The Council of Europe has recognised the importance of dynamic civil society for the fruitful development of democracy inter alia in the Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 on the legal status of non-governmental organisations in Europe and the Code of Good Practice for Civil Society Participation in the Decision-Making Process, adopted by the Conference of INGOs in 2009 and supported by the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly.
Despite this determination to set standards for guaranteeing the free development and effective participation of NGOs in the democratic process, we still observe unjustified attempts to restrict the freedom of association in Europe. The Venice Commission has critically addressed a number of such cases, as did the Expert Council on NGO Law of the Conference of INGOs. NGOs face excessive formal requirements for registration and functioning, unjustified criminalisation of activities, restriction of access to funding (especially foreign funding), repression against their members and exclusion from consultations on the adoption of legislation concerning their status, funding and scope of activities, etc.
The Assembly should identify the major challenges which hinder the development of civil society organisations in Europe today; to determine how to improve the existing standards for interaction between State authorities and NGOs in order to establish favourable legal, political and economic conditions for the effective functioning of civil society and elaborate guidelines on how the Assembly and national parliaments can reinforce the implementation of these standards.