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 EDN supports, empowers and links activists who stand against the erosion of democracy, the rise of nationalism and white supremacy, as well as the shrinking of civic spaces.


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 "Citizens of the Republic" 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 not against something, but for our common values: the rule of law, freedom of speech and the press, freedom of assembly, equal rights.

Empowerment, Solidarity & Recovery

Through common workshops, we learn from each other and improve, develop , for example, our skills and abilities - in the field of areas such as secure communication and data security, campaign management, non-violent civil disobedience, legal resistance, stress handling, and the current processes and development of democratization or legal possibilities and dangers. We train each other in successful activist actions and campaigns, we support each other in solidarity with common campaigns and engage in joint fundraising. 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.

Around the 2019 European elections, we are organizing a series of international citizen dialogues in the participating countries. The urgent questions of Europe should, in our opinion, be discussed jointly by the citizens and common solutions should be found. We bring together a European public, the media and politics in civil dialogues, in order to enlighten, understand and influence society broadly.
The network is open to other organizations and wants to expand continuously.

Funded by

Partner organizations


Dezember 3, 2018

Re-granting, um Aktivist*innen zu empowern

Re-granting, um Aktivist*innen zu empowern

Das von Citizens For Europe (CFE) und der Bertelsmann Stiftung initiierte „Re-granting und Micro-granting Programm" namens „Aktionsfonds ViRaL – Vielfalt stärken, Rassismus bekämpfen, Lokal engagieren" verbindet die Netzwerke, Expertise und Reputation einer Non-Profit-Organisation mit dem finanziellen Engagement und den Förderzielen einer Stiftung. Beide arbeiten zusammen, um diejenigen zu erreichen und zu unterstützen, die gegen Rassismus und Ausgrenzung auf lokaler Ebene und in ländlichen Gebieten kämpfen, die sich außerhalb des Stiftungsradars befinden, die keinen Rechtsstatus haben, noch nie zuvor eine Förderung erhalten haben oder diese einfach nicht anders beantragen würden. ViRaL kombiniert einen finanziellen Zuschuss von 5.000€ mit einem einjährigen, maßgeschneiderten Begleitprogramm, um die Projektträger*innen zu befähigen, ihre Projektidee wirkungsvoll zu entwickeln, zu professionalisieren und umzusetzen.
Dezember 3, 2018

#ViRaLfonds in Sundern

"What does history teach us, Mrs Himmler?"

In the old dairy in Sundern (Sauerland), the organizational team has just gotten more chairs. Almost a hundred people are sitting in the hall where the film "My Family, the Nazis and I" is being screened. Afterwards, one of the protagonists of the film is available for an interview with the audience: the author and historian Katrin Himmler, grandniece of the Reichsführer SS and organizer of the Holocaust, Heinrich Himmler.
Oktober 24, 2018
Tandem Europe- Animation Video the Circle of trust


Erstellung einer Multimedia-Dokumentation

Das Programm zielt in transeuropäischer Zusammenarbeit auf sozialen Wandel ab und stärkt den Austausch zwischen Kulturmanager*innen aus Europa. Das Tandem-Programm hat spezielle Werkzeuge und Methoden entwickelt, um diese Partnerschaften und Kooperationen zu erleichtern und zu stärken. Bei der ersten Runde von Tandem Europe zwischen 2015 und 2017 war Citizens For Europe verantwortlich für die Dokumentation der Geschichten der Teilnehmenden, die in das kollaborative Programm involviert waren und der Methoden, die sie genutzt haben, um ihre Partnerschaften zu stärken.
Oktober 24, 2018
Kick-Off Meeting - group photo

Kick-Off #ViRaLfonds

Kick-Off #ViRaLfonds: Together against racism!

On September 22 and 23, 2018, the kick-off meeting of our pilot project Action Fund ViRaL - Strengthening Diversity, Combating Racism, Engaging Locally - brought together representatives of the 10 funded projects from all over Germany. In addition to the exchange with and between the participants, a debate on racism and empowerment played a central role. Here we report on these two exciting days.
September 11, 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 10, 2018


European Democracy Network

For the defense of freedom, democracy and fundamental rights!

We build an international network of activists and watchdogs united by the idea that we can only exist in international solidarity in order to counter the internationally networked opponents of the new Right. Our partnership currently supports, empowers and networks activists who stand against the erosion of democracy, the rise of nationalism and white supremacy, as well as the shrinking of civic spaces where civil society is under pressure.
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

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 DE

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.