Conference: The EU and the Promise of Democracy: What can Citizenship Education and Civil Society contribute?

14-16 November 2013, The Hague (The Netherlands)
The societal and political debate concerning the future shape of the EU is entering a crucial phase. In the recent hectic years of crisis management more and more decisions have been taken by fewer and fewer co-players in the democratic machine called Europe. According to recent surveys, many citizens now take a critical or even hostile stance towards the European Union, as it seems to have nothing to offer them but austerity and social sacrifices. National and populist feelings demonstrate the extent of a great collective uncertainty in European societies. We believe European Citizenship educators are facing at least two major challenges resulting from this state of the European Union.

Firstly, Europe’s ongoing economic crisis has engendered a crisis of confidence in the European project and the costs and benefits of further European integration. Fewer and fewer citizens are prepared to transfer power and competences to 'Europe'. The democratic deficit of the European Union (once hidden by the 'implicit consensus' of European citizens in the early decades of the EU) has now become more and more visible and contributes to the backlash in support for the EU.
Secondly, the economic crisis is dividing Europe and may ultimately lead to the break up of the EU. Centrifugal forces are pulling European public opinion apart, separating the French from the Germans and the Germans from everyone else. The southern nations of Spain, Italy and Greece are becoming ever more estranged as evidenced by their frustration with Brussels, Berlin and the perceived unfairness of the economic system.

This is where the central questions begin that will be the focus of NECE 2013. “Participation Now!” was the motto of NECE 2012 in Córdoba (Spain), which concentrated on dialogue with grassroot movements of the Arab Spring. With an eye to the elections to the European Parliament in May 2014, NECE 2013 will continue to explore the topics of participation and democratisation and focus on the EU's democratic deficit. However, deploring the democratic deficit in the EU is one thing. Citizenship education, on the other hand, must critically examine its European policy campaigns and projects in terms of their coverage and effectiveness. And it should concentrate more on the criticism and doubts of frustrated European citizens. The conference in The Hague will offer opportunities for a critical debate on four levels:

1. Scenarios and outlines for the future of the EU
We will discuss scenarios for the future of the EU with European experts. Key questions will be the following: 2. European civil society and the 'democratic deficit' of the European Union
Key questions will be the following: 3. Role of citizenship education in the European crisis
Key questions will be the following: 4. Practical approaches and projects of citizenship education
Key questions will be the following: Opportunities to actively take part will be provided in numerous workshops and forums. At the end of the conference, the participants will draw up a public ‘Conference Paper’ comprising recommenda-tions on the topic of democratisation and participation in the EU.

The NECE Initiative invites education specialists, activists from social movements and multipliers from the fields of politics and business to The Hague to discuss and debate the new common responsibilities for citizenship education and civil society in the EU.

ProDemos – House for Democracy and the Rule of Law / The Hague (© ProDemos – House for Democracy and the Rule of Law )

*quote by Kars Veling, director ProDemos – House of democracy and the rule of law
Here you may find the working draft of the "Conference Paper" that was further improved by integrating participants' comments and suggestions after the NECE Conference in The Hague 2013.

PDF-Icon Programme (525 KB)
PDF-Icon Report: Citizenship in Europe 2030 (Four Scenarios, 2.221 KB)
PDF-Icon Participants (102 KB)
PDF-Icon Biographies (1.345 KB)
  • Photo gallery

    Conference venues

    14/ 15 November: Oude Zaal (Tweede Kamer), Binnenhof 1A, 2511 AA The Hague (The Netherlands)
    After lunch the participants change to ProDemos, which is just 2 minutes walking distance (opposite the street).
    15/ 16 November: ProDemos – House for Democracy and the Rule of Law, Hofweg 1-H, 2511 AA The Hague (The Netherlands)


    Federal Agency for Civic Education (Germany)
    ProDemos (the Netherlands)
    The Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture (Austria)

    In co-operation with

    Civic Education Centre (Czech Republic)
    Citizenship Education Centre (Poland)

Supported by

    Robert Bosch Stiftung (Germany)
    Europe Direct The Hague (the Netherlands)
    eurotopics (Germany)


    lab concepts GmbH (Germany)

    on behalf of Federal Agency for Civic Education/bpb

    Phone +49 (0) 30 252 932 56


    Federal Agency for Civic Education

    Petra Grüne

    Adenauerallee 86

    53113 Bonn

    Phone +49 (0)228 99515-289

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