Liberal democracy relies on civil liberties and a pluralistic civil society, but considerable political forces in today's Europe are challenging liberal democracy. The social, political and legal framework must allow for a pluralistic civil society. Strong social partners and civil society are needed to defend EU values. The EESC calls for the creation of a Democracy Semester, a European control mechanism, corrective economic measures for non-respect of fundamental EU values, the creation of a European statute for CSOs, or interinstitutional CSO authorisation and, tax incentives to support civil society. Burning social questions must be tackled, ensuring social sustainability and inclusive education.
Derechos fundamentales y derechos del ciudadano - Related Opinions
The EESC supports the objectives of the Commission proposal and agrees that democracy is one of the fundamental values on which the EU is founded. The EESC recognises that the procedures for the elections of the EP are Member State governed within the EU framework. Enabling the Authority for European political parties and European political foundations (the 'Authority') to impose sanctions is one way of ensuring personal data is protected and not misused for political gain. The EESC supports the additional staffing of the Authority with a view that this staff will be better positioned to work with the national DPAs to ensure that data protection infringements are properly investigated and where found sanctions applied.
The EESC welcomes the Commission proposal on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online, while calling for the indeterminate legal concepts such as "terrorist information, terrorist acts, terrorist groups or advocacy of terrorism" to be defined as precisely as possible. The EESC highlights the need to assess the effects of the application of this proposal on SMEs, as well as to consider transition arrangements facilitating their adaptation and a level playing field.
The EESC supports the Commission's Action Plan on financing sustainable growth, aimed at reorienting capital flows towards sustainable investment, and welcomes the legislative proposals stemming from it, on fiduciary duties, a taxonomy and benchmarks. The proposed gradual approach for its implementation, beginning with the work on a European sustainability taxonomy, is preferable. However, a subsequent extension of the initial taxonomy, based on environmental aspects, to social sustainability and governance goals will be necessary. Attention should be paid to the feasibility and proportionality of legal obligations.
In this own-initiative opinion the EESC calls on the European institutions to promote a positive image of CSOs, preserve their independence and strengthen their capacity for action.
Beside a detailed diagnosis of the situation and role of civil society organisations, the EESC presents 26 recommendations for better civil dialogue and access to resources, including ideas for the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework.
The EESC finds that financing of CSOs is essential for participatory democracy and that the article 11 of the TEU on structured dialogue with civil society must be properly implemented. It calls also for the establishment of an EU Ombudsman on civic space freedoms and of a European fund for democracy, human rights and values within the EU.
The EESC adopted this opinion after in-depth work carried out during the four meetings of the study group. The opinion also reflects the national debates with civil society organisations carried out in all Member States between 2 September and 2 November 2016. These discussions were coordinated by three members of the EESC ('trios') from the country concerned, often in cooperation with the European Commission (15 debates) or the national economic and social council (7 debates). Participants came from a wide range of employers' and trade union organisations and other civil society organisations, as well as, to a lesser extent, from the academic world. A total of 116 EESC members and nearly 1,800 representatives of civil society organisations participated in the 28 debates. The conclusions/recommendations of the national debates have been grouped in the opinion, while the reports on the national debates will be published separately.