Our Work

XXVII Open Society Forum

Civil society´s impact on electoral processes and 2024 European Parliament elections debate

26. April 2024 / 13:00 Nordic Hotel Forum, conference room Sirius (Viru väljak 3).

In the current global landscape, we can observe a continuing and concerning trend of democratic decline and the surge of populism. Societies that were once open have become more closed, institutions tasked with protecting our rights are under pressure. All of this has been facilitated by the widespread dissemination of disinformation, exacerbating conflicts among different segments of society. 

However, despite the challenges facing democracy, there are also some positive developments. The 2023 parliamentary elections in Poland showed that with the joint efforts of civil society and political mobilization, it is possible to reverse authoritarian trends. While each country has its unique characteristics, they also share common problems that may have shared solutions. To address these issues effectively, cooperation among civil society actors is essential. As Europe gears up for the 2024 European Parliament elections and other significant national and local electoral events, the strategies employed by civil societies become pivotal. These strategies aim to actively engage citizens in democratic processes, fostering their involvement in co creating a democratic public space

At the first part of the forum, titled "Civil society´s impact on electoral processes - how to win elections"? we will discuss with distinguished experts from Estonia, Poland and Slovakia, how to actively engage citizens in democratic processes and promote their participation in shaping democratic public sphere. 

In the second part of the forum, there will be a debate among the 2024 European Parliament elections candidates, titled “Estonia´s 20 years in the European Union: is this the Europe we wanted?”. The European Parliament elections will take place on June 6-9. This time they hold special significance for Estonia, as exactly 20 years ago, Estonia, along with several other European countries, became a full-fledged member of the European Union. However, the post-accession optimism has somewhat diminished: democracy has been declining both in Europe and worldwide, civic space is narrowing, the war in Ukraine shows no signs of ending, there is a growing sense of polarization, and inflation and climate change affect everyone. 

Yet, as one of the founders of the European community, Jean Monnet, observed, Europe is built in crises and it will be composed of the solutions to those crises. To emerge from crises, it is crucial to have dialogue and cooperation between decision-makers and citizens. How can we more effectively involve people in decision-making processes and encourage them to engage in European issues? How can we collectively manage crises and strengthen democracy? What have we learned as EU members over the past 20 years? These are some of the questions regarding democracy and the future of the EU that we aim to address in the European Parliament candidate debate. Participants at the event are encouraged to ask questions from the candidates.


12:00-13:00 Registration and coffee

13:00-13:30 Opening of the XXVII Open Society Forum:

  • Welcoming address by Mall Hellam, Executive Director of the Open Estonia Foundation;

  • Keynote speech by H.E. Marius Dirdal, Ambassador of Norway to Estonia;

  • Keynote speech via video-message by European Commission Vice-president for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica

13:30-15:00 Panel discussion “Civil society´s impact on electoral processes - how to win elections?” (in English). Speakers: Tarmo Jüristo, columnist and founder of SALK, Estonia; Ewa Kulik-Bielińska, Director of the Stefan Batory Foundation, Poland; Fedor Blaščák, Director of the Open Society Foundation Slovakia. The discussion will be moderated by Bart Cosijn, moderator, trainer, and founder of the Estonian Dialogue Academy.

15:00-15:30 Coffee break

15:30-17:00 Debate with the Estonian candidates of the 2024 European Parliament elections “Estonia´s 20 years in European Union: is this the Europe we wanted?” (in Estonian). Participants: Marina Kaljurand (Social Democratic Party), Erki Savisaar (Estonian Centre Party), Yoko Alender (Estonian Reform Party), Arvo Aller (Estonian Conservative People´s Party), other participants TBC. The debate will be moderated by Margo Loor, trainer and moderator at Speaksmart, 

17:00 Closing of the XXVII Open Society Forum

17:00-18:00 Snacks and networking

*the OEF reserves the right to make changes in the program. 

Technical information

The working language of the forum is English, the EP election debate will be held in Estonian. 

Simultaneous translation into English and Estonian will be provided. 

Registration will start in the beginning of April. 

The event will be live streamed at www.oef.org.ee 

If you fall ill, plans change or have any questions, please contact the organizers. 

Additional information and media inquiries: Jete Aljasmäe, jete@oef.org.ee 

The XXVII Open Society Forum is funded by the Active Citizens Fund and the European Union in the framework of the project “CoviDemocracy in the Baltics”.