Group photo Activists and Partners European Democracy Network

European Democracy Network

We build an international network of activists to defend freedom, democracy and fundamental rights


Democracy and its underlying fundamental rights are in decline in Europe. In recent years, more and more right-wing populist parties and leaders are taking over governments and dismantling the democratic constitutional state - even in the so-called "consolidated" democracies. They increasingly restrict the freedom of the people living in Europe and shake European unity. Our partnership around the European Democracy Network (EDN) supports, empowers and links activists who stand for social and climate justice, against the erosion of democracy and fundamental rights, against the rise of nationalism and white supremacy, as well as the shrinking of civic spaces.


EDN Website

Democracy, fundamental rights and the freedom of people to organize, participate and communicate with each other freely to influence political and social structures (the civic space) have always been under stress in Europe and its direct neighboring countries. In recent years, however, dramatic developments are eroding or challenging them fundamentally and the whole European continent is affected. The separation of powers, independent jurisdiction and media, and fundamental rights such as free speech or freedom of assembly are all under threat. These developments are galloping at a fast pace in Poland, Hungary and Turkey and are driven by governments and leaders who apply nationalistic rhetoric, transform citizenship education to nationalism and foster a belief in the supremacy of their nation or culture to manipulate public opinion and mobilize large parts of society. The European idea is pictured as a threat to assumed traditional and homogeneous cultural values and as neo-colonial imperialism within Europe. This not only excludes and discriminates against those stigmatized as “others” but has already seen people being threatened, arrested and disenfranchized for political reasons and liberal thinking.

We are experiencing a European-wide phenomenon of dismantling civic space

At the same time, in France, Germany, Austria and Denmark, to name only a few, but also at the EU level, individuals, groups and parties applying a similar rhetoric and strategy are gaining increasing parliamentarian and governing power. Here too, democracy and fundamental rights, some of which were always partially flawed in letter or application, are now again visibly threatened and the persisting democratic deficits in these countries provide a fertile soil for their further erosion. In France, the emergency state is becoming to a considerable extent constitutional normality, in Austria the freedom of communication is being restricted for refugees, in Denmark license plate scanners have been introduced at borders to control free movement and in Germany 92 nationalists entered the parliament and set forth to “save” the German nation and culture. The mobilization against marginalized groups – women, Black People and People of Colour, LGBTI*Q people, Roma people, refugees and migrants – is fully unfolding across Europe, also shrinking the space of those who advocate for these groups. And tightened security and anti-terror laws provide open doors to further dismantle democracy, fundamental rights and the civic space. Hence, we are experiencing a European-wide phenomenon and pointing the finger from West to East ignores the described developments in the established democracies and fuels anti-European and nationalistic discourses across Europe. "In this context, we believe it is necessary to network, to support and satisfy the needs of activists and initiatives who are under threat and who stand up against nationalism and the erosion of democracy, fundamental rights and the civic space – on the streets and in the classroom", says Martin Wilhelm, CEO of CFE.


We see ourselves as a network of civil society self-defense.

The European Democracy Network brings together activists and watchdogs, from the European political organization "NytEuropa" from Denmark to the anti-corruption "Hungarian Civil Liberties Union" to the activists' group Obywatele RP from Poland, who practice civil disobedience in government decisions that threaten the rule of law. We are united by the idea that we can only exist in international solidarity in order to counter the internationally networked opponents of the new Right. We work for our common values: the rule of law, freedom of speech and the press, freedom of assembly, equal rights and the recognition of diversity. We generate and exchange knowledge in a comparative manner on how the process of eroding democracies in Europe is legally, politically, medially and socially unfolding in order to allow for the development of strategies to counter these developments. The network is open to other organizations and wants to expand continuously.

Group photo European Democracy Network

Empowerment, Solidarity & Recovery

The core activities of EDN are workshops that include a dozen of activists, from the partner countries and from outside the partnership, e.g. Turkey, Syria, Ukraine and Slovakia. These two/three-full day workshops are about networking and empowering these activists transnationally, to support them in standing against the erosion of democracy and fundamental rights, against the rise of nationalism and white supremacism and the shrinking of civic spaces. In these workshops, the activists learn from each other and improve, develop their skills and abilities, for example in the field of areas such as secure communication and data security, Critical Whiteness, Community Management, non-violent civil disobedience and stress handling.

We are also organizing a series of international "Citizen Dialogues" in the participating countries to bring together a European public, the media and politics in civil dialogues, in order to enlighten, understand and influence society broadly. These events are also the opportunity for local people to meet and exchange with a group of international activists, to get to know their countries' specific context, to experience the European dimension of their own engagement and battle as well as to exchange perspectives, opinions and visions on European topics.

What's happened so far?

On January 28th and 29th, 2019, the kick-off meeting of the project took place at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin, bringing together the representatives of our 7 partner organisations from Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Poland and Germany. During two days, we co-designed the project objectives, activities and timeline. Read the blogpost here and get to know more about our project partners.

The selected activists met for the first time in Warsaw (Poland) on 22, 23 and 24 March 2019 together with the EDN partner organisations. During the three days meeting, they got to know each other, exchange about their experiences as activists in Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, France, Turkey, Slovakia, Denmark and Germany. And the participants co-designed the future of the network, its activities and how do they want it to empower them. They also had the opportunity to meet Klementyna Suchanow, Polish author and political activist, who presented the neo-conservative movements in Europe and the backlash on human rights it brings. The activists also did their first spontaneous action, a flashmob at an event gathering polish candidates at the election of the European Parliament and took part in an open space gathering different activist groups both from Poland and across Europe. Read more about this three-days meeting and watch the videos of the flashmob and open space here.

EDN Activists and Partners

White Privileges, Digital Security, Positive Psychology, Right-wing Populism and Shrinking Civic Space in Germany – the group took part in various training sessions during our Networking Meeting in Werkstatt der Kulturen between 28-30 June 2019. We also organised a “Transnational Inspirations dinner” to give the participants the opportunity to meet local and diaspora activists living in Berlin as well as to share inspiring activists stories and best practices to create change.

Community organising and campaigning; mobile video activism; the situation and discrimination of Roma Community, media propaganda and shrinking of civic spaces in Hungary; psychological support to prevent burn out and strengthen resilience – the third activists' meeting of our European Democracy Network that took place in Budapest from 4-7 October 2019 was full of intensive training sessions, inspiring keynotes, city civic sightseeing, artistic vibes and networking opportunities. On the EDN website you can find audio recordings of the keynotes and civic sightseeing as well as the video of "This Changes Everything" – Mari & Marie's Early Night Show that we organised in the city together with the 17th International MitOst Festival.

Networking with representatives of social movements and civil society organizations from France, Latin American and Caribbean countries, sharing activist success stories, learning about fundraising opportunities and philanthropy for democracy-related projects in Europe, civic-sightseeing in the footsteps of revolutionary women and looking for constructive responses to the problem of shrinking civic spaces – the weekend between 24th-27th January in Paris was full of valuable encounters, reflections and discussions for the EDN activists. Read the blogpost here.

Our homonymous partner Citizens For Europe that supported with 60.000€ the creation and launch of the European Democracy Network also presents the network on their website.

The project is also presented on the partners' websites: Nesehnutí, VoxPublic, TASZ, NytEuropa.

Funded by

Partner organizations


September 10, 2018
Group photo Activists and Partners European Democracy Network


European Democracy Network

For the defense of freedom, democracy and fundamental rights!

Democracy and its underlying fundamental rights are in decline in Europe. More and more right-wing populist parties and leaders are taking over governments and dismantling the democratic constitutional state – even in the so-called consolidated democracies. In this context, we believe it is necessary to support activists and initiatives who are under threat. As transnational partnership we initiated the European Democracy Network (EDN) to support, empower and connect activists who stand against the erosion of democracy and fundamental rights, and advocate for legal, political, social or climate justice. We believe that we can only encounter the shrinking of civic space in transnational solidarity and across issues.
September 9, 2018


ViRaL Action-fund

Strengthening Diversity, Combating Racism, Engaging Locally

With a re-granting scheme, we support people on the ground throughout Germany who oppose racism and are committed to the recognition of diversity. ViRaL seeks to reach out with anti-racist counter-narratives to people who have have not yet dealt with the topic, as well as to provide resources and support to those who are targeted by racism and exclusion. We provide the selected projects with mini-grants, tailored trainings and the tools they need, and we share our network and infrastructure with them.
September 8, 2018
CHIEF Feature Image


CHIEF, Towards an inclusive cultural education

Designing a multi-stakeholder collaboration to trigger change

The European CHIEF project builds a dialogue between young people, researchers, education practitioners, policymakers, community leaders and civil society activists in order to facilitate a future of Europe based on more inclusive notions of cultural heritage and cultural identity. Citizens For Europe will methodically design a multi-stakeholders' process and accompany a series of workshops to create a sustainable environment for dialogue between these actors and develop effective policy recommendations at the local and European level.
September 1, 2018

WAHLRECHT FÜR ALLE – Voting right for All

Wahlrecht für Alle - Voting right for all

We demand the right to vote for all people living here!

In Berlin more than 700,000 residents are excluded from voting in elections for local, regional and national representatives and referendums, simply because the Berlin electoral law is tied to German citizenship. Since 2011, the Berlin alliance “Wahlrecht für Alle” (“Voting Right for All”) has drawn attention to this injustice and has been committed to enabling the political participation of all people living in Berlin, regardless of their nationality. We therefore call for national voting right for EU citizens and third-country nationals, as well as for local and municipal voting right for third-country nationals.
August 31, 2018


NiCeR - Empowering local and newcomer youth

Using theater to strengthen youth participation in local life

Started in December 2015, the two-year NiCeR project used theater and the power of storytelling to develop a counter-narrative that strengthened youth participation in local cultural and social life while promoting skills development, empowerment and living together in cultural diversity. In Berlin, 30 young people from Berlin, Kosovo, Syria and Afghanistan came together, created and performed the musical What the Volk?! based on identity, belonging, migration and the power of language.
August 30, 2018

You and Me

You and Me - Empowering rural youth

A Youth film project for a new European narrative

Our youth film project brought together 9 young who grew up in the rural areas in Spain, Greece and Germany. They grabbed a camera and told their own stories beyond the media spin and stereotypes that have dominated the mainstream narrative in the European Union over the last few years. After taking part in a film training, they travelled in September and October 2016 as transnational groups through the rural areas of Brandenburg (Germany), Lesbos (Greece) and Aragón (Spain), where they interviewed other youngsters about their lives in the rural areas, their dreams and everyday challenges.