ECAS will take part in the EESC Civil Society Days

On the 2nd of March, ECAS will host its workshop, “CSOs resilience against shrinking democratic space in CEE” in the framework of the 2023 edition of the EESC Civil Society Days. Under the overarching topic “Civil Society Organisations: a pillar of democracy and a key player to overcome current challenges”, citizens, organised civil society and European institutions will hold a series of discussions between the 1st and the 3rd of March.

The reason ECAS chose this topic is that over recent years many CEE societies have seen a number of actions by state actors that intentionally result in a shrinking democratic space for CSOs. We are witnessing targeted disinformation attacks and discrediting actions, in addition to legal, administrative and fiscal pressuring. These threats, together with the decline of the rule of law in the region and a rising media interest, have a detrimental effect on CSOs’ capacity to participate in democratic processes and act as guardians of European fundamental rights.

This workshop seeks to understand how civil society can prepare for and counteract the threats and attacks perpetrated by state, state-linked or state-owned actors. Firstly, a keynote speech and a presentation of Civic Space Watch stories will introduce the political and media environment that civil society is navigating in the region, and present the fundamental problems of the operating framework in the region. Following this, a panel discussion will bring together representatives of CSOs, public authorities, academia and the media to explore a number of key questions regarding shrinking democratic spaces for civil society. First, is there an overarching tendency across CEE countries for governments to target organisations active in particular fields, for example education or non-discrimination, and, if so, why? Second, are there early warning indicators that can alert CSOs to the emerging threat of upcoming attacks or harassment against them? Last but not least, what are the tools and approaches that can be used to counteract the attacks (for example in social or traditional media) when they occur?

Discussion points

Part 1: Which CSOs are the targets of state attacks in CEE? Are CSOs that work in specific thematic areas at greater risk (i.e. are there specific areas that are causing greater concern or is civil society attacked indiscriminately)?

Part 2: Are there early warning signs of an incoming attack or discrediting action that CSOs could look out for? Do these occur, for example, around elections or other predictable events?

Part 3: How should CSOs react to attacks? What are the working approaches and actions that civil society can take in order to counteract these threats both reactively and proactively?

To find out more information about the agenda and the registration process for the event, visit our website here.