Civic Engagement For Democracy From Abroad: Hungarian, Polish, and Romanian Diasporas
Democratic backsliding in Central and Eastern Europe has been at the forefront of European concerns in recent years. Hungary, Poland, and Romania have experienced significant regress regarding their justice systems as well as narrowing of civil society and press freedoms, while also experiencing some of the highest migration outflows in the EU. The large diasporas from these three countries serve, however, also as a source of pro-European and pro-democratic civic energy that has been consolidating in recent years, and which can play a significant role in the years to come.
This paper looks at new Hungarian, Polish, and Romanian diaspora initiatives and organizations, and the way they engage with the democratic issues of their countries of origin. They have a strong community-building focus and carry out a wide range of activities, from protests to campaigns to public debates and fundraising events. They are actively engaging with civil society organizations in their countries of origin. They interact to a limited extent with parties currently in power in the region but they are in contact with newer opposition parties that have chapters in the region and abroad. The new diaspora initiatives see an alignment of their values with those of the EU, but they have limited capacity for direct interaction with EU-level political actors.
As they are still in the early stages of their development, these diaspora initiatives need support from policymakers and from other civil society organizations that focus on democratic advancement. This support can take the form of appropriate capacity and funding frameworks, the development of collaboration formats between initiatives, and training on engaging with power structures. The diaspora initiatives can at the same time serve as an essential resource for know-how in their countries and the region when it comes to developing transnational policy.
In the years to come these new diaspora initiatives will likely contribute to democratic outcomes in their countries of origin by influencing voting, helping to develop progressive social and political norms, and engaging citizens across EU member states towards a strong democratic Europe.
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