutions, and makes recommendations for the establishment of a genuine civil dialogue at EU level.

Events you don’t want to miss

6th Civil Society Forum – SOLIDAR & Green 10

We encourage you to attend the upcoming "Civil Society Forum for Sustainability – Shaping the European Green Deal", co-organised by three of our member organisations: SOLIDAR, the European Environmental Bureau (Green 10) and Climate Action Network Europe (Green 10). 

The Civil Society Forum, which is scheduled to take place online on the 8th and 9th of November, serves as an informal space for meaningful discussions and a collective effort to shape the future of the European Green Deal (EGD).