Paris, the days after
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks on 13 November last, while States implement state of emergency, activists in France and Europe-wide call out the state of solidarity, reaffirming the values we believe in, those of equality, inclusiveness and democracy.
We grasp the urgency to oppose terror and regressive extremisms by reiterating the power of living in an open and diverse society characterised by solidarity and a cherished wish of living together.
We think that the sole proposal of “returning war for war” can only lead to a dead-end, to the very end of the society based on the values we cherish.
Refugees becoming the victims of these attacks, European leaders linking terror in Paris with the welcome in Europe of refugees who flee war and escape death in the Mediterranean Sea are the achievement of our main fear: a political “offer” guided by the wars between religions, the civil wars, the wars of all against all.
We call for a strong European approach putting social justice, equality of access to rights with the fight against discrimination at the centre as a crucial element for rebuilding a strong society. Shrinking individual and collective freedoms and rights can in no way be the central perspective for our societies.
News from the Forum
Participation in Thessaloniki Summit on refugee crisis and civil society’s solutions
In Thessaloniki, on November 21st and 22nd, volunteers of the countries involved in the Balkan route of refugees met with activists involved on the Mediterranean and Northern routes, and European networks committed for migrants rights. The meeting, self-organised and self-funded, was planned in October in Belgrade, during the Transeuropa Festival. Ironically, it took place in the days when the Balkans routes had been closed for many migrants, everything happening in a few hours, with a domino effect which highlighted the lack of coordination on the field between European countries. The Paris attacks gave the opportunity to the European Union to put into practice decisions already taken in the European Council of October 15th, and to close the Balkans exception. The most dramatic situation for now is Eidomeni, located at the border between Greece and FYROM. Since some days only the refugees holding Syrian, Iraqi and Afghani passports can cross the Macedonian border and go on. The others thousands are blocked in front of the border. The selection is done according to nationality, despite all the international legislation on asylum. The same is already happening on other routes, Italy included.
Especially after Paris, we have absolutely to overcome social movements’ fragmentation. Migrants’ rights movements cannot remain close in its border, as well as the others. The use of fear for reactionary purpose has to be fought together, by all movements and the whole democratic civil society and actors. The Thessaloniki meeting contribution to this purpose is the proposal to build up a day of European action on December 18th, to build together with the movements for peace, for rights, against austerity.
(Report of the decisions and synthesis of the discussion by Raffaella Bolini – Arci & ECF Steering Committee Member). Full article HERE.
ECF contribution to the European Commission consultation on EU Citizenship
We welcome the advances introduced by the Lisbon treaty concerning EU citizenship and fundamental rights, with particular regards to the reinforcement of democratic representation and participation (article 10 and 11 TEU) and to the provisions for monitoring implementation of these rights through mechanisms such as the EU Citizenship report (art. 25 TFUE). Nevertheless, a lot of progress can be made regarding effective implementation of the Treaty provisions and is still expected by civil society both in terms of better policies and better use of democratic mechanisms designed to shape those policies, including civil society participation in this process.
For us, EU citizenship should not be confined to an “individual mobility rights” approach but should have a strong concrete content with a value-based dimension so as to tackle the Europeans’ sense of ownership and belonging to a common European future. This vision calls for all stakeholders, from European Institutions and Member States to Citizens and Civil Society Organisations to envision citizenship as a broad concept not limited to a legal status composed of mobility or voting rights, but encompassing social inclusion, active participation in civic, community and political life.
Our contribution stems from the belief that citizens’ needs and the common good should be at the centre of European politics and is addressing the section on “Values of EU citizenship, democratic and civic participation”. For us, citizenship should become a cross-cutting dimension of European policies and a key priority in all areas of the Union’s action, by means of:
measuring the social and environmental impact of all EU policies and legislation,
giving civil society the opportunity to voice concerns about those policies and the extent to which they reflect the EU founding values,
taking these into account when discussing political strategies, framing policy proposals, implementing policies.
The holistic vision and approach to citizenship we are calling for, integrating the aforementioned dimensions, requires European Institutions and Member States to takes concrete steps in terms of designing more inclusive policies and better mechanisms for citizens’ voice and concerns to be heard in the institutional arenas. Yet, improving the processes alone will not insure a positive change. Democracy is at stake when the content of policies doesn’t illustrate the values of the common project as when the process of their discussion is too distant from the people.
See full contribution here.
News from the Network
Ligue des Droits de l’Homme: Nous ne céderons pas!
In a Unitarian call, French civil society organisations, trade unions and students’ movements remind the government that everything must be done to protect the Rule of Law and individual freedoms under the State of Emergency.
Among the signatories, ECF member the French League of Human Rights (Ligue des Droits de l’Homme) outlines the need to face obscurantism by re-affirming the values enshrined in the French Constitution, not by escalating into an ever growing security and restriction of freedoms. “It is by living together in peace and brotherhood that we will bring the best answer to these inhuman crimes.”
The article, released in French, can be found on different newspapers and found a strong echo among the media and civil society activists, who warned about measures which could gradually deprive French citizens from their freedoms, in the name of “security”. While some French right-wing parties support measures taken by the government and use the security arguments in their campaigns for upcoming regional elections, the LDH and others call on the citizens to choose another way, where Solidarity would be at the heart and where there would be no place for racism.
The full article can be found here: Nous ne céderons pas!
ANCE Hellas: Project RADAR - Regulating Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Racism
In European societies, increasingly reshaped by migration, the fight against racism and xenophobia is a key challenge for democracy and civil life. Despite anti-discrimination legislation in force in EU Member States, there is still a fundamental problem in identifying different forms of racism and xenophobia.
Hate crimes may follow from hate-oriented communication practices based on other communication levels. Finally, racist discourse often does not simply consist in explicit hatred, prejudice and disdain, but it may also take the form of an apparently benevolent recognition of the differences that however presupposes a stereotypization of an individual’s cultural and social identity.
Furthermore, it has become increasingly difficult for law enforcement, politicians and the public to identify whether a physical offence is triggered by xenophobia, because it has to be interpreted within the context in which it has taken place. The RADAR project, implemented by the University of Perugia and 8 partners from 6 European countries aims at providing law enforcement officials and legal professionals with the necessary tools, mainly through open training activities, to facilitate the identification of ‘racial’-motivated hate communication.
The main objectives of the project, now in its second year, are:
The full article can be found on European Civic Forum’s website.
- Comparing existing legislation in the different partner countries as well as relevant academic and non-academic studies;
- Identifying specific communication practices through words, voice, body language and visual elements in mass media and social network debates about hate speech and hate communication;
- Understanding the mechanism of hate-oriented communication practices in their communicative techniques, procedures and strategies;
- Working out a face-to-face and online training concept to provide concrete tools for recognising such communication practices and contributing to prevent hate crimes;
- Elaborating good practices, recommendations and tangible tools for the legal and law enforcement sectors to facilitate anti-discrimination and anti-racist actions and regulations.
For more info please visit the project website.
Institute of Public Affairs: New edition of CSO Sustainability Index for Poland launched!
Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) has launched 18th edition of its annual report Civil Society Organisations Sustainability Index for Poland, covering the year 2014. Text can be accessed in English as a part of the full version of the report for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia from the website of US Aid, which is commissioning this research to the number of its local implementing partners, including IPA.
Together with publishing the 2014 CSO SI report IPA has organized a launch event. In an open evening debate a group of expert panelists with different backgrounds (NGOs’ managers and employees) have discussed, what kind of employer the third sector is? They’ve tried to answer the questions, what possibilities have and how should behave a non-governmental organizations employing workers and where are the boundaries related to keeping the standards in this area within the sector? Participants tried to discuss, if the non-governmental sector can be an attractive employer that creates its employees prospects for the future and provides stabilization. Together with the people in large number attending the event experts tried to figure out, what are the operating conditions that Polish NGO sector needs in order to be able to offer such good possibilities to people employed in the NGOs.
Remarks by Virgilio Dastoli: A new common core for EU Neighbourly relations: a three Seas Alliance for participatory multilateralism
Peace border, domestic civil peace and social justice are three valuable aspects. The three are to be reinforced. We need new instruments of peace, which requires agreement on values and the development of new rights. Our project should address the themes that are committed to peace and human security in the XXIst Century: nuclear, energy, water, climate, migration, poverty.
Our project is entitled “Alliance of 3 Seas for the implementation of the Objectives of Sustainable development” (Black, Caspian and Mediterranean Seas). The goals must be:
- Extend to the vicinity the tools of peace in the EU. The elimination: of State violence (governance), of class violence and corruption (social solidarity)
- Involve countries that hold the key of prosperity and European Security in the XXIst Century
- Implement all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals post 2015 set by the consensus at the UN level
The Alliance doesn’t aim to any enlargement of the EU nor any Association Agreement ad the final stage. On the contrary, a successful Alliance reduces the need for recourse to an expansion of the EU in response to geopolitical threats.
EUROCLIO 23rd annual conference: call for registrations, workshop proposals…
For its 23rd Annual Conference “Remembering the Difficult Past through History and Heritage Education” (19-24 March 2016, Belfast) EUROCLIO is calling for registrations, workshop proposals & announcing exciting programme additions…
The conference programme has been enriched with an attendance of Northern Ireland Minister for Education John O'Dowd, and with key-note speeches from several prominent historians, including prof. Tony Gallagher (Queens University), Eamon Phoenix (Stanmillis College), Philip Orr (noted author and historian). Partnerships with reconciliatory organizations Corymeela and Nerve Centre mean a true asset to the on-site learning programme, whereas partnerships with National Museums Northern Ireland and Ulster Museum, as well as Queens University, mean that most of the conference venues are now determined. Even more spectacularly, we can announce that the final dinner and reception will be held at the beautiful and historic Belfast City Hall. More new programme elements are in the making. See the preliminary programme here.
Registration is still open! You can register here.
Moreover, the conference encourages participants to implement their own workshop at the conference. Click here to access the application form. The deadline for workshop applications is on 15 December 2015
For more information, please contact the conference team through firstname.lastname@example.org.
News from the Institutions
How institutions implement dialogue with civil society based on art. 11 TEU and art. 17 TFEU
While the second paragraph of the Article 11 of the Treaty on the European Union enumerates exactly the same obligation for “the Union” to maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society, the Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) explains the role of philosophical and non-confessional organisations in the European Union, claiming that the Union (i.e. the institutions) “recognises their identity and their specific contribution”. On the other hand,
Since 2010 Presidents of the Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council take part in an annual dialogue between the EU institutions and non-confessional organisations, debating about themes such as extreme poverty, citizens’ participation. These dialogues, which emerged from former Commission President Jacques Delors with his initiative ‘A soul for Europe’, became anchored in the democratic functioning of the EU. The EU institutions hold dialogue sessions every year with churches and non-confessional and philosophical organisations. Based on art. 17 TFEU, the dialogue focuses on issues upon the European agenda. Eventually, in 2013 the European Commission adopted guidelines to formally implement the dialogue of Article 17, inviting among others “interlocutors to contribute to the European Union policy-making process”.
It is regretful though that the same importance is not granted to the dialogue with civil society organisations representing millions of citizens, regardless of their religious background, in spite of recurrent calls from civil society representatives. In April 2014, Parliament’s President, Martin Schulz, evoked the urgency of an open, transparent and regular dialogue with civil society, admitting the need to push further for this dialogue, in times when citizens seem not to care or – even worse – reject the European project. Unfortunately, no concrete guidelines have been adopted by the EU institutions so far as how to lead this dialogue.
We claim that mechanisms for European civil dialogue with civil society and representative associations should be fully integrated by all European Institutions in their decision-making tools and practices, in particular in the current discussions about the inter-institutional agreements on better regulation and transparency.
Civil Society Europe – the permanent coordination of European civil society organisations, aims to be influential in building a real civil dialogue at EU level, in shaping the agenda on transversal issues of common interest for civil society across Europe. Civil Society Europe is determined to gain a permanent seat at the table of civil dialogue, to make sure the voice of civic associations and movements is heard, alongside the voice of the social partners, corporate interests, confessional, non-confessional and philosophical organisations.
EU Council report on Valletta Summit on Migration (11/12 November)
Facing an unprecedented flow of refugees fleeing war, ethnic crimes and unbearable economic situations, the European Union invited Member States’ Leaders and African Heads of State and/or Government to discuss together about possible paths for “increased cooperation between the EU and Africa”.
In the Political Declaration issued after the Summit, participants outlined their concern at the sharp increase in the movement and number of refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants and agreed to respond decisively by working together to manage migration flows. They recognised that there is significant interdependence between Africa and Europe, who face common challenges. They also committed to addressing the root causes of irregular migration and recognised the benefits of well-managed legal migration and mobility between the two continents. Underlining this, the European Union and Ethiopia signed a Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility in the margins of the Valletta Summit.
The Action Plan annexed to the Political Declaration addresses five priority areas dealing with the root causes of migration; enhancing cooperation on legal migration and mobility; reinforcing the protection of displaced persons; preventing and combating migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings and making progress on returning people who are not legally entitled to stay in Europe. In all, sixteen priority initiatives were agreed, to be implemented by the end of 2016.
While African leaders were expecting their European colleagues to be more flexible on migrants’ mobility, EU Council President Donald Tusk summarised the outcome of discussions, explaining that “regaining control of the EU’s external borders is the first and most important action”. In other words, the EU intends to have tighter admission rules when it comes to migration, almost excluding economic migrants.
You can read here the full report and analysis by European Parliament Research service.
MEPs support tougher rules on Transparency, proposing to bar unregistered lobbyists
On 17 November, Green MEP Sven Giegold presented a draft report, designed by the AFCO Committee in relation to transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions. While Better Regulation remains European Commission’s top priority – even though Vice-President Timmermans rejects the idea of having a binding Transparency register – part of European parliamentarians submitted a draft report, notably calling for a legal act when it comes to the mandatory Transparency register.
An especially interesting point (Paragraph 16) refers to the presence, through an open call, of civil society representatives in the Parliament’s Advisory Committee on the conduct of Members, currently exclusively composed of MEPs. Even if the rapporteur Sven Giegold, seems optimistic, the report now needs to be submitted to five different committees and approved by all of them before it can finally be presented and voted during a parliamentary plenary session, in early 2016 according to Politico sources.
In total, 48 paragraphs are compiled in the document, which also stresses the need for a better representation of general interest, in comparison to the overwhelming presence of private interest lobbyists in the EU institutions. To support this fact, the report calls for a better application of Article 10(3) of TEU: “Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen”. Based upon this article, the draft report also urges for a better protection of whistleblowers at all political levels through the EU, especially the Commission, which should propose a “whistleblower directive including minimum standards of protection all over Europe”.
12 key issued can be found in the document. If it can be perceived as a more than welcome move on behalf of the European Parliament, there is no guarantee at all that such a text can make it through the complex European legislative process. Though, the initiative is already quite a success, given that it was drafted following online comments and inputs from citizens and civil society organisations, including ECF German member Democracy International.
The complete report can be found HERE
European Commission refuses to uphold rule of law when it comes to Hungary
On 10 June 2015, the European Parliament urged the Commission to activate the rule of law ‘framework’ in order to take appropriate sanctions against Hungary. Five months later, the Commission replied and stonewalled any further attempt to possibly sanction Mr. Orban’s government, noting that there was no evidence of a “systemic threat” on the Rule of Law in Hungary.
As a reminder, the control mechanism was established by the Commission to protect EU fundamental values, enshrined in the Treaties: rule of law, democracy and human rights. It was introduced in March 2014, as a response to the insufficiency of Article 7 TEU. Though, in order to activate this Article, an unanimous agreement of all 28 national governments is required… including the incriminated one. This deadlock has already pushed some MEPs for a revision of the existing mechanisms for protection of fundamental values.
Though, the Commission’s proposed framework has already been considered as not lawful by the EU Council’s legal service, which actually leaves an open door for Member States to rebuff the charges against them in front of a court.
In the meantime, several breaches in the Rule of Law were denounced by NGOs, the media and judges in Hungary, notably the modification of the Constitution, which empowers the government controlling the Constitutional court. Also, journalists have been regularly put under pressure, a consequence of the limitation of the Freedom of Information Act law, which turned state media into pro-government apparels and reduced independent journalism to silence. It seems also illusionary to remind the European Commission about the raids led on several NGOs funded through the EEA Norway grants. Obviously, all these elements seemed not to have convinced EU executive power to take appropriate measures, while the EU Council remains curiously silent about the case, even though MEPs and President Schulz called them for a strong reaction.
30.11- 04.12.2015 / LLL Week / Brussels, Belgium / Public event. The idea of organising Lifelong Learning Weeks aims to raise awareness on Lifelong Learning (LLL) in Europe and to put forward the need to adopt a holistic approach at all levels of decision-making, implementation and evaluation.
07-09.12.2015 / Responsibility to Act: Engaging in innovative partnerships to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework / Luxembourg / Conference. Civil society and private sector actors from the global South and North come together in Luxembourg to discuss ways to strengthen global partnerships in order to successfully implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework.
11.12.2015 / Civil Society Europe working group on the Recognition of CSOs / Brussels, Belgium / Internal meeting (members only). More information on Civil Society Europe's website.
18.12.2015 / Civil Society Europe Plenary meeting / Brussels, Belgium / Internal meeting (members only). More information on Civil Society Europe's website.