Civil Society in East-Central Europe
Call for Papers/Presentations for academic/practitioner workshop at the History Department, Central European University, Budapest, on December 8 - 9, 2017
From the Baltics to the Black Sea and back the legitimacy of critical civic institutions, organisations and movements of civil society is under pressure. They constitute an important check on political and economic power that many in government, politics and business are willing to eliminate. Political and opinion leaders in EU member states such as Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria contest civil society participation and oversight of democratic institutions with increasing intensity.
Disrespect, intolerance and outright aggression against progressive, humanist, democratic and environmentalist values of the EU and the civil society voices that uphold them gradually become mainstream. The voices of environmental, human and gender rights and democracy advocates and their organizations are increasingly ostracized in mass media and on social networks. Pejorative hate-speech labels like “foreign agents", "sorosoids", "green racketeers", “liberasts”, “EuroGays” are spreading within, and increasingly also beyond social media networks and communities. A popular discourse of denial and marginalization of entire sectors of civil society is shaped and imposed, reducing public sensitivity towards legislative and other forms of pressure against them.
But ostracizing civil society is not new in European history. Critical voices of civil society have been under pressure by non-democratic regimes throughout Central and Eastern Europe’s pre-EU past. The crucial importance of independent civic institutions, citizens’ organizations and independent journalism, for the state of European democracy has been established through important historical lessons learned during the pre- and interwar periods, the Cold War, and during EU accession.
* ACADEMIC/PRACTITIONER WORKSHOP
Our purpose is to foster knowledge exchange among academic researchers, civil society leaders, policy makers and journalists to:
- bring up the memory, knowledge and analyses of these historical legacies; and
- generate ideas for effective practical and policy responses to today’s growing pressure against critical and independent civil society and media voices that uphold Europe’s human rights, environmental and democratic values.
To accomplish these goals a transnational workshop will be held in Budapest by the Department of History at the Central European University on December 8 – 9, 2017, in partnership with the BlueLink Civic Action network. The organisers will present focused research which maps pre-EU practices of ostracism and loss of citizenship, and civil society responses to them in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, and other CEE members of the EU. Position papers and multimedia/oral presentations from scholars in multiple academic fields, civil society representatives, journalists and policy makers from EU member states in CEE are invited.
* SCOPE OF POSITION PAPERS AND PRESENTATIONS
The workshop participants will be expected to contribute research findings, analysis and experience, and compare them analytically to the methods and rhetorics that undermine critical civil society voices and EU values today. Special attention will be paid on the opportunities offered by European citizenship and democratic citizen participation on Union level. All participants will be expected to demonstrate how their findings and research can be useful in designing effective action and policy responses against civil society ostracism today. Contributions may address Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, as well as other CEE members states of the EU.
Possible areas of analysis and debate include, but are not limited to:
- parallels to historical turning points in developments of civil society and its structural embeddedness in changing state structures; for instance 1918 and the end of the WWI – the rise of nation states; or 1968 protests and civil rights movements with their divergent outcomes;
- lessons learned from anti-state activism, dissident traditions, and other past forms of civil society opposition to ostracism and loss of citizenship under non-democratic regimes;
- the changing role of the EU in respect to civil society, state institutions and governments;
- present time strategies, methods, and actions by civil society actors in resistance and defence of their stands and of European values – whether successful or not; and
- findings and developments from related fields, such as watchdog journalism; independent judiciary; democratic institutions; academic freedom etc., which affect civil society’s strength and viability.
* WORKSHOP DETAILS AND SUBMISSIONS
The workshop will be held at The Central European University, Budapest, on December 8-9, 2017. Invited participants are expected to arrive in Budapest by the evening of Thursday, December 7, and depart on the afternoon of Saturday, December 9, 2017.
300 words-long abstracts for position papers or presentations need to be submitted by email to: remembering_eu (at) bluelink.net.
Proposals will be accepted until Sunday, November 5, 2017 and will be reviewed on ongoing basis. Notification of acceptance will be issued latest by Monday, November 6, 2017.
Participants are expected to prepare ready-made short position papers (3-5 pages) or multimedia presentations, which shall be distributed among participants in advance. The workshop is an all-read-all event. Speakers are invited to give a brief oral/multimedia presentations of up to 15 minutes, building upon their position papers. Presentations will be followed by discussion with all the participants.
Completed papers and presentations by accepted participants will need to be submitted by Tuesday, November 30, 2017.
No participation fees will be charged for accepted participants.
A collection of selected and expanded inputs will be published as a widely distributed analytical report.
The organizers will cover meals for all participants (details to follow). Justified applications for reimbursement of travel and accommodation costs will be considered by applicants without institutional support.
The workshop is held as part of a Remembering Europe: Civil Society Under Pressure Again project, implemented by the BlueLink Foundation in Bulgaria with support from the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union.
* ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Prof. Balazs Trencsenyi, Head, History Department, Central European University
Kristof Szombati, Policy Advisor and Strategist, Greenpeace Hungary
Pavel P. Antonov, PhD, Executive Editor, BlueLink Foundation / Affiliated member, Open Space Research Centre, UK
Veronika Mora, Executive Director, Ökotárs, Hungary
Wiktor Marzec, PhD, Research Associate, BlueLink Foundation
For more information: