The EESC welcomes the Commission's Communication on Further Strengthening the Rule of Law within the Union. It regrets that the short reflection period has not allowed for deeper consultation. The EESC recalls the essential watchdog role played by the civil society, which should be further supported. It reiterates its support for an EU mechanism to monitor rule of law and fundamental rights and proposes to establish an EU stakeholders Forum to debate solutions. The EESC also calls on the Commission to adopt a Strategy on communication, education and citizen awareness concerning these key issues.
Creation of a European statute for associations and NGOs incorporating a precise definition of an NGO or a European association (information report) - Related Opinions
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.
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.
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.