Workshop 4: Enabling environment for civil society: the case for meaningful participation

16 March 2022 – 12:00-14:00

Organised by: Philanthropy Europe Association and the European NGO confederation for relief and development (CONCORD) in cooperation with the EESC section for External Relations (REX) and the EESC Ad hoc Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law (FRRL)

Moderated by: Alexandrina Najmowicz, European Civic Forum

Live streaming:


12.00-12.30 Setting the current state of play of civil society space

  • Ionuţ Sibian, EESC member, Civil Society Development Foundation in Romania (contributed to 2019 EESC opinion on Philanthropy), president of the EESC Western Balkans Follow-up Committee 
  • Waltraud Heller, Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA)
  • Filip Pazderski, author of the EESC study "Examining how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the work of civil society organisations (CSOs) across Europe" with involvement of Civil Society Europe, the European Civic Forum, European Center for Not-for-Profit Law and Institute for Public Affairs 

12.30-13.40 Roundtable – Strengthening Civil Society and the philanthropy space in the EU andbeyond

  • Santina Bertulessi, Member of Cabinet Commissioner Schmit 
  • Friederike Tschampa, Deputy Head of Division EEAS Global Human Rights
  • Herlinde Vanhooydonck, Advisor MEP Sergey Lagodinsky (Greens)
  • Cristian Pîrvulescu, President of the EESC’s Ad hoc Group on Fundamental rights and the Rule of Law
  • Vera Mora, Ökotárs Foundation, Hungary
  • Q&A 

13.40-14.00 Closing remarks

  • Kasia Hanula-Bobbitt, Concord
  • Hanna Surmatz, Philea


Concept note


Civil Society Space (including philanthropy space) is challenged globally as well as in Europe. This session will look at key trends/challenges around civil society including philanthropy space as well as discussing sector and policy recommendations to reverse this trend. 

  1. The session will start with a short overview on the situation of civil society space
  2. It will discuss potential EU policy solutions for inside EU and external civil society organisations

In 2012, the European Union published a Communication on "the roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe's engagement with civil society in external action".  This document set three priority areas for EU support to civil society in partner countries: an enabling environment, meaningful and structured participation, and capacity strengthening. More recently in 2017, the European Consensus on Development and Council Conclusions on "the EU engagement with civil society in external relations" reaffirmed the important role of civil society in upholding democracy, human rights, the rule of law and social justice, and as key partners for the achievement of Agenda 2030. The EU confirmed its commitment to support Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), including through capacity building, and to strategically involve them in programmes and all areas of cooperation.

Currently the European Parliament is working on different initiatives that are relevant in this area such as one report on civil society space, see draft report and one recently approved report on a European Statute for Associations and NPOs. The European Commission recently published an Action Plan for Social Economy, which also includes some recommendations for a more enabling space for social actors including associations, foundations, mutual societies and co-operatives. 

Additionally, there are ongoing consultations on civic space being conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights that will assess the shape of the space for civil society in Europe.

Why this panel?

The panel should look at strategies to promote an enabling environment for civil society including philanthropy with a focus on better recognition of the sector, increase civil dialogue and an overall better operating space and protection mechanisms and financing opportunities.  

Work organisation