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European Commission work programme includes measures to develop civic space in Europe!
This week, the European Commission released its work programme for 2023, which includes plans for a “legislative initiative on a statute for European cross-border associations”, following the European Parliament resolution, that will “enable them to benefit fully from the freedoms offered by the single market” and to contribute to “citizens’ active engagement in civil society and democracy”.

Following-up on the State of the Union address by Commission President von der Leyen, a new defence of democracy package is part of the 2023 work programme, which will deepen the action under the European Democracy Action Plan, including with measures to develop “civic space and citizen participation to bolster democratic resilience from within”.

These initiatives are welcomed first steps towards a strategic approach to European civil society that nearly 350 civil society organisations called for in an open letter to the President of the European Commission. While today the European Union has unprecedented tools to foster and protect democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, such as the European Rule of law toolbox, the European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP), the Strategy on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, the actions taken at the European level in support of civic actors’ activities have mostly been limited in scope and impact. It is now urgent to provide an overarching solution to fill the gaps of existing policies and mainstream positive practices. A recent report by the European Civic Forum outlined gaps and opportunities and built on broadly shared proposals for a way forward for a vibrant European civic space through a European civil society strategy.

During follow-up meetings with the Cabinets of the Vice President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová, the Commissioner for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica and the Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, we welcome the European Commission’s willingness to hear civil society needs and commitment to include actions to support and engage with civil society within the upcoming Defence of Democracy Pack and the review of the European Democracy Action Plan. With Civil Society Europe, we will prepare a written contribution to these initiatives.

While the European Commission is reluctant to propose a European Civil Society Strategy within the current mandate, these building blocks will create a legacy for future actions by the new Commission following the European elections in 2024. We will engage in a pan-European campaign with our grassroots constituencies and partners and in the frame of Civil Society Europe to carry this legacy forward.

Implementation of "Separatism Law" raises concerns of CSOs 

French civil society warns that the law “on the respect of the republican principles” (Law No. 2021-1109 of 24 August 2021), dubbed as the “Separatism bill”, is already having a negative impact on civic space and civil liberties, such as the freedom of association and freedom of expression.

The law entered into force on 1 January 2022 despite widespread concerns about the broadened scope for sanctioning powers afforded to administrative authorities in policing the activity of associations (see, for example, the appeal to the Council of State against the decree implementing the law by a coalition of 25 CSOs). The law notably made it easier for authorities to dissolve an association via presidential decree upon proposal of the Ministry of Interior. It also introduced a “contract of republican engagement”, a new requirement for civil society to access funding or obtain accreditations. The “contract” requires associations to commit to respect the principles of liberty, equality, fraternity and human dignity, the secular nature of the State, and to refrain from any action which undermines public order. The law also breaks with the traditional liability of legal persons, assigning responsibility to associations for acts that are either committed by members acting in that capacity or directly linked to their activities, thus imposing an impossible burden of control on the association's management.

As the “Separatism Law” is being applied, it appears that its effects confirm civil society’s concerns...


  • CSOs' assessment finds government underdelivered on commitments under the EU Conditionality Mechanism. READ MORE.
  • Hungarian Helsinki Committee's analysis of 2021 Lex NGO one year after its adoption highlights violations of the rights of CSOs and of the constitution. READ MORE.


  • Grassroots climate movement Alternatiba faces threats of sanctions under the 'Separatism Law' for organising civil disobedience workshops. READ MORE.

Flag: Malta on Sony Playstation 13.1 MALTA

  • Civil society demands justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia on fifth anniversary of her assassination. READ MORE.

Flag: United Kingdom on Sony Playstation 13.1  UNITED KINGDOM

  • 'Policing Bill' about to become "a very damaging piece of legislation" for human rights defenders. READ MORE.  


  • Human rights organisations and victims join forces in a campaign calling for a state ban on the use of rubber bullets by police forces. READ MORE
  • NGO report offers a diagnosis of the current mechanisms of transparency and accountability existing in the different police forces in Spain, from the perspective of international human rights law. READ MORE.

Flag: Greece on Sony Playstation 13.1 GREECE

  • Veteran Greek journalist Ioannis Stevis faces SLAPP for defamation of €200,000 over his reporting on multiple issues related to the management of a public health institution. READ MORE.

Flag: Serbia on Sony Playstation 13.1 SERBIA

  • The Europride Parade was held in Belgrade on 17th September despite initial government ban and threats. READ MORE.
  • The European Commission published its 2022 Report on Serbia as a part of its monitoring under the EU enlargement policy. READ MORE.


We are research partners of the CIVICUS Monitor, and provide regular updates on a selection of countries in Europe. Read our recent updates:
  • UNITED KINGDOM: A dark day for democracy as 'Policing Bill' becomes law; protesters at Sarah Everard vigil are prosecuted. READ MORE.
  • FRANCE: Macron secures second term; climate movement targeted via 'Separatism Bill'. READ MORE



How can democratic civil society drive systemic change?  

Join us for a two-day gathering of civil society & academia!  
10-11 November - Firenze (Italy) & online
  • The European Commission published the 2022 Rule of Law Report. For the first time, the report includes recommendations to Member States. READ MORE.
  • EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) Report highlights persisting challenges civil society continues to face across the EU. READ MORE.
  • The European Parliament adopts a report on the EU Budget for 2023 which risks imposing new conditionality for the CERV. READ MORE.
  • The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders to the Human Rights Council published a report on human rights defenders working on the rights of migrants, refugees & asylum seekers. READ MORE.
  • Joint declaration by UN Special Procedures, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, ACHPR and OSCE-ODHIR on protecting the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in times of emergencies. READ MORE.
  • NGOs leave the EU Platform on Sustainable Finance over Commission's interference with EU Taxonomy of climate-harming investments. READ MORE.
The European Commission has launched a legislative proposal to address barriers faced by associations on cross border activities in the internal market based on a system of mutual recognition among EU Member States. A call for evidence is open until 28 October 2022 (midnight Brussels time).
  • European Youth Forum: Report on safeguarding civic space for young people in Europe. READ MORE.
  • FRA: 10 keys to effectively communicating human rights. READ MORE.
  • ECNL: Global Non-profits Guide. READ MORE.
  • ECF: Reaction to the 3rd Rule of Law Report - Turn words into action! READ MORE
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