The future of Europe and democracy

Initiatives for social cohesion and development of the rule of law

1. January 2018

The countries of Europe and the European Union are currently facing great challenges. The growing frequency of crises makes many people believe that social cohesion, economic stability and even peace are at risk.

Crises in the eurozone and the EU, the rise of nationalism and populism, the migration crisis, clientelism and identity politics, the increasing divides of north-south and east-west and the new mistrust of democratic institutions dominate debates and fuel Europeans’ fears. We are implementing various initiatives as our contribution to strengthening the European idea, democratic values and a free society.

Europe’s Futures - Ideas for Action

We need platforms to renew and re-invent Europe. We have joined forces with the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and its social and political scientists, with leading European organisations and think tanks to tackle some of the most crucial topics: asylum and migration, rule of law and democracy, European enlargement and social inclusion. We are creating a network of important EU actors, in particular between Austria, the Visegrád 4 countries and South-Eastern Europe. Europe’s Futures has clear objectives: a European Union that protects its citizens and offers more sustainable livelihoods than before; where Member States defend the fundamental values of a democratic order and rule of law; and where countries such as Austria continue to protect the Union’s democratization and enlargement agenda.

Partners: Institute for Human Sciences (IWM), European Stability Initiative

European Fund for the Balkans

Founded in 2007, the European Fund for the Balkans (EFB) is a joint initiative of European foundations that conceive, implement and support projects aimed at strengthening democracy, promoting European integration and reinforcing the role of South-Eastern Europe in tackling the emerging challenges in Europe. The EFB strives for the continuous “Europeanisation” of politics and practices of Western Balkan countries working towards EU accession and puts a clear focus on training, strategic development and regional cooperation.

The TV show Okruzenje (Vicinities) discusses current topics. It is broadcasted on eleven TV channels in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia. Photo: © Okruzenje / Vicinities

During the past ten years, the initiative, for example, worked on creating capacities for 56 think tanks. 115 young government officials and 203 young executives benefited from its training programmes. It supported 120 scientists as well as 35 research groups and their joint projects. The EFB published five books and 70 position papers. It hosted two Balkan festivals, and organised 15 summer schools and academies, 21 road shows, 30 international events, 60 debates and 95 panel discussions. The only TV show to be broadcast across South-Eastern Europe, Okruzenje/Vicinities, continues in its sixth season.

Partners: King Baudouin Foundation, Robert Bosch Stiftung

Project website


On the EFB’s 10th anniversary, this case study explores how the fund became a uniting force for the region. This includes shoring up pro-EU sentiment, promoting democratic development, and boosting cross-border cooperation on the region’s journey towards EU accession.

Western Balkans Civil Society Forum

This platform, founded in 2015, provides input to the “Berlin Process”, a diplomatic initiative to support the future enlargement of the EU with bilateral partnerships. The EFB has been organising the platform since 2016. The civil society of the Western Balkans works on regionally relevant issues and policies and monitors the progress in implementing them. Annual meetings, workshops and an online consultation interface provide opportunities for comprehensive decision-making processes. Experts help formulate policy recommendations to decision-makers in the region.

Partner: European Fund for the Balkans

Project website

Democracy Workshop

Established in 2008 in the Austrian parliament, the Democracy Workshop soon became one of the most successful political education projects. Young Austrians, who are entitled to vote from the age of 16, attend workshops to become familiar with parliamentary democracy, parliamentary work, the adoption and enforcement of legislation as well as the role of the media in a pluralistic society. ERSTE Foundation picked up this idea and founded the Democracy Workshop Montenegro in 2011, which was adopted by the Montenegrin parliament in 2014. More than 60,000 children (= 20 per cent of the population aged 8 to 14) have already attended the Democracy Workshop Montenegro. We have also been developing a Democracy Workshop in Kosovo since 2015. There are plans to extend the project to include further countries in Eastern Europe.

Cover and above: Democracy workshop Montenegro, photo: Forum MNE