Shrinking Space for Civil Society in Russia and Beyond: How the EU Should Respond

Belgium, Brussels, 1000, Arts 56 Auditorium, Avenue des Arts 56
Wednesday, July 04 2018 / 10:30

The increasing support for authoritarian political movements in Europe is matched by a rise of authoritarian regimes globally. The West’s conviction that the end of the Cold War would lead to a universal acceptance of liberal democratic norms is proving incorrect. Countries such as Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia are learning from each other how to repress alternative political opinions and take coordinated measures to that end.

In Russia, non-governmental organisations and activists have been stripped of funds as their activities have been criminalised. Instead, the Kremlin increasingly supports ‘government-organised non-governmental organisations’. But rising protests across the country undercut the narrative that Russian civil society is dead. And despite the pressure, Russian civil society is proving to be more active and resilient than is generally assumed.

What can the EU leaders do to assist Russian civil society? Is democracy in Russia, and in any third country for that matter, of concern to the EU? What can European leaders do to convince their own voters of the supremacy of the liberal democratic order? A new Martens Centre paper, Filling the Void: Why the EU Must Step Up Support for Russian Civil Society will serve as the basis for discussion.