The Project

Jean Monnet Network “Debating Europe” (2020-2023)


EU-Funding 300.000.- Euro

Co-Funding by participating universities: 75.622,16.- Euro

Duration: 09.2020 – 08.2023

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Claudia Wiesner, Fulda University of Applied Sciences


Project Partners: 

Thomas Berger, Marcus Feßler (Institute inter.research e.V.); 

Prof. Dr. Cecile Robert (Sciences Po Lyon), 

Dr. Willy Beauvallet (Université de Lyon II), 

Prof. Dr. Igor Vidačak; Prof. Dr. Ana Matan, Prof. Dr. Tonči Kursar (University of Zagreb); 

Prof. Dr. Damjan Lajh; Prof. Dr.  Danica Fink Hafner; Prof. Dr. Meta Novak (University of Ljubljana)

Prof. Dr. Niilo Kauppi (Helsinki University); 

Prof. Dr. Kristin Anabel Eggeling (University of Copenhagen)

Let's talk Europe – Debating the EU with citizens

Thursday 20.05.2021, 14h-18h
Friday 21.05.2021, 9h-16.45h


Registration free of charge


Conference Programme


Keywords: democracy, participation, policy learning, communication, politicization, inclusivity, openness, accessibility, citizens’ political judgement

  • The Jean Monnet Network “Debating Europe” (DebatEU) uses debate as a methodology for 
  • spreading knowledge on the European Union (EU) to target groups previously not well informed 
  • gaining knowledge about citizens´ opinions 
  • integrating teaching and research activities
  • enhancing exchange between citizens, students, academics and EU practitioners via conferences, events, a website, social media and various publications.

The purpose of debate in the network is twofold: By debating Europe in citizen focus groups, conferences, social media, and further publications and events the network aims on one hand at generating a dialogue and an enhanced understanding of the EU among citizens. On the other hand, the network aims at learning what citizens’ reasons are to be critical or distanced from the EU. The network activities will lead to fruitful exchanges between academics, especially young researchers, students, citizens, civil society activists and EU practitioners, i.e. EU officials, as well as EU and national politicians. The process of exchanging and debating enhances the legitimacy of the EU not only as a polity, but also as a policy-making process by regaining citizen’s trust in their ability to use political discussions to influence the policy-making process, including a wide range of actors.

These efforts are badly needed: Despite the activities of the EU and national institutions as well as intermediate institutions and actors, research as well as opinion surveys diagnose a growing gap between what has been termed “EU elites” and EU citizens [1]. The EU has a legitimacy problem [2], support rates have been decreasing during the peak of the financial crisis [3] (see also the respective Eurobarometer data) [4] and despite the economic situation improving, votes for populist, extremist, anti-EU and anti-democrat parties and movements are on the rise throughout the EU [5]. At the same time, the Europeanisation of politics and decision making continues to impact and transform the national democratic systems of the member states [6].

Our network takes stock of this situation. The primary aim is to open debate and get into a dialogue on the EU with citizens that are neither engaged in EU-oriented civil-society organisations, nor in political parties, in order to bridge the gap between the EU and its citizens. The core of the network consists in citizen focus group discussions that the network members will organise in their home countries – three focus group discussions per country and 18 altogether in three years, with minimum ten citizen participants. The country selection is particularly adequate for our task. We include network members from Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, and Slovenia, and hence, we will reach citizens in Eastern, Northern, Central and Southern EU member states, founding member states and nearly all of the following enlargements rounds, small, medium and large member states. Accordingly, the network will enhance an open debate on the EU with around 200 citizens so far not engaged with the EU in six member states. 

The network´s results will deliver well-based findings about the sources of contemporary EU-criticism and the character of the oft-cited gap between EU elites and average citizens that can be considered as representative for the EU altogether as they come from a representative selection of EU countries. Research findings will be spread and further debated in conferences, network events, via a website and social media, and various publications. These activities will on one hand serve at promoting active EU citizenship and values, enhance awareness of the EU, and facilitate future engagement and people-to-people dialogue. They will also enhance understanding of debates on priority reforms of the EU in the framework of the two-year Conference on the Future of Europe, where universities and research centers are also invited to support the Conference process, and enhance the quality of citizen involvement and deliberations on the EU reforms at various levels  [7]

Work package 1 – Opening Debate

  1. Citizen focus group discussions
  2. In all participating countries and by all network members, three citizen focus group discussions (see part F) will be carried out, i.e. 18 altogether (in six countries and in three years), each with minimum 10 citizens.
  3. Analysis of the focus group discussions
  4. The focus group discussions will be recorded, transcribed and analysed in a comparative assessment across all participating countries (see part F). 
  5. Regular network meetings 
  6. These will allow continuous exchanges and communication.
  7. An online platform 

It will provide the basis for exchanging results and further discussion on the research.

Work package 2 – Learning from Debate

  1. Teaching research seminars
    The focus group discussions will be carried out in relation to teaching research seminars in all participating institutions, in order to actively include students into the process or research and knowledge production. They will be open to MA and Ph.D. students. Online course for students and citizens
  2. Online course on the EU
    Students that participated in the teaching research seminars and citizens that participated in the focus group discussions are invited to follow an English language online course of the EU, which is offered jointly by University Fulda and institute inter.research e.V. The objective of the course is twofold - providing background knowledge about the EU and the opportunity to continue EU-related activities and knowledge transfer. 
  3. Ph.D. course
    In cooperation with the international Graduate School in Social Sciences at Fulda University of Applied Sciences, Ph.D. training courses will be organised and offered to the Ph.D. students in the member institutions.  

Work package 3 – Disseminating Debate

The results will be communicated in different ways (see G2): 

  • 3.1. Network website
    The network will have a website for communicating events and network results.

  • 3.2. Social Media
    Network events and results will also be communicated via Instagram and Twitter accounts of the network.

  • 3.3. Panels and papers at international conferences
    Network results will be presented at international academic conferences in the field.

  • 3.4. Opening Conference (Fulda, 2021)

  • 3.5. Midterm Conference (Helsinki, 2022)

  • 3.6. Closing Conference (Zagreb, 2023)
    Yearly conferences of the network at Fulda, Helsinki and Zagreb serve at discussing research results of the network, connecting the teachers/network members and the students as well as other researchers. Citizens and stakeholders will be invited to the conferences.

  • 3.7. International academic publications
    Network results will be published in international peer-reviewed academic publications.

  • 3.8. Policy event in Brussels
    The network results and especially policy advice will be presented in a policy event in Brussels. Representants of EU institutions will be invited.

  • 3.9. Policy advice brochure
    A policy advice brochure directed at EU practitioners in the sense of EU stakeholders, EU officials, as well as EU and national politicians will be published.

  1. Offe, Claus (2015), Europe entrapped, Cambridge: Polity Press.
  2.  Mair, Peter (2013), Ruling the void. The hollowing of Western democracy, London/New York: Verso.
  3. Armingeon, Klaus/Kai Guthmann (2014), Democracy in crisis? The declining support for national democracy, In European countries, 2007-2011, European Journal of Political Research, J53, 3, 423–442.
  4. Eurobarometer:
  5. Macchiarelli, Corrado; Monti, Mara; Wiesner, Claudia; Diessner, Sebastian: The European Central Bank between Financial Crisis and Populisms, Palgrave macmillan; Vries, Catherine E. de (2018), Euroscepticism and the future of European integration. First Edition. Oxford, United Kingdom, New York: Oxford University Press.
  6.  Wiesner, Claudia (2019), Inventing the EU as a democratic polity. Concepts, Actors, and Controversies. London: Palgrave Macmillan
  7. European Parliament Resolution on the European Parliament’s Position on the Conference on the Future of Europe, B90036/2020,