Higher Education and Research

European Studies for Democratic Citizenship

At its plenary session in March 1997 the Higher Education and Research Committee (CC-HER, predecessor of the CDESR) decided to launch a project on European Studies for Democratic Citizenship within the third pillar of its work programme Higher Education for Democracy as a direct response to the Council of Europe’s mission in the democratic construction of Europe.

When defining the activity the Working Party underlined that the project was building a bridge between two aspects: redefining European Studies as a university discipline and a field of research on the one hand and work on concepts related to democratic citizenship on the other.

The underlying aims of the project corresponded to the priorities in the Council of Europe’s work as underlined by the Second Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe’s members States in 1997:

  • building Europe as a vast area of shared values: a common European mentality based on a rich cultural heritage brought in by each of its member states; a spirit of “European-ness”; a true democratic citizenship;
  • facilitating the progressive integration of central and eastern European countries into the process and structures of European co-operation in order to attain a true pan-European dimension;
  • building a strong and dynamic civil society, with special attention to the youth sector in order to provide enlightened, tolerant and active citizens, aware of their rights but also of their responsibilities as members of a democratic society.

The main specific objectives of the project consisted of:

  • promoting balanced and high quality programmes of European Studies in higher education, particularly in the new member states;
  • establishment of networks of expertise by exploiting opportunities of intentional networking and co-operation;
  • developing specific measures and models of good practice on the role of higher education institutions in preparation for democratic citizenship.

From 1997 till 1999 the Council of Europe organised several activities:

  • information collection, through specific case studies, a general overview of the situation in Western Europe or short position papers from national delegations defining main problems in setting up European Studies programmes in their respective countries;
  • colloquy on “European Studies for Democratic Citizenship” in October 1998 and one other on “Notion, Foundations and Prerequisites of a European Democratic Citizenship” in December 1998;
  • two regional seminars in 1999, one in St. Petersburg and the other in Bulgaria.

Following all these activities the Council of Europe’s Council of Ministers adopted the Recommendation on Development of European Studies for Democratic Citizenship in 2000.