Civil Society Europe Newsletter - December 2023

Happy holidays! 

This year we are grateful for the ever-increasing involvement of our members, as well as that of partner CSOs at EU and national levels, and the indispensable support of our funders who have placed great trust in our work.

Happy holidays to all who are celebrating from the CSE Secretariat! 

What’s coming up?

EnTrust double event on trust and distrust in governance

Save the date! On the 10th of January 2024, the Horizon 2020 EnTrust project consortium, which includes Civil Society Europe (CSE), will gather to present the findings of 4 years of research on trust and distrust in governance during two final events in Brussels.

  • EnTrust Research Conference: "Practice and research avenues on trust and distrust in governance" 

The research conference of the EnTrust project will be dedicated to the issue of practice and research avenues on trust and distrust in governance. The conference will hold workshops on the practice and policy relevance, as well as future research, related to the EnTrust work package topics.

When: 10 January 2024

What time: 9:15 - 13:15 CET

Where: Stefan Zweig Visitors Centre of the European Parliament

Find out more in the agenda here, and register here by the 3rd January at noon CET.

  • EnTrust Final Conference: "Acting to (re)build citizens’ trust in EU governance"

Hosted by MEP and Prof. René Repasi, the final conference of the EnTrust project will be dedicated to the question of how trust in governance can be (re)built, with a strong focus on the EU level. The conference will involve keynote speeches and a high-level panel discussion, as well as a presentation of policy recommendations that encompass different governance levels and stakeholders. After a break, the late afternoon will be dedicated to the vision of young people on the future of the EU. This session will include the Awards ceremony for the related EnTrust creative youth contest.

When: 10 January 2024

What time: 14:00 - 17:30 CET

Where: European Parliament

Find out more in the agenda here, and register here by the 3rd January at noon CET.

CSE guidance note for national CSOs’ participation in annual Rule of Law Cycle

We have developed a guidance note designed to help national civil society organisations (CSOs) across the EU participate in monitoring the implementation of country-specific recommendations on civic space and developing additional ones, in the context of the European Commission (EC)’s annual Rule of Law (RoL) Report.

The EC’s targeted stakeholder consultation for the 2024 RoL Report is ongoing and will end on the 15th of January 2024. We encourage you to contribute to the EC’s consultation, and to disseminate our guidance note to CSOs at the national level.

Next meeting of CSE’s WG on the Civil Society SOTEU

Save the date: The next meeting of our Working Group on the Civil Society State of the Union (CS SOTEU) will take place on 23 January 2024!

The meeting will be held in person and online from 11:30 to 13:00 CET. Those who wish to join in person are welcome in the Artemisia Annua room in Mundo-madou, in Brussels.

European Cross-Border Associations Directive

On the 29th of November, MEP and rapporteur Sergey Lagodinsky presented to the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) of the European Parliament (EP) the draft report on the proposed Directive on European Cross-Border Associations (ECBAs). Compared to the European Commission (EC)’s original proposal, the report strengthens the guarantees against possible arbitrary actions by governments, takes out the criterion of citizenship or residence in the EU in order to be a member of the Executive Body of an ECBA, and adapts it to the variety of forms that European associations have today. 

Civil Society Europe (CSE) is leading a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) to contribute to improving the original policy proposal and the report.

The proposed Directive is expected to be voted on by the JURI Committee by February 2024, in order to be voted on in the EP Plenary before the EP elections.

You can comment on the EC’s proposal on Have your Say by the 9th of February 2024.

2024 European SLAPP contest

The 2024 edition of the European SLAPP contest organised by the Coalition against Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPPs) in Europe (CASE for short) will take place in February 2024. For more information, especially regarding the nominees, keep an eye on the CASE’s social media.

What has CSE been up to since October?

New website for our elections campaign “Civil Society for EU”

After several months of work, the campaign “Civil Society for EU”—which is led by CSE and Social Platform—went public in December with a freshened up visual identity and a dedicated website. The website features key data, information and stories on European civil society. It will also display those candidates to the 2024 European Parliament elections who will choose to sign the campaign pledge and express their support to European civil society.

Defence of Democracy Package 

On the 27th of November, Civil Society Europe, together with the European Partnership for Democracy, the Good Lobby and Transparency International EU, held a press conference on the Defence of Democracy (DoD) Package and the controversial proposal within it for a Directive creating a registry of foreign-funded NGOs. While the civil society organisations (CSOs) share the need to ensure that internal and external malign interference is tackled, they take issue with the proposed Directive in terms of legal basis, compliance with international norms and EU law, as well as effectiveness in tackling the problem. Instead, the CSOs propose an ‘Interest Representatives Act’ that would cover all interest service representatives in the Union, addressing both internal and external funding.

Read the press release here.

On the 12th of December, the European Commission (EC) presented the DoD Package. It consists of a proposed Directive on common rules for the registration of organisations that receive foreign funding, an EC recommendation on citizens and civil society’s involvement in policymaking, and an EC recommendation on strengthening the guarantees of fairness of electoral processes in the EU. 

While some elements of the DoD Package are positive, notably the recommendations on citizens and civil society’s involvement, the proposed Directive is seen as highly problematic by civil society for the aforementioned reasons, including effectiveness in tackling the problem of malign foreign intervention in EU democratic processes.

Read CSE’s reaction here.

CSE - Philea event: “A single market for the public good: Removing obstacles to cross-border activities of associations and cross-border philanthropy”

On the 28th of November, Civil Society Europe (CSE) and Philanthropy Europe Association (Philea) organised an event titled “A single market for the public good: Removing obstacles to cross-border activities of associations and cross-border philanthropy”. Despite their contribution to democratic and pluralistic societies, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the philanthropic sector still face many barriers in their cross-border operations. However, there are new developments at the EU level within the framework of the Social Economy Action Plan.

Our event, which saw the participation of the European Commission (DG GROW, DG TAXUD), the European Parliament (MEP Sergey Lagodinsky, who is the rapporteur on the proposed Directive on European Cross-Border Associations) and members of CSOs and the philanthropic sector, analysed the state of affairs, recent developments and what more is to be done to create a real single market for the public good.

Read the report on the event here.

Open letter on changes to EU Treaties

Civil Society Europe (CSE) published on the 21st of November an open letter calling on MEPs to adopt the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO)’s proposals to amend the EU Treaties. The letter—signed by 16 civil society organisations (CSOs) in the EU—also calls on EU Member States, through the European Council, to convene a Convention to revise the Treaties.

The EP adopted the AFCO Committee’s report on the 22nd of November.

EnTrust corner

European Policy Brief VI: Appraising Citizens’ Trust and Distrust in Governance

The sixth European Policy Brief by the EnTrust project presents insights on the prevalence and drivers of trust and distrust in political institutions and, more importantly, on how to shape these attitudes. It offers recommendations aiming to (re)establish trust in political institutions, including deliberative democracy, while also recognising manifestations of distrust as an important condition of democracies.

Meet the winners of the EnTrust project’s youth creative contest 

‘A Europe We Trust: visions of European youth’ is an EnTrust creative contest that called on young people aged 13-19 living in Europe to share their visions for the future of Europe in a creative format. After receiving 60 submissions from all over Europe and reviewing them carefully with a jury, we are happy to announce the three winners and honourable mentions of the contest! 

The winners have been invited to Brussels to visit the EU institutions and attend an awards ceremony as part of the final conference of the EnTrust project. This conference will take place in Brussels on the 10th of January 2024. You can register here

See the winners, honourable mentions and artworks here