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News from the AUTHLIB Consortium

September 2023


Dear Colleagues and Friends,


The third issue of the AUTHLIB – Neo-Authoritarianisms in Europe and the Liberal Democratic Response project’s newsletter shares with you our most important milestones, events, and recent publications from the period of July to September 2023.

What is AUTHLIB?

The Horizon project AUTHLIB investigates the sources and implications of the normative divergence from the model of liberal democracy in Europe. It is based on the premise that liberal democracy faces not one ideological challenge but many. Against that background, the project carefully and systematically explores the varieties of illiberalism and their appeal, in their contemporary forms and historical appearances, in opposition and in power, in the domestic political arena, and at the level of international networks. Besides shedding light on the diversity of the illiberal challenge, AUTHLIB’s other main aim is to provide a toolkit for policymakers to defend and enhance liberal democracy against its challengers by understanding and explaining the nature of illiberal ideologies, processes, and policies. The toolkit—consisting of case-specific sets of tools—will offer theoretically, normatively, and empirically grounded ways of responding to the specifics of illiberal claims against liberal democracy.

Find out more about us on AUTHLIB’s website. To make sure you don’t miss our upcoming events and publications, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Feel free to forward this newsletter to colleagues and friends who might be interested in our research and activities.

What have we been working on recently?

With five work packages currently underway, our consortium has been as busy as ever as the one-year mark of our project, AUTHLIB – Neo-Authoritarianisms in Europe and the Liberal Democratic Response, is approaching with the start of October. The Sciences Po CEE team continued its work on developing a machine-learning model that will eventually help us process textual data to identify the Ideological configurations of alternatives competing with the ideals of liberal democracy in texts produced by illiberal actors. Within the framework of the work package on Survey-based data collection and experiments, the team of the SWPS University, in close cooperation with other consortium members, is making substantial efforts to develop the final version of a survey questionnaire that will be used to gather individual-level data to discern the profiles of people who are most inclined to support specific illiberal configurations across Europe. The Oxford team analyzing the Rhetorical and emotional appeals of illiberal parties through political texts continues to make progress in training a classifier of tweets that will enable us to distinguish the relationship of aspects of political illiberalism to illiberal perspectives on other dimensions. The team at the Central European University that analyzes Illiberalism in power has worked on a template of liberal versus illiberal keywords across six policy areas (education and culture, environment, foreign policy, gender, immigration and citizenship, and social policy) that will be applied for text analysis. And last but not least, after concluding the literature review for the work package on illiberal actors’ International co-operation and diffusion, the team at Scuola Normale Superiore is currently employing various empirical strategies to explore the transnationalization of political parties and social movements.


Read more about our progress here.

Recent Highlights



After a summer working on several various work packages behind the scenes, AUTHLIB researchers kicked off the autumn conference season in Prague at the General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) in early September. Our consortium was represented with two individual panels: Contesting democracy: Varieties of illiberalism and Reimagining Europe: How populist right-wing actors construct an illiberal Europe.

With the AUTHLIB consortium being committed to contributing not only to the academic but also to the policy debate, our team at the Transatlantic Foundation has been working on organizing regular discussions around current challenges and ongoing developments on the European political agenda. After a summer break, we opened our autumn program with an exchange on the matter of civic education around Europe with The CIVICS Innovation Hub. The video will be shortly available on our YouTube channel.

On October 4, we continue with a timely post-election briefing following the voting in Slovakia (register here), and in the coming months we plan to showcase our results on how illiberals in power impact policy in the fields of education and culture, environment, foreign policy, gender, immigration and citizenship, and social policy.

All our public events are recorded and the videos are available on AUTHLIB’s YouTube channel. Subscribe here and sign up for notifications to not miss out!


Slovakia’s Elections: Domestic and International Implications

AUTHLIB Panel Discussion

The AUTHLIB consortium cordially invites you to the online discussion titled

Slovakia’s Elections: Domestic and International Implications

on Wednesday, October 4, 2023

at 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. CET / 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. ET



Read more

Demands and Realities of Civic Education: a Pan-European Stocktaking

AUTHLIB Panel Discussion

Civic education is the centerpiece of the renewal of democratic attitudes from generation to generation in Western societies. This panel, taking place on September 28, 2023, aimed to facilitate the exchange of ideas and best practices between academics and practitioners working in the fields of civic education and democracy assistance. It identified potential entry points for strengthening democratic resilience through civic education across Europe, drawing lessons from an unparalleled comparative survey research project conducted by the CIVICS Innovation Hub.

The recording is going to be available on AUTHLIB’s YouTube channel shortly.

Read more

AUTHLIB at the ECPR General Conference

Workshop and Conference

The autumn conference season started strongly for the AUTHLIB consortium in early September with our project represented at the General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research in Prague with two panels.


Read more


The AUTHLIB consortium launched the AUTHLIB Working Papers series and the AUTHLIB Blog in the beginning of 2023.

The AUTHLIB Blog is a platform of academic and policy debate publishing commentary, analysis, and opinion pieces around the topics of (neo-)authoritarianism, illiberalism, populism, challenges to liberal democracy, democratic erosion and backsliding, democratic security and resilience, and related political events and developments primarily but not exclusively on the European scene. It seeks to facilitate discussion between the scholarly and policy communities dealing with the above questions, in a language that is accessible also to the broader public.

Over the past months, articles published on the AUTHLIB Blog touched on issues as diverse as the far right in Italy, radical-right parties cooperation with Russia and their environmental policy, illiberal attitudes to the LGBTQ community in Central Europe, the EU’s new Media Freedom Act and the EU’s stance on democracy in Hungary, and the upcoming elections in Slovakia amidst rising populism in the country. See our recent publications below.

The AUTHLIB Blog welcomes submissions from the academic and policy community. Should you be interested in contributing, contact Zsuzsanna Végh, visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, with your short pitch at:

The Populist Wave in Slovakia: Can the Upcoming Elections Turn the Tide?

The party system in Slovakia has for long been dominated by populist forces and the upcoming elections may bring them to power again. In their post, Tomáš Madleňák and Bálint Mikola assess how pervasive different populist strategies have been in the country and whether there is a chance to overcome them.


Read more

Beyond Foreign Policy: The Domestic Consequences of Smer’s Potential Election Victory

Many worry about the geopolitical consequences of Smer’s potential victory in the upcoming Slovak election. Yet, Smer’s rhetoric at home has always been worse than its actions abroad. Looking at twelve years of Smer rule clearly shows what to worry about: the LGTBQIA+ community, the effective management of migration and integration, and—perhaps most of all—the fight against corruption, argues Roman Hlatky.


Read more

The (geo)politics of sanctioning corruption and autocratization in Hungary

The frustration stemming from Hungary’s disruptive behaviour within the European Union, its adoption of a multivectoral foreign policy, and its perceived geopolitical disloyalty have all contributed to the resolute stance of EU institutions and Member States in sanctioning Hungary for its rule of law shortcomings, writes Dániel Hegedűs.

Read more

“Yes, But” Environmentalists: The Environmental Politics of Rightwing Populism in Power

The environmental politics of rightwing populists in power are fraught with inconsistencies. But is it ideology or political opportunities that determine their behavior on environmental issues? Balša Lubarda and Manuela Caiani find that the ideology of the rightwing populist response to green issues is a “conditional” or “yes, but” environmentalism.

Read more

What Lies Behind the Labels? Analyzing Illiberalism, Populism, and Authoritarianism

In the ever-changing landscape of contemporary politics, the lines between dictatorship and democracy have become increasingly blurred, giving rise to intriguing concepts in academic literature like illiberal democracy, electoral authoritarianism, and hybrid regimes. The concepts of illiberalism, populism, and authoritarianism are widely, and often interchangeably, used to describe regimes, ideologies, and attitudes arising in these contexts. Setting out to explore the challenges liberal democracies face today, the AUTHLIB team attempts to reconcile this conceptual cacophony and explores the distinct characteristics, overlaps, and differences of these three phenomena to support our understanding of political processes unfolding in Europe.

Read more

An Ethnopopulist Response to Crises: Fratelli d’Italia’s Discourse Shifts Following Covid-19 and the War in Ukraine

The Covid-19 pandemic and the full-scale war in Ukraine have been followed by a shift in the discourse of Italy’s ethnopopulist Fratelli D’Italia party, aimed at domestic and international audiences. Beatrice Bottura analyzes party documents and speeches of party leader—Giorgia Meloni—between 2013 and 2022  and finds that the need for European cooperation, exacerbated by these crises, brought Fratelli D’Italia to moderate its Euroscepticism and xenophobia and to heighten its antagonism towards the Italian left and the governing elite.

Read more


Explaining the Varieties of Illiberal Backlash in Central Europe

A challenge to reproductive and LGBTQ rights marks the rise of illiberalism worldwide. It is spearheaded by political parties with socially conservative tendencies that promote a mix of traditional values and familialism. However, the intensity of the illiberal backlash against these rights varies across time and countries. When in power, illiberal parties approach them differently, depending on the public’s support for the status quo and the strength of their associations with socially conservative groups, argue Petra Guasti and Lenka Bustikova.


Read more

How the War in Ukraine Has Eroded the Links between Putin and the European Far Right

Over the last decade, several far-right parties in Europe have expressed support for Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia. But has this support changed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? Drawing on a new study, Adam Holesch and Piotr Zagórski show the invasion has triggered a significant shift among Europe’s far-right parties in their approach toward Russia.

Read more

The European Media Freedom Act: Important New Tool but No Silver Bullet

It is more than welcome that the European Union has introduced legislation to protect the freedom of the media. In a time when these watchdogs of democracy suffer from declining revenues and increased pressure from authoritarian governments, the European Media Freedom Act can make a difference on issues such as editorial independence, the concentration of ownership, the surveillance of journalists, the misuse of state advertising, and the disproportionate market power of digital intermediaries. But, as Konrad Bleyer-Simon writes, it is questionable whether it can undo all the damage caused by illiberal governments in some member states.


Read more

The project “AUTHLIB – Neo-Authoritarianisms in Europe and the Liberal Democratic Response” is funded by the European Union and the UK Research and Innovation. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or UK Research and Innovation. Neither the European Union nor the UK Research and Innovation can be held responsible for them.

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