Prompted by the growing regional challenges to democracy, GMF has renewed its direct support for civil society in Central Europe, the cradle of its democracy assistance work during the 1990s and early 2000s. It does so through a mix of grantmaking, capacity-building, and leadership development.

The Engaging Central Europe initiative supports democratic resilience and revival, media pluralism, electoral integrity, rule of law, civic education, citizen participation, and regional cooperation in the easternmost member states of the European Union and NATO. Operating with a small, dedicated team from across Central Europe and managed out of the GMF's Berlin office, this initiative fosters cooperation, exchange, and policy learning among actors committed to democratic values and European and transatlantic cooperation.

Jointly with partners from both sides of the Atlantic, Engaging Central Europe provides flexible support to civil society organizations, initiatives, and individuals that make a vital contribution to protecting and enhancing democracy in individual countries and across the region of Central Europe.

The initiative is built on the understanding that democracy and security in Central Europe are closely intertwined: only a democratic Central Europe will be a secure Central Europe.


The work of GMF’s Engaging Central Europe (ECE) initiative is rooted in the belief that a strong and vibrant civil society is an essential prerequisite for pluralist liberal democracy, the rule of law, and the enjoyment of fundamental rights—three key values of the European Union and the Transatlantic community.  

ECE provides grantmaking and capacity-building support to civil society organizations (CSOs) and initiatives in the eight Central European countries of Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

In its efforts to provide effective assistance to civil society and to strengthen democratic values in Central European societies, ECE prioritizes:

  • strengthening CSOs’ management and advocacy skills, constituency building, and financial sustainability
  • expanding civic activism and free media in peripheral and rural areas
  • bolstering democratic participation, education, and deliberation, especially among young people, women, and vulnerable groups
  • enhancing the resilience of civil society in shrinking spaces
  • protecting fundamental rights, the rule of law, and electoral integrity
  • fostering anti-corruption and transparency initiatives
  • broadening regional networking among civil society in Central Europe and beyond
  • improving analytical, policy, and advocacy work on civil society and democracy in Central Europe

Impact Stories

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