Summer University for Democracy

In 2006, participants from all of the Schools of Political Studies came together in Strasbourg for the first time to discuss common challenges to democracy across Europe. This gathering, known as the Summer University for Democracy, became a major meeting point for young leaders from new Europe to debate, exchange views and address common concerns. For five days each July, a different theme was discussed and a final declaration was presented to the Secretary General. The programmes also included visits to the European Court of Human Rights and bilateral meetings between the Schools.

A total of six editions of the Summer University were held from 2006 to 2011, after which the event evolved into the more ambitious World Forum for Democracy:

  • Summer University 2011 – Ethics and Politics
  • Summer University 2010 – The Crisis of Leadership
  • Summer University 2009 – Global Challenges to Democracy
  • Summer University 2008 – Governance, Power and Democracy
  • Summer University 2007 – Projects for Europe
  • Summer University 2006 – Challenges to Democracy in Today's Europe

Final reports from each of the summer universities can be found in the ASPS Library.


  • Summer University 2009


2011: Ethics and politics

The 2011 Summer University welcomed participants from the Schools of Political Studies as well as partners from the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and the International Center on Non-violent conflict (USA). At the heart of the sixth and final edition of the Summer University was the question of ethics.

Often neglected by politics, the media and the business world, ethics is about how to reconcile citizens with politics, how to restore their confidence in their leaders and how to combat voter abstention. The University shone a light on some of the following questions: In what circumstances can education be an antidote against the deficit of ethics in politics? How can ethical values be preserved against the constant search for financial gain, greed, corruption and trafficking of various kinds? How can the lack of ethics in the media be compensated and how can we manage the relationship between the media and political power?


2010: The crisis of leadership

In 2010, the Summer University brought together over 600 up-and-coming leaders from public sectors in Central and Eastern Europe.

The worldwide crisis of leadership experienced at the start of the millennium called into question the responsibility, capability and legitimacy of political, economic and social leaders. How can confidence in representatives be restored? How can values such as peace, justice and freedom be disseminated and promoted in non-democratic countries? The Summer University 2010 discussed the crisis of leadership in all its dimensions.


2009: Global challenges to democracy

The fourth edition of the Summer University of Democracy of the Council of Europe’s Schools of Political Studies confirmed its status as a major meeting point for young leaders from the “new Europe”, but for the first time invited participants from Africa thanks to cooperation with the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. This added a new, global dimension to the University.

The 2009 edition focused on the impact of contemporary challenges on democratic values, human rights and the rule of law. As global challenges place new demands on political leaders, while at the same time their legitimacy is being called into question. The Summer University concluded that priority issues which politicians should tackle if they are to remain in control include international finance, energy, corruption and organised crime.


2008: Governance, power and democracy

Trapped between political crisis and technological innovations, modern citizens are trying to play a more active role in the political decision-making process. The purpose of the Third Summer University for Democracy, which took place from 29 June to 4 July 2008, was to explore how tomorrow’s young leaders from Eastern and South-East European countries could face that challenge.

The themes of governance, power and democracy provided food for thought on reforms which some participants hoped to carry out in their countries in the future. Issues addressed focused on:  how to establish a form of governance based on the principles of direct democracy combined with improved power sharing between the different levels of government; the social and political role the press, media and NGOs could play in protecting democratic regimes; ways of managing tensions between freedom and authority.


2007: Projects for Europe

Reconsidering the European project together was the goal of the second edition of the Summer University for Democracy in 2007, which focused on building bridges between past and future to develop a common European project. More than 600 participants had an opportunity to confront their ideas and experiences of citizenship, national and European identity, freedom of press, social cohesion and governance.

Beyond the importance of the democratisation process in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe after 1989, the 2007 Summer University highlighted the fact that these topics affect all European democracies, both new and old. Safeguarding democracy was seen as an on-going and never-ending process which requires constant efforts and remains a work in progress. The then Mayor of Strasbourg, Fabienne Keller, called the Summer University “a fantastic driving force for a project for the future of our continent.”


2006: Challenges to democracy in today’s Europe

For its first edition, the Summer University for Democracy of the Council of Europe’s Schools of Political Studies discussed Challenges to democracy in the current European landscape.

With over 500 participants from 15 countries, the meeting focused on discussing issues that are common to all European democracies. In spite of diverse practices and differing political and geopolitical contexts all countries face similar problems such as citizen participation, integration, security etc. The aim was to identify the various aspects of the European approach to these questions so as to highlight and develop a sense of European communality and consider common responses.