The global network CIVICUS gives Austria good marks for its handling of fundamental and civil rights and civil society.

Two years ago, the international non-governmental organization CIVICUS rated the space for civil society in Austria only as “restricted”. As of today, Austria is again considered “open” due to improvements in the last few months. Only three percent of the world’s population live in countries with comparably good conditions.

CIVICUS, a global network of more than 4000 members from over 175 countries, documents with its CIVICUS monitor the threats to the development of civil society around the world. Depending on the number of points achieved on an index of 0-100, a country is considered open, narrowed, obstructed, repressed or closed. Austria is now “open” again and is in the company of Germany, Switzerland, the Benelux countries and Scandinavia. Only three percent of the world’s population live in countries with comparable conditions, where their citizens can found associations, demonstrate peacefully in public places and freely express their opinions.

In today’s press release, CIVICUS refers to the positive change brought about by the 2019 elections and as a result of which the FPÖ was replaced by the Greens in the coalition with the ÖVP. They are more open to a dialogue with civil society organizations, which can thereby make themselves heard again. Many of their demands are now taken into account in the government program. CIVICUS also cites the 700 million euro support fund for nonprofit organizations (NPOs) decided on because of the COVID-19 pandemic as evidence of positive development in Austria.

“The inclusion of CSOs in various consultation processes, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, by the Austrian government is an example of good practice which other states in the region should follow, ” Aarti Narsee, responsible for Europe at CIVICUS, now gives Austria a good report card. In one breath, however, she appeals to the ÖVP urgently to refrain from its anti-migrant rhetoric.

Franz Neunteufl, executive director of the IGO – Interest Group of Public Benefit Organizations and spokesman for ALLIANCE FOR PUBLIC BENEFIT approved: “The participation of our colleagues in the development of the aid measures to overcome the corona crisis is actually a good example of further projects in the government program to promote non-profit and volunteer work.”

In the spring of 2019, IGO came in her Civil Society Index – Update 2019 to a completely different result. At that time there was still talk of tendencies to limit the critical potential of civil society and its participation in political decision-making processes. Neunteufl today: “Even if we do not agree with everything that the government does or does not do, it is important and a sign of a healthy democratic constitution that the government seeks dialogue with organized civil society and does include it in those areas where it is affected by its decisions. “

Relationship Status: It’s complicated. Civil Society Organisations and the EU.

In 2018, during the Austrian Presidency of the EU Council, IGO joined forces with the European Civic Forum in carrying forward the legacy of civil society forums in countries holding the EU Presidencies over the last ten years.

A recent report by Civil Society Europe shows there is a desire for the European Union to play a greater role in upholding democratic principles and setting guidelines to ensure an enabling environment for civil society.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty commits the “institutions” – including the European Council and its 28 members – to an “open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society”. Yet, the reality often shows a different picture: in many Member States civil society organizations are either ignored or facing open hostility. In addition, the scarcity or conditionality of public funding is restricting civic organisations’ ability to take action to ensure access to fundamental rights for all.

On day one, participants were primarily those in charge and members or employees of civil society organizations from Austria and abroad. Working language was English.

Picture Gallery Day 1.

Welcome and Opening

  • Franz NEUNTEUFL, IGO, Vienna
  • Iva TARALEZHKOVA, Bulgarian Citizen Participation Forum, Sofia
  • Jean Marc ROIRANT, European Civic Forum, Paris

Panel 1 – All for rights and rights for all: the state of civic space and fundamental rights in today’s European Union

With contributions from

  • Veronika MORA, Hungarian Enviromental Partnership Foundation, Budapest
  • Waltraud HELLER, European Fundamental Rights Agency, Wien
  • Dr Vedran DZIHIC, Austrian Institute for International Affairs, Vienna
  • Alexandrina NAJMOWICZ, European Civic Forum, Paris (Moderation)

Panel 2Funding civil society activities with public money: Too much to die, too little to live

With contributions from

  • Judith PÜHRINGER, arbeitplus, Vienna
  • Jean Marc ROIRANT, European Economic and Social Committee, European Civic Forum & Civil Society Europe, Brussels
  • Dr Daniela BANKIER, European Commission, DG Justice, Programme and Financial Management Unit, Brussels
  • Franz NEUNTEUFL, IGO, Wien (Moderation)

Outlook on the Romanian EU Presidency from a civil society point of view

  • Iuliana RADA, Civil Society Development Foundation, Bukarest.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Article 2 has a prominent place in the EU treaties, yet a vast gap exists between these rights and values and their exercise and implementation. In Europe today, rights and liberties are increasingly sacrificed in the name of austerity, security, anti-terrorism or money laundering, transparency or business secrecy.

This was the starting point for the inputs and panel discussions on the second day of the event. Working language here was German.

Picture Gallery Day 2.

Welcome and Opening

  • Dr Jörg WOJAHN, Representation of the European Commission in Austria, Vienna
  • Dr Alexander VAN DER BELLEN, Federal President of the Rep. of Austria – Video Message
  • Franz NEUNTEUFL, IGO, Vienna

Panel 1Make Europe Great for All: about the spaces between values& policies

With contributions from

  • Andreas SCHIEDER, Candidate to the European Parliament, SPÖ, Vienna
  • Dr Daniela BANKIER, European Commission, DG Justice, Programme and Financial Management Unit, Brussels
  • Dr Michaela MOSER, European Anti-Poverty Network, Vienna
  • Dr Frank HEUBERGER, Bundesweites Netzwerk Bürgerschaftliches Engagement, Berlin (Moderation)

Keynote

  • Karoline EDTSTADLER, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Interior, Vienna

Panel 2Climate change in politics: how can we go against the tides in the EU?

  • Dr Othmar KARAS, Austrian MEP, ÖVP, Brussels
  • Leonore GEWESSLER, Global 2000 | Friends of the Earth, Vienna
  • Verena RINGLER, European Commons, Innsbruck – Vienna
  • Franz NEUNTEUFL, IGO, Vienna

Closing Remarks

  • Franz NEUNTEUFL, IGO
  • Alexandrina NAJMOWICZ, European Civic Forum, Paris.