The European Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities (Article 2 of the EU Treaty). Yet, democratic institutions have been under threat in recent years, a situation that was aggravated by the Covid-19 crisis and Russian aggression in Ukraine.
One of the European Commission's priorities is to give a new push for European democracy, by reconnecting European citizens with democratic institutions and by protecting our democracy from threats such as external interference, disinformation and online hate speech, and promote democracy globally and in the EU.
High-quality, pan-European research and innovation are needed to address these objectives.
Funding under Horizon Europe
Horizon Europe, the successor funding programme to Horizon 2020, has a specific intervention area to support innovative research on democracy and governance under Cluster 2 “Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society”. The annual work programmes, where calls for funding are published, can be found on the Funding and Tenders Portal.
Cluster 2 aims to create a more resilient, inclusive and democratic European society, prepared and responsive to threats and disasters that addresses inequalities and empowers all citizens to act in the green and digital transitions. This is outlined in the Horizon Europe First Strategic Plan (2021-2024) and in the Specific Programme Decision.
The cluster supports policy action to support the stability of democracy and develop it further. The goal is to enhance representation, participation, openness, pluralism, tolerance, non-discrimination and collective intelligence. It aims to stimulate the effectiveness of public policy, protect fundamental rights and the rule of law.
Projects funded under 2021-2022 Work Programme will explore the future of democracy, the place of the EU in the world, the way new media and technologies are fostering (or threatening) democracy, the impact of inequalities on democracy and other topics.
Projects funded under Horizon 2020
Under the previous funding programme Horizon 2020, almost 400 research projects tackling challenges related to democracy and governance received more than €800 million. They have contributed significantly to the Commission’s priorities by producing evidence-based recommendations to support the resilience and stability of European democracies.
Democracy for all: nurturing and improving democratic systems
Listening to citizens for better policies
How can citizens weigh more on the political agenda? In light of the discussions and outcomes of the Conference on the Future of Europe (COFE), this is a burning question for the future of democracy in the EU.
Projects on deliberative and participatory democracy show that this type of democratic engagement yields novel policy ideas while reconnecting citizens with democratic institutions.
EUARENAS investigates how deliberative democracy at a local level can enhance decision making at a larger scale, using a toolset that respects diversity, inclusiveness and engagement of stakeholders.
REAL_DEAL explores new pathways to enhance citizen participation around the European Green Deal.
Do you trust your government?
To rebuild the link between citizens and institutions, trust is key. A cluster of projects has shed light on the mechanisms of trust and distrust in governance (EnTrust, TIGRE) and in experts (Peritia).
These projects contributed to understanding public opinion of scientific discourse and the public’s perception of its uptake in public policies. This is extremely relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What future for the EU?
The future of Europe is uncertain, especially in light of recent geopolitical events. What could the EU look like?
Projects on the future of European integration have been actively contributing to the debate (InDivEU, EUIDEA, EU3D), and their findings will be even more relevant in the context of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia’s candidacies to access EU Membership.
An innovative public sector for democratic governance
Innovation in government is about finding new ways to impact the lives of citizens and develop new ways for them to be partners to shape the future. It means overcoming old structures and modes of thinking and embracing new technologies and ideas. The potential of innovation in government is immense, and the challenges governments face are also significant.
Governments around the world are testing and implementing exciting new approaches, transforming they serve their citizens and the way government operates.
The OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation co-financed by the European Commission studies how governments innovate and shares the lessons learnt from the most innovative approaches, empowering governments to pursue new possibilities.
Democracy in danger: innovative research to protect our democracies
Restoring respect for the rule of law
European values are under threat, even within the EU borders. RECONNECT has been very active in advocating for measures to safeguard and restore the rule of law in the EU. They participated actively in the practitioners’ debate around the rule of law conditionality mechanism to protect the EU budget and built strong links with the annual rule of law reports.
3 Horizon 2020 research projects, DEMOS, POPREBEL and PaCE have analysed the phenomenon of populism and its consequences for European democracies and the EU at large. They helped to identify and understand the causes of populism, to devise strategies for strengthening democratic values and practices.
There are growing concerns about links between malicious cyber activities and disinformation, which threaten democracy, aggravate divisions, and hinder access to accurate information. Since 2016, 40 projects on disinformation have been funded under Horizon 2020 for a total of €76.5 million.
PROVENANCE will develop an intermediary-free solution for digital content verification that gives greater control to users of social media, thanks to blockchain technology.
Strengthening the EU on a global scale
With the war waged on Ukraine by Putin’s Russia, military aggression at the edge of the EU has shown that our security and foreign policies need to be strengthened.
Fostering European identity in its diversity
What are the impacts of the deep transformations of the media landscape on the prospects and evolution of a common European political and cultural space?
EUMEPLAT analyses the role of media platforms in fostering or dismantling European identity.
MEDIATIZED EU explores how media discourses are created to promote or denounce the European project, and how they resonate amongst the public.
Projects and results
Democracies are more fragile and more vulnerable than in the past. At the same time, various European surveys show declining levels of trust in the political institutions of democracy.