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ERC - The Shrinking Space for Civil Society in Europe (CIVILSPACE)

 The so-called ‘Anti-NGO Law’, introduced by Prime Minister Victor Orbán’s Fidesz Party and passed by the Hungarian Parliament in 2017, compels non-governmental organizations to legally register the origins of donations received from abroad, and to refer to themselves in all publications as “organizations that are supported by foreign donors”. Nicole Bolleyer considers this law as a particularly striking example of how the activities of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Europe are being increasingly constrained. Simultaneously, this law forms part of a wider, although non-uniform trend. Almost all EU member states have passed legislation that – whether intentionally or not – restricts CSOs. These measures have been associated with central challenges that European democracies have been exposed to – to a greater or lesser degree – over the past two decades such as the fight against terrorism, the repercussions of the financial crisis of 2008, the rise of populist parties to power and, most recently, the coronavirus pandemic.

In her project, entitled “The Shrinking Space for Civil Society in Europe” (CIVILSPACE), Nicole Bolleyer will examine the origins of this development by analyzing its drivers, and its consequences for society. One major goal is to account for the factors which have led EU member states to alter legal regulation applicable to CSOs such as trade unions, human-rights organizations, religious communities and pro-immigrant groups. Another objective of CIVILSPACE is to capture the impact of these legal changes on the social and political activities of these organizations. In doing so, Bolleyer’s project represents a continuation of her earlier work, which were made possible by the receipt of an ERC Starting Grant alongside other funding.

Nicole Bolleyer studied Political Sciences and German Language & Literature at Mannheim University and at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (USA), and obtained her PhD in 2007 at the European University Institute in Florence (Italy). She worked as an assistant professor at Mannheim University, and later on took up a post as Lecturer in the Department of Politics at the University of Exeter (UK). She was subsequently appointed as Associate Professor and became full Professor of Comparative Politics at Exeter in 2015.