A study conducted by Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte together with Open Society Foundations shows that restrictions on civil society organizations have reached worrying levels within Europe and Germany. Due to a tax law that sanctions political engagement of NGOs, more and more organization in Germany are avoiding to publicly take a political stance. When civil society organizations are discouraged from raising their voice in public debates, democracy itself is at risk.
- Download study “Shrinking Space in Germany, Shrinking Space in Europe: Why a Politically Engaged Civil Society is Essential for a Strong Democracy and How Germany Can Safeguard it” by Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte and Open Society Foundations (PDF file; first published in English: July 5th, 2021)
Civil Society Under Pressure
Our study “Shrinking Space in Germany, Shrinking Space in Europe” sheds light on the crucial role of non-profit and civil society organization in democratic states and describes the current limitations faced by civil society organizations in Germany and the EU. Civil society is under pressure not only in states such as Hungary, Poland and Slovenia, but increasingly also by state measures stemming from more unusual suspects such as France, Spain and Austria. Especially NGOs working on behalf of asylum seekers and migrants are severely restricted in their work.
Our analysis shows a concerning trend towards disproportionate restrictions on NGO’s essential work all over Europe. Recent developments are not in line with the European Union’s understanding of a politically engaged civil society.
Germany: Reform of non-profit law would strengthen civil society across Europe
In Germany, NGOs risk losing their non-profit status, if they engage in political debates. Many NGOs cannot survive without the non-profit status which is needed for public and private funding. Our study concludes that Germany should send a signal for a strong civil society across Europe by reforming its outdated non-profit law. The non-profit law needs to include pressing issues of our time such as the promotion of fundamental and human rights, gender justice, social justice, global climate justice and the promotion of democracy and peace.
The study was originally published in German in December 2020.
Further information on our work to strengthen civil society (in German):