“Social movements as Alternative Arenas of Political participation: Mobilising Citizens in the Re-creation of Trust and Distrust”

The EnTrust project invites you to an online roundtable event on 20 June 2022 from 16:00 to 17:30 (CET) with selected stakeholders from national and EU-level governance institutions, civil society and academia. Participants will discuss findings from the EnTrust project’s Integrated Report on the Role of Democratic Social movements, dealing with the role that social movements, as alternative arenas of political participation, could have in creating and reproducing trust and distrust. The report gathered information on the interaction and possible interplay between two recent and growing trends: citizens’ withdrawal from institutional political arenas and the rise of contemporary contentious politics manifested as increased participation of citizens in new social movement practices in the following countries: Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland and Serbia, covering diverse mobilisations on democracy, environment, right to housing, rights of women and of minorities. The report provides better understanding of the social movements’ alternative visions of Europe – as a political and social space – and alternative ways of (re)building trust in its institutions. We also gathered insights into the way these social movements interrelate with more established mainstream civil society organisations (CSOs) and political parties and about their understanding of democracy.

The Expert roundtable will look into the relationship between mistrust in governance and collective mobilisation through social movements, as well as on the effects of social movements on trust-building. The rise of new social movements that mistrust institutional politics, but develop critical, enlightened trust through alternative conceptions of democracy and democratic spaces, in fact could be seen as an answer to the problem of the decline of political trust found in contemporary democracies. This debate is particularly timely in the context of the rise of new social movements within the political, social and environmental crisis that Europe is facing, and in the perspective of the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe and debates on increasing citizen’s participation.

If you wish to participate in this event, please register directly here.



  • Welcome and introduction to the roundtable  by:

Prof. Christian Lahusen, University of Siegen, Germany

  • Presentation of the report on the role of democratic social movements in the formation of trust and distrust:  

Irena Fiket, Institute of Philosophy and Social Theory of the University of Belgrade, Serbia

  • Panel Discussion with:

Helmut Scholz, Member of the European Parliament, Observer to the Executive Board of the Conference on the Future of Europe

Anelia Stefanova, Energy Transformation Strategic Leader, CEE Bankwatch Network, Bankwatch CEE

Gordana Rammert, Council Member of the City of Bielefeld, CoR Young Elected Politicians Programme

Adrien Licha, Coordinator of the Brussels Office of ALDA, the European Association for Local Democracy

Alexandrina Najmowicz, Secretary General of the European Civic Forum

Gazela Pudar Draško, Institute of Philosophy and Social Theory of the University of Belgrade, Serbia

Moderated by Carlotta Besozzi, Coordinator of Civil Society Europe

  • Closing and final discussion on lessons to be drawn:

Prof. Christian Lahusen, University of Siegen, Germany

On 10 December 2021, EnTrust will hold an online expert meeting with selected stakeholders from public services, civil society and academia. Participants will discuss first findings from the EnTrust project on the mechanisms of building trust and distrust in relations between citizens and street-level bureaucracy in the area of support to disadvantaged families. In particular, they will address fresh insights from EnTrust research about how both public administration representatives and citizens who contact them when applying for family benefits or services establish their mutual attitudes of trust and distrust, and the reciprocal perceptions of un/trustworthiness at play. A special focus will be on practical and policy recommendations from the practitioners’ perspective. The debate will be opened with an introduction by the work package leader Maria Theiss, who will present key results from the analysis of individual in-depth interviews with frontline workers of social welfare institutions and citizens receiving social assistance in diverse countries such as the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland and Serbia.

Maria Theiss, University of Warsaw,
Institute of Social Policy

On 30 November 2020, the University of Siegen and Civil Society Europe are organising an interactive online roundtable discussion with more than 30 participants (stakeholders from civil society, politicians, governance actors, journalists, media representatives and scientists) who discuss first findings from the EnTrust project and their implications, identify policy responses, ascertain remedial measures and practices, as well as potential implementation perspectives in the current policy context, including the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

The EnTrust project has published its first European Policy Brief on the theoretical and normative underpinnings of trust and distrust in governance.

Based on the findings of its preliminary research on the state of scientific research on trust and distrust in governance and a policy dialogue organised last June on trust and distrust at EU level, the policy brief explores current challenges and perspectives on EU Governance. These include: a decline in the rule of law and increased corruption in some EU countries affecting the freedom of the media and the capacity of civil society organisations to hold their government accountable, the impact of Covid 19 pandemic on governance, increased polarisation in our societies, spreading of fake news and unethical behaviour in science.

In order to respond to the challenges that our society faces, which undermine trust in governance, we believe that the European Union has to build a new narrative of ownership and civic participation grounded in fundamental rights. Europe needs to nurture and develop a culture of participation where citizens are recognised as equal partners of institutions, and an effective civil dialogue is promoted in all the different areas of policy and legislative action, and at transversal level. Being able to express concerns and proposals, as well as learning from the perspectives of policy makers and other stakeholders, also contributes to a sense of ownership and responsibility, and ultimately a sense of trust.

Critical citizenship, free and independent media, effective rule of law are an essential prerequisite of fully-functioning democracies. What is thus required is a narrative that highlights the complementarity of enlightened trust and distrust, which are based on principles of active and critical citizenship, political deliberation and decision-making.

The new narrative has to stress that enlightened forms of trust involve reciprocal involvement of both citizens and political institutions, which in turn become the subject and object of trust. Additionally, other actors such as the media, social partners, civil society, experts and science contribute as mediators in the development of trust and distrust relations.

Furthering enlightened forms of trust implies advocating for a participatory and critical approach from the grassroots level up to the arena of the European Union. This is ever more relevant in the context of the upcoming conference on the Future of Europe and of the adoption of a European Democracy Action Plan.

The Policy Brief identifies 6 key steps in order to promote and implement participation and ownership in political governance.

Read here our first European Policy Brief.

To learn more about the project, we invite you to have a look at the project presentation by coordinator Christian Lahusen on the occasion of the online round table debate “Trust and Distrust in Governance: What is at Stake” on 15 June 2020.

Our online round table debate on Trust and Distrust in Governance: What is at Stake? is now published in full lenght on our EnTrust project YouTube channel.

The event was hosted by Katarina Barley, Vice President of the European Parliament, and included a high level panel with the Director General of DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission, Jean Eric Paquet, the following members of the European Parliament: Domenec Ruiz Devesa, Anna Donath and Sergey Lagodinski, and EnTrust project coordinator Christian Lahusen. The event was moderated by Brikena Xhomaqi, Director of the Lifelong Learning Platform.

For more information, please visit the following websites: EnTrust events and Civil Society Europe events.