Parliamentary questions
13 June 2017
Question for oral answer
to the Commission
Rule 128
Sophia in 't Veld, Guy Verhofstadt, Nathalie Griesbeck, Gérard Deprez, Cecilia Wikström, Louis Michel, Angelika Mlinar, on behalf of the ALDE Group

 Subject: Shrinking space for civil society

An active and well-developed civil society is a prerequisite for a healthy democracy. It is an essential part of the system of checks and balances. The EU aims to further civil society both within and outside the EU. The importance of civil society is highlighted by the specific article in the Treaties regarding a regular dialogue between the EU institutions and civil society. In addition, support for civil society and human rights defenders are a priority of EU external policy and substantial means are available for the support to civil society.

However, within the EU, the space for civil society is being diminished, as governments are making it hard for NGOs – particularly those which take a government-critical stance – to operate in their countries. Measures such as budget cuts, legislation targeting foreign-funded organisations, tighter rules for registering NGOs, and restrictions on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression have resulted in a shrinking space for civil society in some Member States. This undermines democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU as a whole. As Member States are key constituents of the EU decision-making structures, it is essential that they fully comply with EU standards on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in order for the EU to be compliant as a whole.

Freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly and of association, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, have come under pressure in some parts of the European Union.

– Is the Commission aware of the shrinking space for civil society in the Member States?

– Does it agree that this affects democracy, the rule of law and the fundamental rights of the European Union as a whole?

– Does it agree that the coherence and consistency of internal and external policies in this area are key to the credibility of the Union?

– What initiatives will it take to remedy the situation?

Last updated: 16 June 2017Legal notice