Representatives of more than 150 civil society organisations and platforms from 28 European countries gathered in Bucharest for the International Civil Society Forum urge EU leaders to actively support civil society in order to maintain its role of defending democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights of citizens.
The International Civil Society Forum took place in Bucharest, with more than 200 participants from 28 European countries, concerned that democracy, human rights or the rule of law are increasingly threatened throughout Europe. Moreover, civil society representatives are themselves targets of the same attackers, often populist and authoritarian politicians who make laws that no longer allow civil society to do its job. Leaders from the European institutions and major European networks of non-governmental organisations attending the event confirmed these dangers.
When addressing the participants at the opening of the event, Mr. Klaus Iohannis, the President of Romania, declared: “In Romania, as in other European Union states, citizens rejected the anti-European speech. Through these elections, most citizens of the Member States have proven that they understand the dangers posed by europhobic, extremist, nationalist and populist movements. This is a good moment to continue to find solutions for defending democracy, rule of law, European values, and I believe this is possible through education. We have the duty to secure a tradition of civic involvement at all levels of society for future generations. In this sense, education is the safest and most handy tool that society has. European citizens must also pay more attention and be ready to sanction shortcomings, abuses and actions that are not in line with European values and rules“.
The International Civil Society Forum seeks solutions to restore civil society to help people at its full potential, and the European Union is one of the most important solutions. The values of the European Union must be strengthened, as they actually enable the daily achievements of civil society: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and human rights. At the end of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, civil society from all over the continent gathered in Bucharest sends a clear message to EU leaders: we need the new European Parliament and the new European Commission to actively support civil society in order for it to maintain its role of ensuring fundamental rights for all.
“Our vision is about a democratic society, based on social justice and inclusion. Until recently, I was confident that we would be able to support our communities, our vulnerable and discriminated people, we managed to criticize our leaders without the fear of repercussions whenever needed. But this freedom has now disappeared among civil society, among ordinary people who want to protest when they feel unjust” said Ionuț Sibian, executive director of the Civil Society Development Foundation.
“The record participation in the European Parliament elections shows us how people increased their expectations from the Union. That is why EU institutions must ensure that these values are respected in all member states. If we have states where equality of rights or rule of law are poor, it is guaranteed that civil society is being attacked, together with the people it supports”, Ionuț Sibian added.
The International Civil Society Forum was organized by the Civil Society Development Foundation (Romania) together with the European Civic Forum and Liberties.EU – Civil Liberties Union for Europe, in the framework of the Active Citizens Fund Romania. The event was supported by CNVOS – Center for Information, Cooperation and NGO Development (Slovenia), Europuls – the Centre of European Expertise (Romania) and promoted by the Civil Society Days of the European Economic and Social Committee.
About the Active Citizens Fund Romania
The Active Citizens Fund Romania is funded under the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021 and operated by a consortium composed of the Civil Society Development Foundation, the Romanian Environmental Partnership Foundation, the Resource Center for Roma Communities, PACT Foundation and Frivillighet Norge, acting as Fund Operator on behalf of the Financial Mechanism Office (FMO). The Active Citizens Fund Romania aims at strengthening civil society and active citizenship and empowering vulnerable groups. It has a total allocation of 46,000,000 Euro and shall seek to develop the long-term sustainability and capacity of the civil society sector, enhance its role in promoting democratic participation, active citizenship and human rights, while strengthening bilateral relations with the donor states. For more information, please visit www.activecitizensfund.ro.
About the Civil Society Development Foundation Romania
Civil Society Development Foundation (CSDF) is an independent, non-governmental organization set up in 1994 at the initiative of the European Commission. CSDF promotes a strong and sustainable civil society that contributes to defending democratic values by supporting civil society actors, mobilizing resources, fostering a favorable environment, and strengthening co-operation with other sectors. For more information, please visit www.fdsc.ro.
About the European Civic Forum
European Civic Forum is a transnational network bringing together over 100 organizations from 27 European countries, actively working for human rights protection, democracy promotion and civic education. For more information, please visit www.civic-forum.eu.
The Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) is a non-governmental organisation promoting the civil liberties of everyone in the European Union. We are headquartered in Berlin and have a presence in Brussels. Liberties is built on a network of national civil liberties NGOs from across the EU. Liberties works for the peoples of the EU and its member countries to live in societies where their civil liberties are protected, where they can participate freely in the democratic process and where their governments respect the rule of law. For more information, please visit www.liberties.eu.
About CNVOS – Center for Information, Cooperation and NGO Development Slovenia
CNVOS is the umbrella organisation of Slovenian civil society and serves as an information, training and advocacy center for NGOs. Similar to CSDF, CNVOS will engage in Slovenia in coagulating the voice of civil society in the context of the Slovenian Presidency at the Council of the European Union in 2021. For more information, please visit www.cnvos.si.
About EUROPULS – the Centre of European Expertise Romania
Europuls is a non-governmental organisation founded in 2010 in Brussels by a group of Romanian experts in European affairs, working to promote the European integration process in Romania and to help develop a European public space. Europuls is the initiator and the main organiser of EUROSFAT, the Bucharest annual forum dedicated to debates on European issues. For more information, please visit www.europuls.ro.
About Civil Society Days 2019
Civil Society Days is the major annual event by which the European Economic and Social Committee and the Liaison Group cooperate together on cross-cutting issues of common interest. This year it will focus on two main pillars, Democracy and Sustainability, and will explore their links and interactions. The 2019 edition will not only be a very timely occasion for civil society organisations to address these key issues for the future of Europe but will also comprise, for the first time, cooperation with parallel events on national level, as the International Civil Society Forum, to engage as much as possible with citizens on crucial topics for all of us. For more information, please visit www.eesc.europa.eu.