13 EU Member States don’t have an open civic space. The freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and/or speech is not fully respected. Civil Society Organisations’ (CSOs) ability to operate is hampered if not criminalised. Hungary, Italy, and Poland are a warning that cannot be ignored. Nationalists, the far-right and populists are undermining representative democracy by questioning it openly. Since 2017, Hungary and Poland have introduced laws designed to restrict and undermine civil society, notably in terms of their funding. The increasingly widespread criminalisation of solidarity and the war on CSOs must be pushed back to safeguard democracy and freedom for all, online and offline.
Typically, the people supported by CSOs are the vulnerable ones and it’s they who are ultimately affected the most by the attacks on civil society. But it’s not only individuals who benefit from our members’ work: it’s society as a whole. With an open civic space, citizens and CSOs are able to organise, participate and communicate smoothly. In doing so, they are able to claim their rights and influence the political and social structures around them. Pluralism, democratic participation and solidarity are the foundations of social cohesion and of happier societies for the many.
Our mission is advancing social justice in Europe and worldwide to achieve a sustainable society for all. The transformation of our societies into communities capable of achieving sustainable well-being for the many can only be achieved through participation, empowerment, transparency, involvement and responsibility - from the individual to collective levels. Europe needs not only to protect the openness of the civic space but to enhance CSOs.
At the European elections we can choose whether to vote for parties who are afraid of CSOs or parties who acknowledge that social inclusion is the only way to secure a fairer Europe for all. CSOs alone cannot fight back authoritarian-leaning governments. The law needs to stand behind them and the EU institutions must be the ones upholding the rule of law, fundamental rights and freedom in all its forms and with it the openness of civic space. Civil society must be safe and free, all across the EU. And it is through EU institutions that solidarity cannot only be expressed but also enforced.
Only if we all have equal opportunities to pursue our aspirations we can enjoy real freedom. Only by investing in social inclusion we can get to equal opportunities for all. And only if all are free to express their opinion, our democracy stands strong and is able to deliver real solutions for tackling social inequalities. Cast your vote for those who have a vision, who see strength in diversity and who believe in communities rather than individuals. Cast your vote for parties that reach out to civil society to deliver better polices instead of those who are afraid of us. Cast your vote for democracy!