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Session Overview
RN32_06a_P: Impact of European Populist Parties Success on EU-Level CSOs
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Carlo Ruzza, University of Trento
Location: PD.2.33
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: D, Level: 2.

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EU-level Civil Society Organizations in times of populism


University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, The

The raise of populism across Europe is not only a challenge for political parties and elites, but also for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). The populist challenge has also stirred citizen’s movements and civic organizations, contributing to new mobilization dynamics in Europe. On the other hand, well-established CSOs could also been considered as part of the elite-establishment and thus, their credibility, strategies and even their activities may have been affected by the populist anti-elite discourse. The purpose of this paper is to analyze how EU-based CSOs have altered their goals and strategies in reaction/response to the raise of populism in the domain of migration. CSOs activism in this domain is particularly susceptible to be affected by populism, since populism often constitutes a threat to human rights (particularly the rights of migrants). To this purpose, I propose an in-depth qualitative analysis of EU level CSOs involved in the protection of refugees and asylum seekers. Data is retrieved from position papers, press releases and speeches from key well-established EU-level CSOs such as Amnesty International (AI), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the European Resettlement Network, etc.

From benign neglect to threat:  The rise of populism and mobilization on gender equality in the European Union.

Pauline Cullen

Maynooth University, Ireland

This paper will explore patterns of transnational mobilization on women’s interests in Europe at a time of increasing populism. Critics of radical right populist movements point to their attack on women’s rights (Emejulu,2016; Fraser,2016) . Assessments of gender equality as an EU policy issue have also confirmed its decline as a priority (Elomaki,2015).  Left wing populism in turn has provided little space for women’s interests (Dean, Keith and Maiguashca, 2016) . This research explores how women’s rights organisations at national and transnational level are responding to increasing threats and diminished opportunities attendant to the rise of populism.  I will explore how women’s interests are constructed by organisations including the European Women’s Lobby, with a view to patterns of inclusion, exclusion and legitimacy in terms of representation and assess the relevance of EU level actors and initiatives including the proposed social pillar for mobilization on women’s rights (EU-level CSOs).

Constraints and opportunities of ‘judicialization’: religious organizations’ mobilizations and the European Court of Human Rights

Alberta Giorgi

Centro de Estudos Sociais, Portugal

A growing body of literature highlights the increasing role of the Courts in democracy – the ‘judicialization of politics’. On the one hand, the courts jurisprudence has the authority to clarify the status of controversial issues, offering a venue to potentially overcome political veto-players. On the other hand, the EU and its institutions played a significant role in the development and diffusion of the ‘language of rights’ for dealing with politically controversial issues. This is especially relevant for religious-related issues – and some scholars proposed the category of ‘judicialization of religion’ to underline the crucial role of the courts jurisprudence in defining the place and the boundaries of religion in contemporary societies.

In this scenario of judicialization, the European Court of Human Rights is of paramount importance, due to its primacy over the national courts and its specific task of dealing with human rights and non discrimination. GRASSROOTSMOBILISE project explores the extent to which the ECtHR religious jurisprudence defines the ‘political opportunity structures’ and the discursive frameworks within which citizens act. In this frame, this contribution focuses on both EU-level CSOs and grassroots religious actors, to investigate the indirect effects of the ECtHR. How do religious organizations (and – especially – minority religions) assess the role of the ECtHR? What is the role of the judicial strategy among their repertoires of action? How does it change in light of the right-wing populism wave? Sources include key-witnesses interviews, document and media analysis.

The populist radical right, exclusionary political frames and their impact on EU-level civil society

Carlo Ruzza

University of Trento, Italy

This presentation focuses on the reactions of EU-level anti-racist and pro-migrant organizations to a sweeping populist turn in European politics and elsewhere. The political climate of organized civil society at EU level has been radically affected by a sweeping populist turn in European politics in recent years, which has affected the funding priorities, agendas and political discourse of European institutions. This is evidenced for instance in the changing composition of the European Parliament where populist radical right parties made significant advances in the 2014 European elections. This political change has particularly affected inclusionary and anti-discrimination organizations. This presentation focuses on their reactions. Through a set of in-depth interviews with civil society representatives and EU civil servants it documents and analyzes changes in the legitimacy, strategy, funding opportunities and more generally political opportunities of these civil society actors. (EU-level CSOs)

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