European Union: CSOs Open Letter to European and national leaders

In International Advocacy Program, Parliament & the European Union by CIHRS

Fundamental Rights in the EU: Put our money where our mouth is

Dozens of civil society organizations (CSOs) have signed a joint open letter to EU leaders, calling on the EU to significantly increase the budget of the Rights and Values fund, optimally to the level demanded by the European Parliament—1.83 billion euros—in the 2020-27 EU budget. Instead, the European Commission had recently proposed to cut funding for the Rights and Values program by about 20%.

The EU has recognized the critical role played by civil society to uphold, promote and protect democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law. CSOs are very much needed on the ground to continue fighting for equality and against discrimination, for citizens’ participation, and to prevent violence against the vulnerable, including refugees, children, women and minority groups. The COVID-19 pandemic context only increases the need to invest concretely, through the EU Multiannual Financial Framework, in civil society’s value-based action on the ground to uphold the human rights of all within the EU.

Dear President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen
Dear Members of the European Parliament
Dear President of the European Council, Charles Michel
Dear Members of the Governments of EU Member States
CC: Vera Jourova, European Commission Vice-President on Values and Transparency
The Croatian Presidency of the EU Council
The forthcoming German Presidency of the EU council

On May 27th, the European Commission presented a strategy for overcoming negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and preparing the future for next generations (2020/98). It also presented a draft 7-year budget for the EU, which is intended to be an essential tool in achieving goals stated in the strategy (2020/442).
We appreciate that the strategy mentions the civil society as an important partner in facing the many challenges brought to our societies by the pandemic. However, we are deeply disappointed that civil society’s role is not adequately reflected in the draft budget. This mismatch is clearly manifested by a proposal to cut the volume of the Rights and Values Programme by over 20 per cent compared to the already very low figure proposed by the Commission in 2018. The Programme was intended to support projects implemented by civil society organisations promoting and protecting common European values of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights. It will not be effective without adequate financial resources.
We would like to remind you that civil society is an element of democracy’s critical infrastructure. CSOs serve their communities by safeguarding common European values enshrined in the Article 2 of the Treaty, and play key role in fostering European integration. With the outbreak of the pandemic, CSOs have proved their effectiveness and commitment to serving our societies and protecting foundational European values and norms. They have been active in supporting communities to better cope with the pandemic, including by providing social services to people at risk, such as the elderly, patients, people in quarantine, minorities, migrants and refugees. They launched projects boosting capacity of public healthcare institutions through support for medical workers, fundraising for hospitals, arranging medical equipment or running information campaigns about the pandemic. CSOs closely monitor the situation of human and civil rights during the lockdown and intervene when common European values are challenged. Their work will continue to be necessary for easing hardship caused by the pandemic on vulnerable social groups, to maintain social cohesion and solidarity, as well as to invigorate political legitimacy of the European project in the years after the pandemic.
Civil society organisations undertake all these activities while facing enormous financial constraints. Sources of funding for CSOs are becoming increasingly scarce – a process which accelerated with the outbreak of the pandemic.
We regret that the draft budget fails to acknowledge CSOs’ contribution to European societies. We also regret that the proposal ignores long-standing calls from hundreds of organisations from across the EU, and other actors (including the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee) to increase support for CSOs. We fear that cutting the funds for civil society will only aggravate the social and political problems that the EU will be facing in the coming years. It will also send a wrong signal about the EU’s commitment to its values and citizens’ rights.
We encourage you to rectify what appears to be a significant political mistake potentially affecting millions of European citizens. We call on you to significantly increase the budget of the Rights and Values fund, optimally to the level demanded by the European Parliament, i.e. to 1.83 billion EUR (current prices).
We will liaise with European and national institutions in order to ensure that the final Multiannual Financial Framework provides necessary means to civic organisations, which promote and protect common European rights and values on local, national and European levels.
We are looking forward to receiving a response to our concern. We are at your disposal for any clarification and constructive dialogue on this matter.


European Civic Forum, Europe • Stefan Batory Foundation, Poland • BundesnetzwerkBürgerschaftliches Engagement (B.B.E), Germany • Civic Alliance, Latvia • Civilisation coalition, Hungary • CNVOS, Slovenia • CROSOL, Croatia • De VerenigdeVerenigingen, Belgium • Forum del TerzoSettore, Italy • FundatiapentruDezvoltareaSocietatiiCivile | Civil Society Development Foundation, Romania • Global Fokus, Denmark • GrađanskeInicijative | Civic Initiatives, Serbia • InteressenvertretungGemeinnützigerOrganisationen | Interest Group of Public Benefit Organisations, Austria • Le MouvementAssociatif, France • National Federation of Polish NGOs (OFOP), Poland • Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations (NENO), Estonia • NISC, Lithuania • Ökotárs – Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation, Hungary • Solidarity Now, Greece • SPIRALIS, Czech Republic • The Wheel, Ireland
Civil Society Europe, Europe • JEF Europe, Europe • European Disability Forum, Europe • European Youth Forum, Belgium • European Women’s Lobby, Belgium • Philantropy Advocacy, Belgium • ARCI, Italy • Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Hungary • Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE), Europe • Transparency International EU, Belgium • ACT Alliance EU, Belgium • ALDA – The European Association for Local Democracy, France • Board of EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Germany • Volonteurope, Belgium • European Volunteer Centre – CEV, Europe • International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, Belgium • Rurality-Environment-Development, Europe • Connecting Europe / European Policy Centre, Belgium • AEGEE / European Students’ Forum, Europe • Social Platform, Belgium • Alliance4Europe, Belgium • RECLAIM, Belgium • Association for International Affairs (AMO), Czech Republic • Polish Robert Schuman Foundation, Poland • Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe – DARE network, Belgium • EuroClio – European Association of History Educators, Netherlands • AsociatiaGrup de ActiuneLocalaBerceni, Romania • FECED LeulAlbastru, Romania • Open Lithuania Foundation, Lithuania • Russian LGBT Network, Russia • EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy, Czech Republic • TERRA Milleniul III, Romania • Funky Citizens, Romania • AFEW International, Netherlands • Romanian Academic Society, Romania • Clean Air Action Group, Hungary • AsociatiaFormare, Dezvoltare, Asistenta FORDA, Romania • CENTRAS – The Assistance Center for NGOs, Romania • Rights International Spain, Spain • Federation of Non-governmental Organizations for Social Services – FONSS, Romania • AsociatiaEcopolis, Romania • Fundatia PACT – ParteneriatpentruActiuneComunitarasiTransformare, Romania • AsociatiaEurolife, Romania • Antigone, Italy • FILIA Center, Romania • Asociatia ACCEPT, Romania • Institute for Public Affairs, Poland • Association for Legal Intervention, Poland • Fund for Global Human Rights, United Kingdom • Südost Europa Kultur, Germany • Foundation ClientEarthPrawnicydlaZiemi, Poland • Center for Public Innovation, Romania • UNESCO IPL – People of African Descent & SDGs E Team, United Kingdom • Open Society Institute – Sofia Foundation, Bulgaria • Carpathian Foundation, Hungary • Europuls Centre of European Expertize, Romania • FederacjaZnakiRówności, Poland • NGO Slovo 21, Czech Republic • Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Proit Law, Bulgaria • POLA – Lithuanian Cancer Patient Coalition, Lithuania • Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Netherlands • Access to Information Programme, Bulgaria • Ekopolis Foundation, Slovakia • Opportunity Associates, Romania • Fundatia Corona, Romania • Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights, Lithuania • Information Legal Centre, Croatia • IniciatívaInakosť, Slovakia • Fundacja Pole Dialogu, Poland • ActiveWatch, Romania • Lithuanian Gay League (LGL), Lithuania • FundacjadlaWolności, Poland • Bulgarian Donors’ Forum, Bulgaria • DEMAS – Asssociation for Democracy Assistance and Human Rights, Czech Republic • Association for Community Relations (ARC), Romania • FundatiaInima de Copil, Romania • Center for Equality Advancement, Lithuania • Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation, Bulgaria • LSB Pakruojoskyrius, Lithuania • Freedom from religion foundation, Poland • Jewish Association Czulent, Poland • Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Bulgaria • ePaństwo Foundation, Poland • VédegyletEgyesület, Hungary • Association for Supporting MDR TB Patients, Romania • Romanian Center for European Policies (CRPE), Romania • CEEweb for Biodiversity, Europe • Romani CRISS, Romania • Transcena Association, Romania • Pro Democracy Association, Romania • E-Romnja Association, Romania • ECPI-Euroregional center for Public Initiatives, Romania • ARTICLE 19, Global • CIVICA, Romania • Resource Center for Public Participation – CeRe, Romania • BlueLink Foundation, Bulgaria • FundatiaCentrulParteneriatpentruEgalitate, Romania • Europe for Citizens contact point, Netherlands • Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives Foundation (BILI), Bulgaria • UNITED for Intercultural Action, Netherlands • Human Rights Voice, Lithuania • The BarysZvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, Lithuania • ACI – Centro InterCulturaCidade, Portugal • Edukacja w Dzialaniu, Poland • HELP, Croatia • Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, Global • Civil Rights Defenders, Sweden • Peace Institute, Slovenia • New Europeans AISBL, Belgium • European Movement, Italy • Italian platform on the future of Europe, Italy • European House, Hungary • Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Germany • Open Estonia Foundation, Estonia • Estonian Human Rights Centre, Estonia • European Roma Grassroots Organizations (ERGO) Network, Europe • Young, Active, Creative NGO, Bulgaria • Filia.dieFrauenstiftung, Germany • Declic, Romania • Human Catalyst Association, Romania • Association for Integration and Migration, Czech Republic • Ecumenical Women’s Initiative – Prospera Women’s Funds Europe, Croatia • Association Students in Action, Bulgaria • Future for the Children Association, Bulgaria • World Organization Against Torture – OMCT, Global • Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organisations, Slovakia • The Advocacy Academy Association, Romania • FoRS – Czech Forum for Development Cooperation, Czech Republic • The Green Light for the Civil Initiatives Foundation, Bulgaria • Open Society European Policy Institute, Belgium • Peace Brigades International – Kenya Project, Kenya • Women Win, Netherlands • Mama Cash, Netherlands • Zavod PIP – Pravni in informacijski center Maribor (Intitute PIP Maribor), Slovenia • Front Line Defenders, Ireland • Resource Center for Roma Communities, Romania • OEPG, Bulgaria • NGO « Future for Children », Bulgaria • The Good Lobby, Belgium • Mertek Media Monitor, Hungary • Ukrainian Women’s Fund – Prospera Women’s Funds Europe, Ukraine • Reconstruction Women’s Fund – Prospera Women’s Funds Europe, Serbia • Economic Policy Institute, Bulgaria • End FGM European Network, Europe • Badeshazadecata, Bulgaria • Life and Light Foundation, Romania • Hlasobčianskychorganizácií, Slovakia • EuroposNamai, Lithuania • A BuonDirittoOnlus, Italy • CalalaFondo de Mujeres, Spain • Dare Association, Bulgaria • Association for Democratic Education – FAR, Bulgaria • APADOR-CH, Romania • Ravnovesie, Bulgaria • Spektrumrozvoježen (Spiralis), Czech Republic • YOUTHub Association, Bulgaria • NGO Future for Children, Bulgaria • Citizens Against Bureaucracy Foundation, Bulgaria • НФГ « Гражданите », Bulgaria • Vi Art, Bulgaria • Libera.Associazioni, nomi e numeri contro le mafie, Italy • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Egypt • European Movement Finland, Finland • Protection International, Belgium • Association “Sustainability of progressive and open communication” , Bulgaria • Bucuresti Community Foundation, Romania • Society of German-Russian Relationships Münster/Münsterland, Germany • CentrulpentruResurseCivice, Romania • OSF Prague, Czech Republic • La Strada International, Netherlands • Foundation ,,Our children’s joy », Bulgaria • Fundatia de abilitaresperanta, Romania • Turing School, Všį (NGO), Lithuania • Regional Roma Educational Youth Association – RROMA, North Macedonia • Help Autism Association, Romania • Network of non-profit organizations – ROTSA Romania – 90 NGOs, Romania • The Romanian Federation of Non-governmental Organizations for Child (FONPC), Romania • School with class Foundation, Poland • NederlandsJuristenComitévoor de Mensenrechten (NJCM), Netherlands • Prazelenina, z.s., Czech Republic • Assistance and Programs for Sustainable Development-Agenda 21a, Romania • InstitutfürEuropäischePolitik, Germany • Civil Kozoktatasi Platform, Hungary • Malta Women’s Lobby, Malta • RNW media, Netherlands • AsociatiaDivinaProvidenta, Romania • U3A, Lithuania • TineripentruTineri, Romania • Za-Zrak (Facebook blog), Czech Republic • Trans European Policy Studies Association, Belgium • Autonapůl, družstvo, Czech Republic • Center for Civil Liberties, Ukraine • Bulgarian Fund for Women – Prospera Women’s Funds Europe, Bulgaria • Human Platform, Hungary • ADMD, France • Rodinné centrum Litomyšl, z.s., Czech Republic • Estonian LGBT Association, Estonia • 100MICI UL, z.s., Czech Republic • Sarivari, Czech Republic • Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Lithuania • Czech Women´s Lobby, Czech Republic • MRC KrtečekJeseníkz.s., Czech Republic • ARISA, Netherlands • Östgruppen – Swedish Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, Sweden • Global Citizen’s Academy, Lithuania • COC Nederland, Netherlands • Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland • International Commission of Jurists, Switzerland • Public Institution Roma Community Centre, Lithuania • Defence for Children Netherlands, Netherlands • Unhack Democracy, Belgium • Bulgarian Environmental Partnership Foundation, Bulgaria • Foundation for Lifelong Learning PERITIA, Poland • Society for Investigation Practices, Bulgaria • Public Environmental Centre for Sustainable Development, Bulgaria • Fundatia CMSC, Romania • Romanian Women’s Lobby, Romania • Cyprus Women’s Lobby, Cyprus • Cyprus Antipoverty Network, Cyprus • Socialist Women’s Movement, Cyprus • AsociatiaTraieste cu Bucurie, Romania • Fundatia de SpirijinComunitar, Romania • Lindenfeld Association, Romania • Asociatia IHTIS, Romania • FundatiaInima de Copil, Romania • CentrulParteneriatpentruEgalitate – CPE, Romania • E-Romnja – Association for Promoting Roma Women’s Rights, Romania • Applied Research & Communications Fund, Bulgaria • Nyt Europa, Denmark • Open Society Foundation, Slovakia • AsociatiaAtelierul de Bine, Romania • CNRR, Romania • Autism Romania, Romania • Mihai Eminescu Trust, Romania • Kontaktstelle Europa fürBürgerinnen und Bürger, Germany • “Open Republic” Association Against Anti -Semitism and Xenophobia, Poland • Defence for Children International, Switzerland • Citizens Network Watchdog Poland, Poland • Peace Brigades International (PBI) • ComunitateaONedu Romania, Romania • Fundatia Edelweiss, Romania • Open Republic Association, Poland • DigiQ, Slovakia • European Exchange GmbH, Germany • AsociatiaLume Buna, Romania • Center for Equality Advancement, Lithuania • StowarzyszenieLepszyŚwiat, Poland • Romanian National Council for Refugees, Romania • Defend Democracy, Belgium • Civil Society Institute, Lithuania • Association for Supporting Social Integration (ASIS), Romania • Progress Foundation, Romania • FundacjaInstytutSprawObywatelskich w Łodzi, Poland •

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