The main focus of this article is the role of organized civil society in facilitating citizen engagement in Central and East European new EU member states after the EU accession and the recent economic crises. Using international comparative methodologies and data this article analyses democratic processes in the new member states focussing on the changes in strengths and weaknesses of citizen engagement. It shows the ways in which the post-enlargement process, especially the economic crisis affected the ability of CEE citizens — both directly, and via civil society organisations and trade unions — to be active participants of the multilevel governance processes. It finds that one of the key remaining gaps of the democratization process remains the relative weakness of state—citizens relationship. The impact of the economic crisis on the CEE countries was significant, in particular in regard to financial viability of organised civil society. However, economic crisis also acted as an important mobilization factor, and in all countries under study, civic participation, enabled by civil society and trade unions increased. New initiatives — in particular those tackling corruption and party campaign finance, saw NGOs focussing their advocacy efforts towards the government as well as actively mobilizing and engaging citizens. Across the CEE region, we are seeing gradual social learning, internalization of new norms and emergence of new identities — active citizens engaged with (and if necessary in opposition to) the state — directly (public mobilization and protests) and via organized civil society.

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