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Open and free societies under pressure

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Minister of State Michael Roth meet representatives of private foundations for a strategic dialogue at the German Foreign Office

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Minister of State Michael Roth meet representatives of private foundations for a strategic dialogue at the German Foreign Office, © Florian Gaertner/photothek.net

12.02.2019 - Article

Foreign Minister Maas wants to strengthen stakeholders who are committed to an open society

Spaces for civil society are shrinking in many countries of the world, including in Europe. Administrative hurdles are making work more difficult, staff members are being harassed and opportunities for engaging in open and critical dialogue restricted. This challenge of shrinking spaces was the focus of the strategic dialogue between Foreign Minister Maas and representatives of private foundations, who are holding discussions about the future of Europe at the Federal Foreign Office today.

Strengthening open society

Foreign Minister Maas called for closer ties with civil society in other European countries. The Federal Government and many private foundations often pursue similar interests abroad. They are working for an open society and compliance with democratic rules and the rule of law. The strategic dialogue aims to define commonalities and to improve dovetailing of approaches. There are approximately 22,500 foundations in Germany, of which around eight percent are active abroad.

Greater common good and advocacy

During the open discussion, the foundations highlighted their commitment to open societies in many European countries. The conclusion was that the establishment of populist parties and movements represented a challenge and that the foundations should now adopt a more political stance and defend and champion the openness of a liberal democracy. Maas called for “less polarisation and greater politicisation” in this regard, adding that the minority can only make itself heard if it is not drowned out by the majority. However, many people had become too complacent, he said, in spite of the fact that the rule of law was at risk in certain countries.

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