On 18 January 2018, the Hungarian government launched ‘Stop Soros’, a package of draft laws targeting civil society organisations. If adopted, critical rights groups in Hungary would be almost completely silenced.
In Hungary, the ‘Stop Soros’ package is only the latest in a string of legislative proposals that aim to silence human rights defenders. While the situation in Hungary is particularly severe, it is not the only EU country in which civil society groups face enormous difficulties in carrying out their work. In Poland, Romania, Ireland and Italy, the situation is also extremely serious. Almost everywhere across the EU, civil society groups are facing threats and growing restrictions. They include smear campaigns, funding cuts, strangulation by bureaucracy and withdrawal by public bodies hitherto offering consultation and cooperation.
The first debate of its kind
On Wednesday, 7 February 2018, the European Parliament in plenary will, for the first time in its history, debate the issue of 'Shrinking space for civil society' (see schedule here). 'Shrinking space' is a brief term to describe the many threats civil society is currently facing across the EU. Despite these threats, civil society continues to play an essential role in informing the public and holding governments to account for their actions.
Ahead of the plenary session, Liberties has written to Members of the European Parliament to inform them about the endangered state of civil society across the EU. The package also contains Liberties’ recommendations to improve the situation. Most importantly, Liberties demands the creation of a new financial instrument to support civil society organisations that promote and protect European values inside the EU.
We encourage you to browse through the materials we have prepared ahead of the debate, available below. They will help you to be fully informed when you tune in to the live stream of the Parliament’s debate on 7 February.
If you find the material helpful and believe in the work we are doing, please consider making a donation to support Liberties and civil society across the EU. The work of Liberties and its members is essential to keep our rights alive, but we can’t do it alone – stand with us to defend our freedoms before it’s too late!
Liberties’ material on 'shrinking space':
- A summary of existing problems and recommendations: Liberties, 'Shrinking space for civil society: overview and recommendations for EU action', January 2018.
- A two-page summary of the most recent problematic developments in Hungary, Poland, Romania, Italy and Ireland: Liberties, 'Update on five EU countries where civil society is under threat', January 2018.
- An in-depth briefing on the situation in Poland from our Polish member, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights: 'The situation of the civil society organisations', January 2018.
- An in-depth briefing on the situation in Hungary from our Hungarian member and partner, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee & the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, 'Operation starve and strangle: How the government uses the law to repress Hungary's civic spirit', February 2018.
- Two articles providing background to current developments in Romania and Poland: Liberties, 'Romanian NGOs on tenterhooks as government takes aim at civil liberties', August 2017; Liberties, 'Poland seizes control of civil society funding', December 2017.
- A policy paper identifying trends across EU countries, analysing causes behind mounting restrictions on civil society organisations and outlining recommendations for EU action: Liberties, 'Participatory democracy under threat: Growing restrictions on the freedoms of NGOs in the EU', August 2017.