About Project Situation Room

 A joint project of the Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI) and d|part

Context

13BC4D3F 4BEF 481E 9D1B C0059CCFDE3FEurope is faced with unprecedented challenges. Political systems across Europe, from Poland to Greece and France, face domestic uncertainty: political distrust and dissatisfaction expressing itself in the rise of populist parties of the right and left; security concerns over terrorism; and the difficulties of dealing with mass immigration. These changes are challenging fundamental assumptions about what constitutes open societies, as the public and media discourses begin to emphasise national orientations and policy changes that infringe on liberal freedoms. Civil society organisations and policy makers have struggled with how best to respond to and improve the current situation amongst competing visions of both what an open society is and how best to achieve it.  

Aim

To aid civil society organisations, European and national political actors, and the wider public in responding to these profound changes, the Situation Room project seeks to understand the concrete drivers behind the changing discourse about open societies and the mechanisms that can be used to strengthen and foster them.

The research project will analyse changing discourses about open societies in six European countries: two in North-western Europe (Germany and France), two in Central and Eastern Europe (Hungary and Poland) and two in the Mediterranean (Italy and Greece).

In each of those countries, it will look at the relationship between four domains: policy, discourse and representation, the response of civil society, and public attitudes. These domains are not independent, but their relationships are dynamic and complex and the project will focus on exploring the interaction between these relationships in detail. The project will analyse through qualitative and quantitative research the dominant relations between these four domains, in particular, how policy changes affect political discourse and its representation, how these and political actors affect public opinion, and how organised civil society can respond to legal and attitudinal changes. By developing this holistic framework, the project will provide a robust analysis of the changing open society.

Dissemination and Engagement

The Situation Room project team will produce regular analysis from each country from October 2017 to December 2018. Working with a network of think tankers and researchers in the six countries, it will produce 32 opinion pieces to track how the different domains in each country affect each other and to capture the most important trends related to changing discourse about open societies in each of the countries. It will also collect new data and produce comprehensive reports, with an in-depth case study of each country and a key insights paper summarising the results at the end of 2018. A ‘tool box’ document for civil society actors will provide advice for best practice in engaging with the challenges to open societies. These will be disseminated widely to relevant political and civil society actors and will be available on a dedicated website. High-level engagement will be conducted, particularly through a launch event in 2018 for the policy community and media in Brussels.

Methodology

The research for this project will be conducted through work with existing data, elite interviews and representative public surveys in all six countries. The surveys will focus on what affects citizens’ priorities for the open society, and carry an experiment to determine citizens’ trade-off preferences with regard to the open society, such as between security and individual freedoms. The interviews of decision makers and civil society leaders in each of the six countries will be designed in light of the results of the survey.  

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