Publication of a new EESC study about the impact of Covid-19 on the civic space

19.06.2022 I EESC has published its research about the impact of Covid-19 and government measures on civic space in Europe

In November 2021, our Director Rupert Graf Strachwitz spoke at a conference organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Now, the organisation has published the results of its study into the impact of Covid-19 and government measures on civic space in Europe. 

The study assesses the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the functioning of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Europe, especially their ability to freely advocate for change without the fear of governmental repercussions. It also examines how measures implemented by Member States within the context of Covid-19 restricted this fundamental right, and the work of CSOs more broadly. Morover, it suggests potential policies that the EU could implement to overcome the challenges uncovered by the study. Researchers conducted 29 expert interviews and a survey, also analysing previous studies and reports, in addition to speaking to three focus groups.

They concluded that the flexibility of CSOs has enabled them to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic, alongside rapid digitalisation. However, they also note that Covid-19 forced many to suspend or end their operations, and had a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of the sector’s employees. The pandemic also damaged the income streams for many CSOs, and gave governments the opportunity to implement laws that limited CSOs in their scope of work. Overall, Covid-19 ‘highlighted or excarbated’ existing issues between civil society and the state, according to the report.

Report recommendations include the development of EU laws to support CSOs and provisions to be made for better funding and cooperation between CSOs and European institutions.

The study was produced at the behest of the EESC’s Diversity Europe Group. It was conducted by the European Civic Forum, Civil Society Europe, the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law and the Institute of Public Affairs.

>> Read the study here