Civil society organisations (CSOs) and other human rights defenders (HRDs) play a key role in protecting and promoting the EU values of fundamental rights, rule of law and democracy. They are crucial in the system of checks and balances as they act as watchdogs, drawing attention to threats to the rule of law, to democracy and to the conduct of free and fair elections, thereby contributing to hold decision makers accountable. They contribute to overcoming challenges our democracies are facing, including by combating discrimination, hate speech and disinformation. The active engagement and participation of CSOs and HRDs enhance the effectiveness and representativeness of policy and decision-making, considering the multiple and diverse interests they represent and can voice.
In May and June 2023, as a concrete follow up to the European Commission’s 2022 report on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Commission organised, with key partners such as the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), three thematic seminars on safeguarding an open and enabling civic space in the EU
By presenting initiatives and sharing data and good practices, the aim of the seminars was to discuss in depth how to empower and support CSOs and HRDs at both national and EU levels and how to ensure their safety and protection. The seminars addressed the following themes:
The main outcomes and concrete recommendations emerged from the input and discussion in these seminars are outlined in the seminar report (of upcoming publication).