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Mercoledì 7 febbraio 2018 - Strasburgo Edizione rivista

18. Riduzione degli spazi per la società civile (discussione)
Video degli interventi
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  Presidente. – L'ordine del giorno reca la discussione sulle dichiarazioni del Consiglio e della Commissione sulla riduzione degli spazi per la società civile (2017/2529(RSP)).

 
  
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  Monika Panayotova, President-in-Office of the Council. – Mr President, the Treaties stress the need for the Union to have an open, transparent and regular dialogue with civil society organisations, and they recognise civil society’s role in the good governance of the European Union. We share the view of the European Parliament on this topic, that a healthy democracy requires an active and well—developed civil society. The active engagement of citizens is the cornerstone of our open and free societies.

Only recently, in October 2017, in its conclusions on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2016, the Council stated that civil society organisations serve as a watchdog and play an important role in promoting and implementing fundamental rights on the ground. They are irreplaceable in raising awareness of fundamental rights among rights-holders and in supporting their efforts to exercise and defend their rights. To fulfil their task civil society organisations must be enabled to carry out their work.

As for external relations, the Council reaffirmed that civil society organisations are both actors of governance and development actors in their own right. As such, they are key partners for the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the EU Global Strategy. There are many examples of policy fields where civil society is regularly consulted and integrated by the Union in the decision—making process. This is, for example, the case in the work of the European Union High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, the EU Forum on the rights of the child, the EU Forum on migration and integration, and many others. Capacity-building of civil society’s national human rights bodies is supported through EU funding in areas such as anti—racism, anti—discrimination, access to justice, rights of the child, women’s rights, the elderly, disability, etc. As for the Council’s work, for several years already there has been a tradition of regular contact and dialogue between the presidencies and civil society.

In the programme of the Bulgarian Presidency we have committed to realising a presidency which is open to citizens. Both in the process of preparation and conducting the Presidency, we strongly rely on cooperation with civil society and the non-governmental sector, as their intellectual imagination, expert contribution and creative, innovative approach have a very important added value for us. As recently as December 2017, Council working parties discussed how to ensure and enhance coherence and possible synergies between the internal and external aspects of civil society policies. The Fundamental Rights Agency participated in that debate. The agency is closely cooperating with civil society and has initiated work on a better understanding of the challenges and positive experiences of civil society organisations in the European Union. This work was recently concluded with a report. It stresses that the decision makers need to ensure that the important work of civil society is not undermined through policy and legal changes and funding cuts. The report also contains good practices that are being used to address these challenges.

I would like to conclude by stressing that civil society brings forward citizens’ concerns. It represents and supports democracy, human rights, the rule of law, social justice and pluralism. It contributes to the effective and inclusive policies and engages in initiatives to further social inclusion, participatory democracy and governance, both in the European Union and also in third countries. Therefore it is our legal and political responsibility to guarantee good conditions for a strong civil society in our countries and in the Union.

 
  
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  Věra Jourová, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I cannot stress enough the importance the Commission attaches to the existence of a vibrant civil society, and to a regular and transparent engagement with civil society actors – both as allies and as critical minds. As we can see in several States, elections are not the only sufficient proof of a democracy. A strong civil society is heavily needed.

The importance of preserving and protecting the civil society space has become more evident in our time, where fundamental rights and values are under high pressure. Indeed, civil society is unfortunately facing pressures in many parts of the EU.

I am aware and deeply concerned by these worrying trends, or – as this debate is called – the shrinking space for civil society. It includes funding cuts, stringent regulatory frameworks, lack of involvement in policymaking, or smear campaigns affecting public perceptions of the credibility and legitimacy of civil society organisations and those that fund them.

We are monitoring such developments at national level, touching upon the role and functions of civil society organisations. We take very seriously actions by public institutions aimed at deliberately shrinking the capacity and position of action of civil society organisations or attempting to control, delegitimise or stigmatise their work.

We will not hesitate to take action when measures are taken in violation of Member States’ obligations under the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as we have already done in the case of Hungary. In December 2017, the Commission referred Hungary to the Court of Justice concerning its law on foreign-funded NGOs.

We also continue to provide concrete support, including capacity-building and funding, to raise awareness, encourage advocacy and foster the enforcement of fundamental rights, and we are currently mapping gaps and needs to identify how to further empower civil society and other independent human rights actors, such as national human rights institutions. This takes up a specific request from the European Parliament, on the basis of which we are about to launch a feasibility study.

This is also a timely moment for the new ideas to feed ongoing reflections on the future EU Multiannual Financial Framework. We are in contact with civil society partners, with the Council of Europe and with the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights to reflect on how to build on and complement existing research-surveying experiences on how the space for civil society is evolving.

All actors have a role to play, be it at national, European or international level, and we are fully committed to playing ours. Keeping our civil society strong, independent and pluralistic requires these joint efforts, and we welcome the continued engagement of the European Parliament on this matter.

 
  
  

PŘEDSEDNICTVÍ: PAN PAVEL TELIČKA
místopředseda

 
  
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  Roberta Metsola, f’isem il-grupp PPE. – Ir-rwol tas-soċjetà ċivili hu kruċjali f’demokrazija. Fuq naħa nqisuhom bħala l-kuxjenza tas-soċjetà tagħna, u fuq in-naħa l-oħra jgħassu biex jassiguraw li l-poteri tal-istat jiġu użati b’mod sew, kif għandu jkun, b’responsabilità. Is-soċjetà ċivili dejjem kienet protagonista fl-iżvilupp u t-tibdil li sar fl-Unjoni Ewropea. Ġabet il-bidla u bidlet l-istatus quo.

Fil-Polonja u fir-Rumanija, is-soċjetà ċivili wasslet għall-kollass tal-komuniżmu. Fi Franza, is-soċjetà ċivili kellha sehem mill-aktar importanti fl-istorja reċenti. F’Malta għandna wkoll soċjetà ċivili ħajja, organizzazzjonijiet differenti li qed jaħdmu favur il-protezzjoni tal-libertà tal-midja, favur l-ambjent u l-għajta qawwija għall-ġustizzja fost l-oħrajn.

Dawn ukoll, bħall-midja indipendenti, jaffaċċjaw ostakli, theddid u intimidazzjoni. Hemm min jista’ jqishom bħala xkiel għall-politiċi, imma r-raġuni għalfejn is-soċjetà ċivili teżisti hi proprju biex tixpruna u tniggeż lill-politiċi. Soċjetà ċivili b’saħħitha hi bżonjuża u essenzjali. Mingħajrhom, id-demokrazija tkun ifqar. Huma essenzjali biex min hu fil-poter jagħti kont ta’ għemilu, jgħid il-verità u jimxi bi standards mill-aktar għolja.

Għalhekk meta ma jkunux jistgħu jaħdmu bil-libertà kollha għandna għalxiex nitħassbu, u din hi s-sitwazzjoni. Jinsabu taħt theddida kif wera r-rapport tal-Aġenzija tad-Drittijiet Fundamentali. Irridu nindirizzaw l-isfidi li qed iħabbtu wiċċhom magħhom. Ma nistgħux inkunu siekta quddiem sitwazzjonijiet li qatt ma għandhom ikunu aċċettabbli. Ma nistgħux inkunu siekta meta naraw li l-aċċess għall-fondi għal ċertu organizzazzjonijiet qiegħed jiġi fgat minħabba li jingħata lill-oħrajn li jappoġġjaw lill-gvern. Ma nistgħux nibqgħu fil-muta quddiem it-theddid b’azzjonijiet legali, b’intimidazzjoni, bi vjolenza, b’burokrazija biex jaqtgħulhom qalbhom jew inkella b’liġijiet li jimminaw il-ħidma tagħhom.

L-Istati Membri jridu joqogħdu għall-istandards internazzjonali li jippromwovu l-parteċipazzjoni fl-iżvilupp tal-politika. Dawn huma l-prinċipji …

(Il-President waqqaf lill-kelliema minħabba raġunijiet ta’ ħin allokat.)

 
  
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  Péter Niedermüller, a S&D képviselőcsoport nevében. – Elnök Úr, erős és jól működő civil társadalom nélkül nincs demokrácia. A civil szerveződések nagyon hatékonyan tudják segíteni a társadalmi problémák kezelését, miközben megteremtik az állampolgárok számára a politikai cselekvésnek a lehetőségét. Az utóbbi időben annak vagyunk tanúi, hogy illiberális demokráciákban, mindenekelőtt Magyarországon és Lengyelországban, kormányok brutális módon igyekeznek megakadályozni a civil szervezetek működését. Igen, idegen hatalmak ügynökeinek bélyegzik őket, különadókat vetnek rájuk ki, hogy pénzügyileg is lehetetlenné tegyék a munkájukat, célzatosan ellenük irányuló törvényeket fogadnak el, sőt, titkosszolgálati eszközök bevetésével igyekeznek őket megfélemlíteni. Meggyőződésem, hogy az Európai Parlamentnek alapvető politikai és morális felelőssége, hogy határozottan felemelje a szavát ez ellen a diktatórikus politikai gyakorlat ellen.

Mindenki, aki civil szerveződések ellen fordul, aki megpróbálja akadályozni a munkájukat, az tudatosan szembefordul az Európai Unió alapértékeivel, a demokráciával és a jogállamisággal. De nemcsak szavakra van szükség, hanem tettekre is. Ezért azt javaslom, hogy az Európai Unió haladéktalanul hozzon létre egy demokráciaalapot, ahova az Európai Unió tagállamaiban működő civil szervezetek közvetlenül tudnak folyamodni anyagi támogatásért, nemcsak projektek, hanem a hosszú távú működés feltételeinek biztosítása érdekében is. Ha nem támogatjuk a civil szervezeteket, maga a jogállamiság és a demokrácia kerül veszélybe.

 
  
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  Marek Jurek, w imieniu grupy ECR. – Panie Przewodniczący! Bez aktywnego społeczeństwa, bez ducha obywatelskiego, bez odpowiedzialności społecznej nie ma demokracji. Tym bardziej, że żyjemy w czasach, gdy tak łatwo jest fabrykować w mediach wolę ogółu, gdy rzeczywistość wirtualna tak łatwo zastępuje aktywną, autentycznie kształtowaną oddolną opinię publiczną. I musimy robić wszystko, by chronić nasze demokracje, by chronić naszą wolność przed rządami pieniądza. Doskonale to wiemy w Europie Środkowej. Zresztą dziwię się, że kolega, który pochodzi z kraju bliskiego, nie rozumie, że dzisiaj głównym zadaniem naszych społeczeństw jest odbudowanie aktywnego społeczeństwa po czasach, gdy komunizm nie tylko ograniczał wolność polityczną, ale zniechęcał ludzi do jakiejkolwiek aktywności.

Rzeczywiście dziś równość obywatelska jest ogromnie zagrożona przez pieniądze i bardzo dobrze, że rządy w Europie środkowej podejmują działania, żeby zagwarantować rzeczywistą równość organizacji działających na forum publicznym.

 
  
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  Sophia in ‘t Veld, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, today we are finally discussing the shrinking space for civil society, but what we are really discussing is the shrinking space for democracy because, despite the passionate plea of my colleague just now for civil society, we also know that his government party is trying to shut up NGOs that do not echo the views of the government. This is actually what presents a threat to democracy: it is not NGOs that we disagree with but actually silencing parties that we disagree with. The Commissioner rightly said that democracy is not about elections, but democracy is about checks and balances. That means that we should even have the courage to fund our own opposition if necessary. This is not just about shrinking space for civil society but also for media, opposition parties and so on.

I have a couple of questions for the Commission and the Council.

First of all, there have been proposals, as mentioned by colleague Niedermüller, and I know Mr Boni is also arguing for it, that setting up EU funding for not just European NGOs but also local NGOs – what initiatives will the Commission take?

Secondly, regarding the litigation fund that was adopted in the budget by Parliament last year, I would really like to hear the Commissioner confirm that it will be set up quickly and that it will actually be a litigation fund and not watered down to a kind of general NGO fund, as some people would like.

Thirdly, you started infringement procedures against Hungary for laws that unduly restrict the space for civil society, but we know that the same problems exist in Poland and that in other countries such laws are being considered. Will you also start infringement procedures against Poland?

To the Council: I very much welcome your words but they are of a very general nature. I would like to hear what the Council will actually do to ensure – and I am coming to a conclusion – to put this on the agenda and discuss it. Will you put on the agenda the situation in Hungary, the situation in Poland, the situation in Romania?

(The President cut off the speaker)

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 162(8))

 
  
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  Marek Jurek (ECR), pytanie zadane przez podniesienie niebieskiej kartki. – Stawiać zarzuty łatwo, dokumentować je trochę trudniej. Dlatego prosiłbym o tę dokumentację. Co Pani miała na myśli, mówiąc konkretnie o ograniczeniach działalności organizacji pozarządowych w Polsce i na Węgrzech?

 
  
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  Sophia in 't Veld (ALDE), blue-card answer. – That is a bit difficult in 30 seconds because of the wide range of measures that have been taken to harass and intimidate NGOs, restrict their freedom of manoeuvre and registration requirements: the government, for example, giving priority to events organised by organisations that are friendly to the government at the expense of other NGOs. Need I go on? I think it is clear to everybody. I understand there are organisations – even organisations funded by this House – that are supportive of your views, and I very much disagree with them, but I prefer to argue with them and to debate with them rather than cutting off their funds as you are doing.

 
  
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  Tania González Peñas, en nombre del Grupo GUE/NGL. – Señor presidente, los movimientos sociales, activistas y organizaciones que luchan por la justicia social se enfrentan a un entorno cada vez más represivo en muchos países de Europa. Lo estamos viendo a diario en Hungría, en Polonia, en Bulgaria o en Francia mismamente. En España, el Gobierno del Partido Popular aprobó en 2015 la ley mordaza, una ley que vulnera los derechos de reunión y de protesta pacífica, una ley que nos da miedo a todos y todas las ciudadanas que defendemos un sistema plural.

¿Se imaginan un país donde los tuiteros son juzgados y encarcelados por la Audiencia Nacional? No es Arabia Saudí. Es España, y ya hace tiempo que lo viene denunciando Amnistía Internacional.

La participación política y la libertad de expresión son señales de salud democrática. Que la sociedad civil pueda intervenir en las decisiones políticas a través de sus propuestas, pero también a través de la protesta, construye un sistema político de mayor calidad democrática. Porque en democracia cuantas más son las voces que se escuchan mejores son las decisiones.

 
  
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  Benedek Jávor, a Verts/ALE képviselőcsoport nevében. – Elnök Úr, tisztelt Biztos Asszony, kedves Kollegák, négy évvel ezelőtt döbbenetes képek járták be a magyar és a nemzetközi sajtót. Rendőrségi razziával megszállt civil szervezeti irodák, elvezetett civil vezetők egy EU-s tagállamban. A magyar kormány háborúja a civil szervezetekkel szemben immár négy éve folyik. Folytatódott tavaly a civil törvénnyel, amely körüli vita immár az Európai Bíróságon van. De a magyar kormány képtelen leállni. Éppen a közelmúltban terjesztették elő azt az új törvényjavaslatot, amely immár a látszatát sem próbálja megőrizni a jogállami normáknak, és még magasabb szintre emeli a civil szervezetek megbélyegzését, a civil szervezetek elleni jogi és gyakorlati megtorlást. A civil szektor megfélemlítése persze nem magyar találmány. Ezt látjuk Budapesttől Moszkváig, és Ankarától Varsóig. De nem is pusztán egy magyar ügy. Európát bomlasztja szét, ha nem tudunk gátat szabni a civil szervezeteket elnyomó autokratikus törekvéseknek és szisztematikus fenyegetéseknek az Európai Unió határain belül.

 
  
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  Michał Boni (PPE). – Demokracja, to nie tylko sam akt wyborczy, to coś więcej. To świadomość obywateli i reguły chroniące ich prawa. Populizmy w dzisiejszym świecie w imię wyników wyborów podważają fundamenty demokracji i de facto budują nowy autorytaryzm, poparty większością wyborczą ślepo idącą za wodzami. Nie ma dzisiaj demokracji bez społeczeństwa obywatelskiego. W wielu krajach partie nie tyle służą państwu, co je zawłaszczają. Niszczy to demokratyczną naturę państwa i ogranicza dostęp organizacji obywatelskich do środków na rozwój żywej demokracji.

A codzienna praktyka demokracji jest kluczowa dla jej trwałości. Daje jej żywotność. Aktywność obywateli, ich uczestnictwo w debatach, konsultacjach, protestach, procesach decyzyjnych są niezbędne wszędzie: w małych miastach i wsiach, w metropoliach i regionach.

Kluczowym aktorem żywej demokracji jest społeczeństwo obywatelskie. Potrzebuje ono jednak swobody funkcjonowania. Niezależność działalności musi być zagwarantowana dostępnością środków finansowych, nieograniczaną przez rządy, jak widać to w zmianach prawnych z ostatnich dni na Węgrzech i grozi to też Polsce.

Trzeba więc znaleźć sposób, by organizacje obywatelskie działające lokalnie wspierać europejsko. Potrzebujemy Europejskiego Instrumentu Wartości. Niezbędna jest osobna linia w budżecie europejskim na takie cele. Decyzja ta wymaga współpracy Parlamentu, Komisji i Rady, by umieścić te cele i działania w nowych Wieloletnich Ramach Finansowych.

 
  
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  Josef Weidenholzer (S&D). – Herr Präsident! Eine wichtige Grundlage für ein gutes Zusammenleben ist, dass Staat, Ökonomie und Gesellschaft in einem ausgewogenen Verhältnis zueinander stehen. Wenn das gesellschaftliche Element fehlt, dann besteht die Gefahr, dass es kein freiwilliges Engagement der Individuen gibt. In den Zeiten des Kommunismus konnten wir das beobachten. Der von der Partei dominierte Staat erstickte das Engagement freier Menschen bis zu dem Zeitpunkt, als sich Widerstand formierte. Vor diesem Hintergrund entstand eine zivilgesellschaftliche Bewegung, die sich schließlich zur friedlichen, zur samtenen Revolution wendete – in Ungarn, in der Tschechischen Republik oder in Polen und in vielen anderen Ländern.

Lange Zeit war dieser Zusammenhang klar, wurden NGOs als wichtiger Pfeiler der neuen Ordnung betrachtet. Tadeusz Mazowiecki drückte das einmal so aus, dass alles von der Kraft der Gesellschaft abhängt – von ihren geistigen Werten, von ihrer Klugheit bei der Geltendmachung der Menschenrechte und der Rechte der Nation. Es ist bedenklich, dass gerade in diesen Ländern jetzt systematisch und mit großem Druck der gesellschaftliche Raum für NGOs eingeschränkt wird. Das bedeutet ein Zurück in eine Vergangenheit, die wir alle nicht wollen, und deshalb müssen wir allen einschlägigen Tendenzen ganz entschlossen entgegentreten.

 
  
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  Lynn Boylan (GUE/NGL). – Mr President, active civil society is vital to the functioning of any healthy democracy. NGOs, human rights organisations, critical media and trade unions all work to hold governments to account, to protect people’s rights and to protect transparency.

But we are increasingly witnessing a shrinking civil society – not just in third countries, but within the EU itself. I was an eyewitness to the police brutality that was meted out on Catalans as they attempted to exercise their right to vote, not to mention the arrest and imprisonment of civil activists or the shutting—down of their websites. Other EU countries are using government—funded smear campaigns and restrictive legislation to shut down organisations campaigning for fundamental rights. In my own country, peaceful protesters were consistently demonised by the Government and, in one case, criminalised for their actions.

Civil society needs our protection. We cannot tolerate its shrinkage within the EU, but nor can we continue to provide funding to countries with oppressive regimes that shut down any form of civil society just because they are carrying out the dirty work of Fortress Europe.

 
  
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  Асим Адемов (PPE). – Г-н Председател, г-жо Комисар, ползите от гражданската организация са безспорно много и разнообразни и затова е важно да се подкрепят и популяризират организациите, които се застъпват за фундаменталните човешки права.

Организациите на гражданското общество в някои страни, които насърчават и защитават върховенството на закона, демокрацията и основните права на равенство и толерантност, срещат все повече трудности да добият гласност и да сформират легални структури. Тези проблеми изтъква и последният доклад на Агенцията на ЕС за основните права от януари 2018 година.

Точно както човешките права се нуждаят от гражданско общество, така и гражданското общество се нуждае от защита на човешките права, за да изпълни своята мисия. Предизвикателствата, които срещат неправителствените организации в някои от държавите на Европейския съюз, са свързани със свиването на пространството за диалог между гражданското общество и властите. Този проблем трябва да добие гласност. Европейският съюз трябва да подкрепя и защитава гражданското общество в рамките на Съюза, но и в трети държави кандидат членки. Трябва да подкрепим тези държави да стабилизират законодателствата си и да поставят на дневен ред върховенството на основните човешки права, които улесняват сформирането и функционирането на гражданските структури.

Демокрацията е сърцето на нашето общество. Нека не я уронваме, като потискаме гласа на гражданите! Проблемите на нашето сложно общество трябва да се излагат на показ, а решенията да се намират в ръцете на избирателите.

 
  
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  Enrique Guerrero Salom (S&D). – Señor presidente, esta mañana en este Parlamento hemos estado debatiendo cómo mejorar los procesos electorales para que se exprese mejor el consentimiento de los ciudadanos por medio de la elección de sus representantes, y también hemos reforzado el vínculo democrático entre esos representantes y quienes ejercen el gobierno.

Hace unas pocas semanas, en este Parlamento aprobamos un informe sobre la reducción del espacio de la sociedad civil en algunos de los países con los cuales cooperamos en las políticas de desarrollo. Pero ese mismo problema lo tenemos dentro de la Unión. Lo cierto es que la democracia son procesos electorales, es reforzamiento del vínculo entre elegidos y gobernantes, pero también es vitalidad de la sociedad civil, que alimenta estos procesos de participación política. La democracia es participación, es deliberación, y necesitamos una sociedad civil vibrante que active ambos mecanismos sociales.

 
  
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  Francis Zammit Dimech (PPE). – Jidher li qed naqblu hawnhekk li s-soċjetà ċivili għandha verament rwol kruċjali f’pajjiż demokratiku għaliex il-vuċi tagħha fil-fatt hija l-vuċi li hi strumentali biex ikollok soċjetà b’saħħitha u biex ikun hemm l-iskrutinju fuq il-gvernijiet u l-awtoritajiet, u anki l-operat tagħhom.

Għalhekk f’dan is-sens – u anki aċċennat qabli l-kollega Roberta Metsola – huwa ħażin li jkollok fl-Istati Membri, anki f’Malta, fejn l-appelli tas-soċjetà ċivili jiġu injorati, inkluż appelli rigward sistema ta’ governanza serja, u mhux biss jiġu injorati imma jkollok każijiet fejn ikollok anki tentattiv biex dawn jiġu skreditati b’mod sistematiku, anki permezz ta’ tattiċi qarrieqa.

Is-soċjetà ċivili jrid ikollha d-dritt tal-opinjoni, dritt anki li tirċievi l-informazzjoni kollha, id-dritt li hi tkun verament parteċipi f’dak kollu li jkun qiegħed isir, u allura ma jista’ jkun qatt aċċettat li nħallu lis-soċjetà ċivili tiġi soġġetta għal tattiċi anki li jistgħu jitqiesu biss bħala tattiċi ta’ intimidazzjoni.

Irrid nieħu din l-opportunità, għalhekk, biex minn hawnhekk insellem lis-soċjetà ċivili bħala l-vuċi ta’ min m’għandux forma oħra ta’ rappreżentazzjoni. Insellem b’mod partikulari l-ħidma li, pereżempju f’Malta, qed titwettaq mis-Civil Society Network, preċiżament biex iressqu ’l quddiem ilmenti li jirriflettu dak li qed iħoss il-poplu Malti b’mod ġenerali.

 
  
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  Cécile Kashetu Kyenge (S&D). – Signor Presidente, onorevoli colleghi, uno Stato che restringe lo spazio politico nel quale le organizzazioni della società civile operano non è uno Stato di diritto. Uno Stato che non riconosce questa forza viva all'interno della sua società, che cerca di limitarne il campo di azione, che impone vincoli e oneri di natura finanziaria e che reprime gli attivisti merita la nostra più assoluta condanna.

È riprovevole il comportamento di alcuni Stati, e qui parlo dell'Ungheria, che con leggi subdole criminalizzano la solidarietà ai rifugiati, ai migranti, ai gruppi marginalizzati, colpendo al cuore l'azione svolta dalla società civile nel fornire quei servizi sociali che lo Stato in questione è incapace di fornire. Per questo motivo sostengo la creazione di un fondo europeo per la democrazia. Stiamo parlando di diritti e di democrazia, di buon governo e di trasparenza.

Un invito pertanto alla Commissione a far sentire maggiormente la sua voce nella difesa di questi principi e ad adoperarsi tempestivamente alle leggi e alle pratiche restrittive nei confronti delle organizzazioni della società civile e dei suoi esponenti ben prima della loro adozione.

 
  
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  Jiří Pospíšil (PPE). – Pane předsedající, paní komisařko, já jsem pozorně poslouchal Vaše vystoupení a je dobře, že Komise věnuje pozornost rozvoji občanské společnosti ve státech Evropské unie.

Nikdo zde nepochybuje, že občanská společnost je mimořádně důležitá pro fungování demokratického právního státu. Je-li silná, pak může bránit posilování extrémistických tendencí, extrémistických názorů a přispívá k tomu, že lidé jsou odolní k nacionálním a extrémním tendencím, to znamená, je v našem vlastním zájmu mít silné občanské společnosti v případě, že v některých zemích začnou výrazně posilovat extrémistická nacionální protievropská politická hnutí. V tom já vidím velmi důležitou úlohu, pokud se bavíme zde na půdě politického orgánu, jako je Evropský parlament.

Na druhou stranu jasně říkám, že podle principu subsidiarity Evropská unie jako taková by neměla zasahovat do fungování občanských společností v jednotlivých členských státech. Spíš bychom měli přistupovat k tomu pozitivně a případně finančně a jinak podporovat občanská hnutí a jiné instituce občanské společnosti v těch zemích, kde třeba dosud nejsou tak plně rozvinuty.

A já třeba cítím v bývalých postkomunistických státech i ve své zemi nebo v zemích Visegrádu, že je třeba, aby Evropská unie podporovala ta občanská hnutí, která šíří informace o evropské integraci, informace o evropské identitě, o tom, co v poslední době je často módní popírat a relativizovat.

 
  
 

Catch—the—eye procedure

 
  
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  Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D). – Señor presidente, en las distintas lenguas de la Unión estamos aquí recordando un principio que no puede ser subestimado y es que la democracia —¡claro!— exige votar, pero no consiste solo en votar, ni mucho menos en votar cualquier cosa, en cualquier momento y de cualquier manera. La democracia exige proteger los derechos de las minorías y la función de la oposición y de la propia sociedad civil, respetando los derechos individuales de las personas físicas y jurídicas.

Y tenemos derecho a sospechar de un Gobierno, sea cual sea en la Unión Europea, cuando legisla para reprimir o perseguir a sus adversarios políticos con leyes que llegan a ser conocidas incluso por el nombre de la persona a la que ha identificado como su adversario, o aún peor, como su enemigo. Es el caso de Hungría con la ley que reduce el margen de maniobra de las organizaciones no gubernamentales y que se inscribe en una estrategia xenófoba y ultranacionalista de identificación de la inmigración con la seguridad nacional.

Por eso, la Unión Europea, la Comisión tienen todo el derecho y el deber de reaccionar ante esas iniciativas y ante esas leyes y de frenar con toda contundencia esa deriva autoritaria.

 
  
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  Julie Ward (S&D). – Mr President, shrinking space is a trend that can be observed globally. For instance, in Israel, the situation of human rights defenders and civil society organisations has severely deteriorated in the past few years. In addition to systematic human rights violations by the State of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory, the Israeli Government has now launched a violent crackdown against civil society.

The recent ban on BDS-supporting organisations from entering the country is an additional attack on freedom of expression in Israel, and although I am not in favour of a total boycott of everything Israeli, I find it very important that the organisations that do support it are able to say it. I have been personally targeted by some of these right-wing attacks on freedom of expression. NGO Monitor has targeted me and my staff because I called them out and exposed their far-right anti-human rights agenda. Under the pretence of transparency concerns, they have managed successfully to attack organisations that work to end human rights violations in the occupied territories – and that includes representatives from Breaking the Silence, the organisation that gathers testimonies from ex—IDF soldiers against the occupation.

 
  
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  Νότης Μαριάς (ECR). – Κύριε Πρόεδρε, η κοινωνία των πολιτών πράγματι συμβάλλει στην εμβάθυνση της δημοκρατίας. Συμβάλλει στη δυνατότητα των πολιτών να αποκτήσουν ακόμη πιο ισχυρή φωνή. Και έχουμε οργανώσεις της κοινωνίας των πολιτών, όπως είναι τα συνδικάτα, που πραγματικά παίζουν πολύ σημαντικό ρόλο. Από την άλλη, πρέπει να προσέξουμε να μην υπάρξει μετατροπή της κοινωνίας των πολιτών, και κυρίως των μη κυβερνητικών οργανώσεων, σε ομάδες που εξυπηρετούν τα λόμπι. Αυτό είναι πολύ σημαντικό και πρέπει να το λάβουμε υπόψη. Τέλος, πρέπει να αναφέρω ότι, στην Ελλάδα, οι μη κυβερνητικές οργανώσεις σε σχέση με τα ζητήματα των προσφυγών έχουν πάρει πάρα πολλά χρήματα και γίνεται κυριολεκτικά ένα πάρτι. Επικράτησε αδιαφάνεια, κυρία Jourová. Έχουν πάρει πολλά χρήματα και ενώ τα χρήματα αυτά έπρεπε να έχουν δοθεί για τη στήριξη των προσφύγων σε πάρα πολλές περιοχές, όπως στη Λέσβο, τελικά τα αποτελέσματα είναι οικτρά, γιατί εκεί γίνεται ένα πάρτι. Το έχω πει μέσα σε αυτήν την αίθουσα: πρέπει να υπάρξει έλεγχος της χρηματοδότησης και πρέπει να μπει η OLAF στο παιχνίδι για να ελέγξει πού πάνε τα χρήματα. Δεν πάνε υπέρ των προσφύγων, ενώ έχουν δοθεί γι’ αυτούς.

 
  
 

(End of catch-the-eye procedure)

 
  
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  Věra Jourová, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, honourable Members, this has been a very interesting debate and also very encouraging for me, because we have to focus more on the support of civil society and NGOs, not only in the Member States, which have been mentioned here, but in the whole of Europe.

In real democracy, people are encouraged and invited to participate in decision-making. A healthy, self-confident society welcomes people to have a say. In a fake democracy, people are invited once every four years to come and cast their vote, to elect, and to be silent in between. This is the real threat to democracy, and I think that it is our role to – fight against it is maybe too activist – but to be very vigilant, to monitor the situation and to give support where it is needed, because silencing and shrinking civil society is one of the parameters of populism. Populists hate civil society because they love a strong state and, unfortunately, in part of our society there is now the demand for an ever-stronger state, because there are people who promise they will do everything to facilitate things for you, to guarantee you a happy life. They want everything but critical thinking from the people. Unfortunately, online and digital development is not helping. We should analyse this phenomenon more, and what it means, because when I speak to the courageous people of the NGOs, they say hate speech online is something which is censoring and silencing them. It is not only journalists, but also a large number of people working for NGOs, publicly-known people, who are affected by hatred online. It is a factor which we should think about and maybe do something about.

There is also the factor of societal changes, which we see in relation to the development of the digital area. I have nothing against digital development. There are many positive things in this respect, but what we see is that the populists like this sphere because they have an easily manipulated crowd. Again, this is something which goes directly against civil society, and I think that we should analyse the reasons for shrinking space for civil society, react appropriately and find remedies. I do not think that the only possible remedy we have in hand is infringement against a state where we see that the law is deviating from how the legislation should look. Of course, we are monitoring the situation in Hungary and in Poland. Today we discussed Romania. We are monitoring some other Member States where there are worrying developments – not only in the east of the EU; I must make this clear. Maybe the approach of the Commission might be seen as pretty legalistic, that we wait for a bad law to be enacted before we act, but we have to be very careful here and maybe trust more the people in Europe that there are enough democrats who will not be silenced so easily. We have to be careful and we have to support civil society by means other than infringements directed against the laws in some Member States.

How can we do it? The fund – I am very much for creating such a fund. We are now launching a feasibility study where we want to map the various funding instruments in the Member States, to fill the gap and not to duplicate or do something which would not be systemic and transparent enough. I also have an expert meeting, and I invite those who are interested in this issue to participate in this debate, because I think that it should be our common work.

Let me conclude by speaking about big money, which is also now in debates such as the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) after 2020. Here we have a great chance to open better and easier possibilities for the NGOs to get funding. I am not so sure about opening the special chapter in MFF which was, I think, the proposal of Mr Boni. I think that we should deliberately and thoroughly analyse the possibility of opening the space for NGOs, who in many cases substitute the tasks of the state while being miserably paid. We have to change this situation. We see one year of financing, so the NGOs invest 90% of their initiatives in collecting or seeking money, instead of doing the core thing. We also have to look into the rules for financing. We will hear more and more about the need to simplify the rules for the new MFF. Whenever I hear politicians, including myself, speaking about simplification, I start to fear we will complicate it more. Now we have to manage to simplify the rules, especially for the small-scale projects, not to allow again a system where you have to invest as much effort into getting EUR 100 000 as EUR 5 million. The system and the rules must be proportionate. EU funding is my hobby. I could continue, but I will spare you. Thank you very much, and let us work together to stop the shrinking of space for civil society. It is vital for Europe and it is vital for all democrats in Europe.

 
  
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  Monika Panayotova, President-in-Office of the Council. – Mr President, first of all I would like to respond to the question from Ms Sophia in ‘t Veld. I would like to underline that I speak on behalf of the Presidency of the Council and therefore in the name of all its members, and for this reason it is not for the Presidency to comment on particular subjects related to the Member States. But what I can underline is that the Council shares the view of the European Parliament that civil society plays a vital role in our societies, and – as you said – it is an essential part of the system of the checks and balances. In 2017, the Council encouraged the Member States to promote EU citizenship and the values and rights attached to it, involving as far as possible civil society – it was underlined.

Secondly, I would like also to conclude by saying that an empowered and resilient civil society in all its diversity is a crucial component and voice, as mentioned by some of you, of any democracy. Ensuring that civil society has sufficient space to operate in support and protection of fundamental rights in the European Union remains a common endeavour for the European institutions and the Member States.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

Written statements (Rule 162)

 
  
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  Francisco Assis (S&D), por escrito. – Em muitas partes do globo - e não só nos países em vias de desenvolvimento - assistimos hoje a fenómenos de carácter autoritário contra a democracia e os direitos humanos, que se manifestam muitas vezes através da redução do espaço de intervenção da sociedade civil. Determinados grupos como as mulheres, os jovens, as pessoas LGBTI e as minorias, as comunidades ciganas, as populações indígenas, as pessoas com deficiência, a imprensa ou os defensores dos direitos humanos são alvos preferenciais da repressão, da limitação dos direitos à liberdade de expressão, de reunião e de associação. A UE e os seus Estados-Membros têm o dever de liderar pelo exemplo respeitando escrupulosamente os direitos fundamentais da sociedade civil e a fazerem face a quaisquer tendências negativas neste domínio. Mas a UE tem também o dever de agir quando esses direitos fundamentais não são respeitados em países terceiros com os quais mantém relações comerciais ou diplomáticas, usando para tal os seus instrumentos de política externa, nomeadamente os instrumentos em matéria de direitos humanos e desenvolvimento e os acordos bilaterais com países terceiros.

 
  
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  Kinga Gál (PPE), írásban. – Magyarországon nagy tiszteletnek örvendenek a civil szervezetek, hiszen az állampolgárok ezen önkéntes szerveződései a társadalmi-kulturális élet fontos alkotóelemei, amelyek tevékenységük révén hozzájárulnak a társadalmi problémák hatékony kezeléséhez és a közösségi szükségletek kielégítéséhez. Magyarországon több mint 60 000 civil szervezet működik problémamentesen, ám a szervezetek csupán kevesebb mint 1 százaléka törekszik politikai befolyásra. Teszik mindezt anélkül, hogy bármilyen demokratikus elszámoltathatósággal rendelkeznének, így csakis álproblémaként értelmezhető e szervezetek Európát telekiabáló felháborodása. A civil szervezetek fontos szerephez jutnak a közvélemény-formálásban, ezért alapvető közérdek fűződik ahhoz, hogy a társadalom egészének egyértelmű legyen, e szervezetek milyen érdekeket képviselnek. A külföldről támogatott civil szervezetek átláthatósága rendkívül fontos jogállami követelmény, ami mindenkire vonatkozik. A transzparenciát hirdető civil szervezetektől elvárható, hogy saját maguk esetében is eleget tegyenek az átláthatóság követelményének és nyilvánosságra hozzák pénzügyi támogatásaikat. Ez egy teljesen legitim elvárás a civil szervezetektől és nem példa nélküli a világban. Az Európai Parlamentet elárasztó feljelentő leveleket ugyanaz a néhány, Soros terveit elősegítő, migrációt támogató civil szervezet terjeszti, amelyek évek óta támadják nyíltan vagy burkoltan a magyar kormányt.

 
  
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  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (S&D), in writing. – Regarding the fact that independent and well-functioning civil society is a fundament of the country’s democracy, stability and prosperity and one of the most important actors in overseeing the situation of human rights, social justice and citizens participation, a spread of limitations and closing down of civil society in developing democracies across the world is a deeply worrying phenomenon. In order to fight this negative trend, the representatives of the EU institutions and Member States should give a strong signal and support the threaten human rights defenders and NGOs, by holding meetings, publically expressing support to individual cases or by providing consultations and guidance in their activities. At the same time the EU actors should be more vocal in defending the international legal instruments promoting democracy and human rights on the level of international organisations, such as United Nations, African Union and others. Furthermore, I believe a clearer structure should be given to the framework of cooperation with civil societies in problematic regions consisting of regular in-depth consultations, establishing an alert system notifying about introducing restrictive pieces of legislation and continuously monitoring potential threats to NGOs and human rights defenders.

 
  
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  Davor Škrlec (Verts/ALE), napisan. – Civilno društvo, odnosno aktivnost i sudjelovanje građana u kreiranju politika predstavljaju temelj demokracije, a pritisak nad njime u konstantnom je porastu unutar i izvan granica EU-a. Posebno je zabrinjavajuće upravo širenje trenda sužavanja prostora civilnog društva i među razvijenim demokratskim državama. Organizacije civilnog društva, ali i individualni aktivisti koji se bave socijalnim, ekološkim i drugim važnim pitanjima, nailaze na mnoštvo prepreka - od pravnih i administrativnih, pa se sve do zastrašivanja, pritvaranja i uhićenja.

Takav negativni trend nije zaobišao ni Hrvatsku gdje se organizacijama civilnog društva političkim pritiscima i rezanjem sredstava ograničavaju slobode govora i djelovanja.

Civilno društvo iznimno je značajno za Europu, stoga rješavanje ovog problema zahtijeva njeno djelovanje - pružanje snažne zakonske zaštite za OCD, kao i kreiranje konkretnih političkih mehanizama i instrumenata s ciljem da se onima koji se bore za ljudska prava i demokratizaciju omoguće uvjeti za rad.

 
Ultimo aggiornamento: 8 aprile 2019Avviso legale