Civil Society Europe Newsletter - January 2024

Welcome to our January newsletter! In this edition, you will find: 

What’s coming up?

Survey on quality standards and frameworks for CSOs

Civil Society Europe (CSE) is collaborating with CoQuality, a network of civil society organisations (CSOs), on strengthening mutual exchanges and capacity-building on quality standards and frameworks for civil society organisations in the EU.

If you are a European CSO, please fill out our 5-minutes-long survey on quality standards for CSOs. Even if you do not have knowledge on this topic, your participation is relevant.

FRA’s annual civic space consultation on 2023

The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) is carrying out its annual civic space consultation. Civil society organisations (CSOs) working on human rights in the EU and in selected EU candidate countries (Serbia, Albania or North Macedonia) have until 8 February 2024 to participate in this consultation.

The FRA is interested in understanding the challenges that CSOs’ staff/volunteers faced in their work on human rights in 2023, and in receiving suggestions for improvements.

What has CSE been up to since December?

Policy debate: “What role for civil society in protecting European democracy?”

On 19 January 2024, within the framework of the EU elections campaign “Civil Society for EU”, Civil Society Europe (CSE) and Social Platform organised an online policy debate titled “What role for civil society in protecting European democracy?.

The debate brought together the leaders of prominent European parties (the Party of European Socialists, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, the European Green Party and the Party of the European Left) to discuss their views on the links between threats to democracy and shrinking civic space, as well as what actions are needed to promote civil society’s role in preserving and contributing to European democracies.

Open letter: Concerns about the Defence of Democracy Package 

CSE and the European University Association (EUA) voiced their concerns over the proposed Directive on covert foreign interference — a proposal that is part of the Defence of Democracy (DoD) Package released on 12 December 2023 — in a joint letter sent on 25 January 2024 to the European Parliament, the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU, and the Permanent Representatives of the EU Member States. 

If adopted, the proposal for a Directive establishing harmonised requirements in the internal market on transparency of interest representation carried out on behalf of third countries will impact a wide range of civil society organisations (CSOs), as well as private and public institutions, such as universities and research centres, while being ineffective in achieving its key objective.

Furthermore, on behalf of a broad coalition of CSOs, CSE wrote to the Ministers of the General Affairs Council configuration of the Council of the EU to express these concerns.

Position paper: Involving CSOs in the reconstruction of Ukraine

On 21 December 2023, CSE published a position paper on involving civil society organisations (CSOs) in the reconstruction of Ukraine, including the Ukraine Facility and beyond.

We welcome the important agreement reached by EU leaders on 1 February 2024 to set up the € 50 billion Ukraine Facility. Given this, we reiterate our position paper’s call for EU institutions, EU Member States and the Ukrainian government to work with us in ensuring that CSOs across the EU and Ukraine can contribute as much as possible to the rapid recovery, reconstruction and modernisation of Ukraine and to a bright future for a strong, democratic, resilient, equitable, inclusive, accessible and sustainable Ukraine within the EU.

CSE's annual report

Our annual report covering the period of July 2022 to July 2023 is out! The report contains a look into CSE's work on the Civil Society State of the Union, a European Strategy for Civil Society, the Defence of Democracy Package, civic space and fundamental rights, the “Civil Society for EU” elections campaign, a rights-based Recovery Package, supporting (civil society in) Ukraine, accountability of civil society organisations, the EnTrust project and more.

European Cross-Border Associations Directive

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has adopted an opinion on the proposed Directive on European Cross-Border Associations (ECBAs). While some points in the opinion are in line with civil society’s requests, it crucially does not call for the elimination of discrimination against non-EU citizens that are not residing in the EU; the proposed Directive bans such individuals from holding positions in the executive body of an ECBA.

Agreement on a proposed anti-SLAPP Directive

The European Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement on 30 November 2023 on a proposed Directive against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), also referred to as ‘Daphne’s law’. For a detailed analysis of this agreement, we invite you to read the reaction published by the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) on 8 January 2024.

EnTrust corner

EnTrust Research and Final Conferences

On 10 January 2024, the Research and Final Conferences of the “Enlightened trust in governance” (EnTrust) project brought together around 100 people in the European Parliament, including academics, researchers, Members of the European Parliament and representatives of the European Commission, representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs), and students.

The conferences presented the main findings of four years of research on trust and distrust in governance, including the forms, determinants and consequences of such trust and distrust, and furthered the discussion on how trust in governance can be (re)built, with a strong focus on the EU level. The final conference also served as an opportunity to reflect on young people’s vision for the future of the EU, since it included the Award ceremony for the EnTrust Youth Contest.

Did you miss these events or do you want to revisit them? Please find the highlights here.

National testing of the EnTrust training manual on civil dialogue

On 22 January 2024, in partnership with Glopolis, the draft training manual on civil dialogue developed within the “Enlightened trust in governance” (EnTrust) project was tested in Prague, Czechia. The testing involved around 15 public officials from Czech Ministries and members of civil society organisations. Their feedback will be used to revise the manual, and will complement the EU-level testing that took place in Brussels in December 2023.

Events you don't want to miss

CASE's European SLAPP contest 2024

We encourage you to participate in the 2024 edition of the European SLAPP Contest organised by the Coalition Against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) in Europe (CASE). You can vote until 6 February, 15:00 CET, in this poll for the People’s Choice Award to determine who is the SLAPP Bully of the Year

The contest web page also shows the nominees for the other award categories, including Corporate Bully, SLAPP Politician, Farcical threat, International Bully, and SLAPP Country of the Year. The winners in each category will be announced on Tuesday 6 February 2024 at 17:00 CET in Strasbourg; the award ceremony will be live streamed.

Save the date: Civil Society Week at the EESC

The first edition of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)’s Civil Society Week, titled “Rise Up for Democracy”, will take place from 4 March to 7 March 2024, in Brussels. The #CivSocWeek will bring together five key EESC initiatives: 1) Civil Society Days, 2) European Citizens’ Initiative day, 3) Your Europe, Your Say!, 4) The Civil Society Prize, and 5) The Journalists’ Seminar. Civil Society Europe (CSE) is involved in several workshops during the #CivSocWeek, covering topics such as the upcoming European Parliament elections, high-quality public policymaking in the EU, and civil dialogue.

Registration will launch soon, so keep an eye out for it!

ECAS' State of the Union Citizens’ Rights 2024

The European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) will hold the 2024 edition of its State of the Union Citizens’ Rights Conference in Brussels and online on 19 March, from 09:30 to 13:00 CET. You can register here.