New Justice, Rights and Values Fund

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EESC opinion: New Justice, Rights and Values Fund

The Justice, Rights and Values Fund is a much-needed instrument for the promotion of EU values, fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law, and in support of a vibrant and diverse civil society. Overall funding should be increased to EUR 1.4 billion, and innovative funding tools be used to reinforce civil society participation and capacity. 50% of the different strands should be earmarked for civil society organisations, and funding for litigation in support of civil society organisations defending fundamental rights be supported. Synergies should be found with programmes supporting media freedom.

Key points

  • The EESC welcomes the European Commission proposal as a much-needed instrument for the promotion of EU values and history, fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law, the participation and support of a vibrant and diverse civil society, and the engagement of local communities.
  • The EESC calls for consistency between the EU's external and internal policy engagement in human rights and democracy, and thus calls for overall funding of EUR 1.4 billion to the Fund.
  • The EESC believes that the Fund should be based on a truly participative and bottom up-approach, and calls for the use of innovative funding tools to allow civil society participation and capacity to be reinforced at local, national and transnational level. It calls for specific earmarking of funding for civil society organisations, namely at least 50% of the different strands.
  • The EESC welcomes the decision to extend the duration of operating grants on a multiannual basis for all programmes and strands of the Fund, and stresses the need to further ensure the sustainability and continuity of actions.
  • The EESC proposes to rename the Fund “Citizens, Rights and Values” in order to ensure consistency with the Fund objectives. It regrets the fact that actions related to freedom of expression of the media, media pluralism and the need to address fake news and targeted misinformation have been removed from the final version of the Rights and Values programme.
  • The EESC calls for financial support under the Justice programme to be further extended to civil society organisations and calls for their participation in the programme to be monitored. It also supports the development of an EU fund offering financial support for litigation cases relating to violations of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights targeted at civil society organisations.
  • The EESC considers this Fund to be an important tool for reinforcing gender mainstreaming, gender budgeting and gender disaggregating data collection.
  • The EESC welcomes the proposal to extend the role of the National Contact Points of the Europe for Citizens programme to the different strands of the Rights and Values programme given their effective role in liaising with and supporting potential beneficiaries on the ground. It calls for adequate funding, the development of guidelines on their role and tasks, ways to ensure the programme's greater visibility, as well as training.