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A strong and vibrant civil society is an essential prerequisite for pluralist liberal democracy.

This crucial role has increasingly exposed civil society to attacks. Accelerating democratic demise, social polarization, and political autocratization undermine the functioning and vitality of civil society across the EU. The result has been, for at least a decade now, the phenomenon of “shrinking space” for civil society.

The EU Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) project PROTEUS addresses these challenges to civil society in eight Central European countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

The overall aim of PROTEUS is to strengthen civil society organizations (CSOs) and civic initiatives, as well as to empower civil activists, so that they are able to protect, promote, and raise awareness of European values and fundamental rights--above all democracy, the rule of law, human rights, the equality of men and women, and the non-discrimination against persons belonging to minorities—and the rights of EU citizens as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The project does so by providing targeted grants and tailor-made capacity-building to Central European CSOs and increasing their fundraising, management, and advocacy capacities, with a strong focus on civic actors in peripheral and rural areas.

In its work, PROTEUS pursues the following four objectives:

  • Supporting democratic participation, public deliberation, and inclusion
  • Strengthening CSO resilience to shrinking space
  • Protecting and promoting EU values and fundamental rights, with a special focus on peripheral and rural areas
  • Supporting civic activism in peripheral and rural areas

As a CERV project, PROTEUS is funded by the European Commission and spans the period from January 2023 to December 2025.

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