Over the last years, fundamental rights and the rule of law have increasingly come under pressure in the European Union (EU). This has also impacted civil society organisations, which fulfil an ”essential” watchdog role in our democracies, according to the European Commission. In many EU countries, these organisations have been subject to smear campaigns and legal restrictions.
This intentional “shrinking” of civil society space has become a trend that is not limited to a few countries but spans the whole of the EU. The trend has accelerated during the Covid-19 crisis, making it even more urgent for the EU institutions to act.
This autumn, the European Commission will present the results of its new rule of law monitoring mechanism in a first Annual Rule of Law Report. The Commission acknowledges that “(n)o democracy can thrive without … an active civil society”. It views civil society as an “actor of the rule of law” and recognises that “attempts to weaken essential watchdogs such as civil society and independent media are warning signs for threats to the rule of law”. It should pick up these “warning signs” in its upcoming Rule of Law Report.
The Commission has asked for stakeholder input on “developments on the ground in the Member States”.
Greenpeace’s contribution provides both factual information on developments undermining civil society’s role as an “actor of the rule of law” and recommendations on how the Commission can support civil society in this role.
Read our submission to the European Commission’s public consultation on the rule of law here.