Many countries in Europe experience democratic problems. They struggle with authoritarian and corrupt governments; attacks on freedom of expression; targeting of vulnerable groups such as LGBTIQ+, Roma, and refugees; and limited access to necessary funding.
In Hungary, Fidesz and Victor Orban won the parliamentary elections this year. In Poland, the United Right, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Zbigniew Ziobro, are projected to win the parliamentary elections next year. Romania is governed by an unstable coalition of the National Liberal and the Social Democratic Parties. All three are dropping in democracy and rule of law rankings.
The Hungarian and Polish governments exercise increasingly brutal control over the entire legal system, in violation of EU law and the European Convention on Human Rights. Romania violates the independence of the courts, especially the right and duty to secure that national law is applied consistently with EU law. All three countries have governments interfering with the freedom of the press, depriving the opposition and civil society from access to the media, and harassing journalists and activists with frivolous lawsuits.
Meanwhile, civil society organizations in all three countries continue to fight back, protecting people’s rights and taking responsibility for severe political and social issues such as climate change, and an increasing number of refugees from Ukraine.
Many of these initiatives are fuelled by massive funding and support from Norway. Over four years, the Norwegian government supports civil society in 14 European countries with 187 million Euros in the funding known as Active Citizens Fund, part of EEA and Norway grants.
We have invited three national experts from Poland, Hungary, and Romania to a conversation about the future of Europe. What are the most likely developments for democracy, rule of law, and the protection of civil rights in countries such as Poland, Hungary, and Romania over the next few years? Whom will be most affected if negative developments continue? Who can take the lead in creating change? And how can civil society contribute to improving European democracy with support from the Norwegian grants?