Resilient Democracy through a strong and diverse civil society (own-initiative opinion)

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advies EESC: Resilient Democracy through a strong and diverse civil society (own-initiative opinion)

Key points

Considerable political forces in Europe are undermining liberal democracy and want to destroy the European Union. Liberal democracy relies on civil liberties and a pluralistic civil society. It can perform only if the social, political and legal framework allows for it and financing is not hindered. Strong social partners and civil society in all its diversity are needed to defend the core European values.

However, civil society and democracy are being challenged in many areas, such as in the emergence of an "uncivil society". Populist ways of thinking are increasingly being echoed by established actors in national and supranational institutions. The EU must employ the Treaty to the fullest in case Member States succumb to authoritarianism and exclude those opposed to liberal democracy from their political parties on the European level and the European Parliament.

The EESC reiterates its call for the creation of a Democracy Semester with a European control mechanism on the rule of law and fundamental rights and a Democracy Scoreboard. Corrective economic measures should be contemplated for failure to respect Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), but these cuts must not be at the expense of civil society aid recipients.

The new MFF should allow increased support for civil society organisations if national governments reduce or stop their funding for political reasons, but only if these civil society organisations make a clear commitment to European values. The administrative burden should be reduced.

The EESC calls on the EU institutions to further strengthen participatory democracy. The Commission should make proposals for minimum standards for combining professional activity and volunteering in civil society activities. The EESC supports the Parliament's call for a proposal for the creation of a European statute for mutual societies, associations and foundations. Another possibility to be explored is drawing up an interinstitutional authorisation, a kind of label for NGOs.

The EESC calls on the Member States to introduce tax incentives to support civil society in a way that does not erode fiscal justice. National and European policy-makers must tackle burning social questions and ensure social sustainability with inclusive education systems.