The purpose of this grant (ENGAGE project II) is to continue facilitating the participation of representatives from NGOs, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and thinkers from CEECs, Western Balkans and post-Soviet countries to engage in European debates and to offer a unique learning experience on how to communicate and interact with policy-makers (at EU and national levels). This facilitates that their voice is heard in EU policy circles so as to make the challenges in their countries better understood at EU level, and to implement promising practices and knowledge learnt and interactions with EU policy makers in their domestic arenas.
The Fellowship Programme will provide knowledge on relevant EU policy affairs, ways in conducting policy relevant research, designing relevant policy recommendations, interacting and communicating with EU policy makers, and to apply at their domestic arenas the experiences learnt. CEPS proposal consists of continuing with the implementation of one-year project that would run from the 2018 CEPS Ideas Lab to the 2019 Ideas Lab (February 2018 to March 2019). It entails training, study visits, public events and the publication of policy papers. The ENGAGE II Fellowship focuses on the significance of the rule of law in different policy domains, including rights and security, foreign and economic affairs. This programme culminates in the active participation of the 25 selected fellows from CEECs, Western Balkans and post-Soviet countries to the CEPS annual flagship conference: CEPS Ideas Lab, which involves a wide range of high level officials and policy makers, as well as a deeper engagement and further cooperation of six selected fellows in a tailor-made Fellowship Programme.
For the period 2018–19, six highly-qualified Fellowship members were selected:
- Judit Bayer, Professor of Media Law and International Law at the Budapest Business School
- Denis Cenușa, Researcher at the Institute for Political Science and PhD candidate at the Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, and Associated Expert at Expert-Grup, Chisinau
- Simonida Kacarska, Director and co-founder of the European Policy Institute, Skopje
- Naim Rashiti, Executive Director and Senior Balkan Analyst, Balkans Policy Research Group, Pristina
- Maria Repko, Deputy Director at the Centre for Economic Strategy, Kiev
- Berat Thaqi, Policy Analyst at the GAP Institute, Pristina
- On 22 June 2018, a Virtual Welcoming Meeting was organised with the selected members of the ENGAGE II Fellowship. The meeting provided the opportunity for the fellows to present their main research interests, general lines of their research projects and expectations for the Programme.
- From 10 to 13 July 2018, a Training week was organised at CEPS premises in Brussels. Fellows were able to take part in a number of lectures and workshops addressing rule of law issues in different EU policy domains (e.g. Justice and Home Affairs, Economic Policy, EU enlargement), skills workshops (e.g. on policy brief writing, research communication and media engagement) and meetings with EU policy-makers. Please find the programme of the Training week here.
- From 8 to 12 October 2018, a ‘Research in residence’ Week was organized at CEPS in Brussels. It was specifically designed to enable ENGAGE Fellows to conduct research related to their Policy papers and enhance their networking capacities. During this week Fellows were able to conduct interviews and establish contacts with a range of stakeholders at the EU level, including EU institutions, researchers, NGOs and civil society actors.
- On 10 October 2018, ENGAGE Fellows took part in a Policy Meeting at the European Parliament, thanks to the collaboration with the office of MEP Sophie In’t Veld. The meeting, which was attended by several MEPs, was framed around the theme Rule of Law erosion: A new trend in Europe. It provided an opportunity to examine the common features and specificities of the process of Rule of Law backsliding both before and after EU accession and to discuss positive changes that can be made to counter it.
- In addition, on 12 October 2018, a lunchtime meeting with Commissioner for Justice Věra Jourová was organized at CEPS premises. The Commissioner was invited to discuss the topic “Rule of Law and Democracy in the Digital Society: Challenges and Opportunities for Europe”. The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss Commission’s priorities on issues such as data protection and online privacy, illegal hate speech and countering the spread of disinformation on social networks.
- On 7 February 2019, the Balkans Policy Research Group in cooperation with the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) organised the conference “Building Stronger States in South Eastern Europe: Strengthening the Rule of Law, Human Rights and Minority Protection”. The conference’s panels focused on the effectiveness of European Union policies for strengthening the Rule of Law in the Western Balkans, Rule of Law challenges within the EU and Roma policies from a rights and migratory perspective. The audience included representatives from academia, think tanks, policy making, civil society and universities. The conference engaged experts from Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine, Poland and Moldova.
- On 21 February 2019, ENGAGE Fellows presented the findings of their research in a dedicated session during the 2019 CEPS Ideas Lab. The session took stock of the rule of law situation in countries across the two regions and, after recognising key challenges, focused on how to counter the negative trends, paying specific attention to the role of the EU in supporting reform. The Programme of this session can be downloaded here.
- Finally, on 7 March 2019, a half-day conference on “Media freedom and populism in the context of the rule of law”” took place at the Central European University in Budapest, co-organised by CEPS and the Centre for Media, Data and Society of the CEU’s School of Public Policy. The event analysed the impact of the global revival of populism observed in recent years on media freedom and pluralism. Participants, including representatives of academia, think tanks and international organisations, addressed the following main questions: are populism and populistic rhetoric in necessary correlation with a backslide in the rule of law? What are the specific challenges that the new media environment poses to the democratic process and the rule of law? The programme of the event can be downloaded here.