Sep 23, 2020

Democracy strikes back: mayors from all over Europe launch E

Bizclik Editor
4 min

Starting in 2021: every year, a city in Europe will takes centre stage in moves designed to improve democracy, supported by international organisations and civil society

- High-profile mayors and other leading politicians launch a Europe-wide initiative – instigated by the Innovation in Politics Institute – aimed at innovating and strengthening democracy so that it will prevail against the threats it currently faces. Heavyweights from politics, civil society, business and the arts are joining in.

- Impact: across borders and party lines, the best minds in politics and civil society – and those who want to join them – are mobilising in order to strengthen democracy in Europe. They will be starting new initiatives at local level, showcasing best practice and joining forces with peers.

- Each year, a jury of over 10,000 European citizens will select the city to be designated the European Capital of Democracy, from a shortlist compiled by experts.

VIENNA, Sept. 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Mayors from more than 15 European countries launched the European Capital of Democracy initiative on Friday in Vienna. From autumn 2021, each year a European city will receive this title and commit to starting new projects geared towards strengthening democracy in its sphere. The main topics of the annual programme will be new technologies, climate change, citizen participation and education.

International organisations and foundations will be invited to stage their own activities in the selected city, such as youth gatherings, fairs or culture festivals. "Democracy is under attack, and now it is striking back. Each European Capital of Democracy will become the place to be for people in Europe who want democracy to become stronger – across party lines and national borders," the head of the initiative, career diplomat Helfried Carl, predicts.

The initiative was launched under the patronage of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, and European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica, at the invitation of the Mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig.

The initiative has already gained the backing of mayors and other leading politicians from numerous cities:

  • Michael Ludwig, Mayor of Vienna, Austria
  • Kostas Bakoyannis, Mayor of Athens, Greece
  • Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, Mayor of Gdansk, Poland
  • Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Peter Feldmann, Lord Mayor of Frankfurt, Germany
  • Zdeněk Hřib, Lord Mayor of Prague, Czech Republic
  • Ekrem İmamoğlu, Mayor of Istanbul, Turkey
  • Gergely Karácsony, Lord Mayor of Budapest, Hungary
  • Hermano Sanches Ruivo, Deputy Mayor for European Affairs, Paris, France
  • Rafał Trzaskowski, Mayor of Warsaw, Poland
  • Matúš Vallo, Mayor of Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Erion Veliaj, Mayor of Tirana, Albania

At the launch in Vienna – which was switched to a digital format due to the COVID-19 pandemic – the mayors presented their vision for the initiative.

How cities will be selected: each application must include the city's self-evaluation of its democratic track record and an outline for a year-long programme aimed at strengthening and broadening democratic practices. Based on transparent criteria, a group of experts will draw up a shortlist from all applicants. Finally, a jury of 10,000 citizens, representative of the European population, will select the title holder from the year 2023 onwards.

"In the first two years, 2021 and 2022, while we are developing the extensive selection process, two cities will lead the way in bringing this initiative to life and showcasing what is expected from future title holders. We will present these cities by the end of this year," says Helfried Carl, outlining the next steps.

What European Capitals of Democracy do: the cities that hold the title will work on two levels. Firstly, they will implement their own programmes. Each city will develop, curate and organise a wide range of activities and events together with civil society, citizens and local partners. Citizens and politicians from other European countries will then be invited to experience these efforts first-hand and to participate. Secondly, the cities will serve as the stage for European discourse on strengthening democracy, hosting various initiatives, projects and events organised together with The Innovation in Politics Institute and other international organisations and foundations. 

Programme focused on four main topics: technology, climate change, education and participation: the programme envisaged for the first Capitals of Democracy will focus on four key topics. A "technology track" will concentrate on the challenges and opportunities for our democracies resulting from the digital revolution, including artificial intelligence and disinformation. In the "participation track," the Capital of Democracy will implement new measures to improve citizen participation, such as citizens' assemblies and participatory budgeting. As climate change will be a major factor in democratic developments, each city is encouraged to feature inspiring flagship projects aimed at addressing this problem. And in the "education track," schools from other cities and countries will be able to participate in activities in the European Capital of Democracy, both on site and online. 

Helfried Carl describes the long-term goal of the initiative: "An increasing number of politicians and citizens are asking themselves what can be done to improve democracy. With our initiative, we will create a space where innovators from all over Europe can meet every year, share best practice and start new forms of democratic engagement. To survive, democracy has to advance. This is what the cities participating in the initiative will aim for."

Press photos and quotes from participating mayors:

Contact for inquiries:
Robert Schafleitner
The Innovation in Politics Institute
[email protected]
+43 660 628 30 77

Share article

Subscribe to our Newsletter
Receive the latest updates and news
Exclusive preview