A survey on civil society in Europe conducted by members of Civil Society Europe and by CIVICUS, aiming at assessing civil society’s perception and confidence in key civic space freedoms shows evidence of shrinking civic space in Europe.
Although freedoms of assembly, association and expression are generally not considered an issue for Europe compared with other parts of the world, the operating context for civil society become more challenging in the EU member states as well.
Around 300 associations and NGOs active in diverse fields of human rights, non-discrimination, culture, social policies, health, education, environment, development cooperation, gender equality and sports have taken part in the survey in the first half of 2016.
58, 7% of the respondents consider that there is a tendency for deterioration in conditions for civil society, despite existing effective legal framework for civic freedoms in EU countries. In particular 52% participants in Eastern Europe, perceive conditions for civil society in their country as being poor.
In terms of the political environment, 84% of respondents see an increase of nationalism and of discrimination against immigrants and ethnic minorities in Europe, and over 63% believe that recent political developments have increased polarisation between sections of society.
Main areas of concern are the decrease in financial support, the increased conditionality of funding that limit advocacy activities, the lack of effective and adequate consultation mechanisms and the development of measures and legislation in the area of security, and surveillance that have a chilling effect on civic space.
Finally for 73.6% government support to civil society promotion of human rights and democratic values is insufficient and over two thirds of respondents would like the EU to do more to guarantee civic space in their country.
Findings of the Civic Space in Europe Survey Report_2016 are complemented with evidence from the updates on civic space in European Union countries provided to the CIVICUS Monitor – ‘Tracking Civic Space’ and developed by CSE members Solidar and ENNA (European Network of Civil Society Associations) in cooperation with Civil Society Europe.
These reports come just a couple of days after the adoption by the European Parliament of a proposal for a Union Pact for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights and an annual European report analysing all EU countries including on civic freedoms, and shows the need for a EU wide debate on this issue together with civil society.
The Monitor is a research tool created by CIVICUS to measure civic space developments at a global scale on a regular basis.