Promoting and Advancing Innovative Democratic Practices in the Western Balkans

  Press Release, Friday, Dec 7, 2018, Skopje

Promoting and Advancing Innovative Democratic Practices in the Western Balkans

From 5-7 December, 2018, a network of researchers and practitioners from Belgrade, Graz, Sarajevo, Skopje, Turin and Zagreb gathered for a first in a series of workshops and a public event to mark the start of a three year-long research project “Promoting and Advancing Innovative Democratic Practices in the Western Balkans”, co-sponsored by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

The project aims at creating a multidisciplinary network of researchers and practitioners whose expertise lies within the fields of citizenship and democratization processes, with the purpose of advancing and promoting the knowledge on citizens’ participation and democratic innovations.

The workshop was organised under the banner ‘Alternative Democratic Practices: Bridging Movements and Institutions’ in cooperation and with the support of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Dialogue Southeast Europe , as a part of ‘Academia in Dialogue Series’. The event included a variety of researchers and activists from the region of Southeast Europe, Italy and Austria: Florian Bieber, Daniela R. Piccio, Nenad Markovikj, Gazela Pudar Draško, Vedran Džihić, Irena Fiket, Ivan Damjanovski, Zoran Ilievski, Ivan Stefanovski, Dona Kosturanova, Ivana Dragshic, Jelena Vasiljevic, Emir Vajzovic, Valida Repovac Nikšić, Ivanka Mihailović, Ana Matan, Lina Dokuzović, Vladimir Vučković, Rastislav Dinić, Dražena Lepir, Bogdan Urošević and Emin Eminagić.

The initial concluding remarks focused on the question of active citizenship as a highly politically charged, and a major intellectual challenge that cuts through the heart of democracy in Europe. The global crisis of legitimacy of representative democracy threatens to erode the very foundations of and trust in the democratic order and its institutions. In Europe, this crisis is tangibly manifested in a low election turnout, progressive withdrawal of citizens from the arenas of democratic participation and in the consequent rise of populism and far-right tendencies.

This has resulted in a process of democratic engineering inspired by the principles of the participatory and deliberative conceptions of democracy. Democratic experimentation along these lines, which can be observed in some EU countries, gives rise to the promotion and institutionalization of democratic innovations such as public debates, neighborhood councils, citizens’ juries, participatory budgets and other forms.

The project consortium wants to study and promote these best practices. Research, including experimental field studies, will continue in the next years, resulting with a strong knowledge database, inclusion of the results in curricula in the participating universities, as well as numerous events for public information and networking.