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EU Democracy Forum – Imagine the Future

March 24, 2021


Democracy cannot be taken for granted – not in Europe, not anywhere. As the EU Commission launches its Conference on the Future of Europe in 2021, we invite you to imagine this future with us. The Center for European Studies at the University of Washington presents the EU Democracy Forum, a series of virtual lectures by experts on European politics and society, addressing actors, institutions, and policies in the European Union. Our contributors reflect on the EU’s achievements and challenges, and offer perspectives of how to strengthen and expand democratic processes and institutions, both in Brussels and in Europe more broadly. This forum aims to encourage discussion about the future of democracy in the EU, its member states, and the larger neighborhood.

The series was opened by Dr. Niko Switek on January 11, 2021, with his lecture, A True Party Democracy in the EU? The Potential and Role of Transnational European Party Organizations.

Niko Switek is DAAD Visiting Assistant Professor for German Studies at the Henry M. Jackson School for International Studies and the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington. His research interests focus on political parties and party systems as well as on coalition politics. He wrote extensively about the green party family in Western Europe and he worked on parties on European level (‘Europarties’).

Dr. Switek’s lecture presents the debate about a ‘democratic deficit’ of the European Union, and the role of Europarties in conjunction with this concern. Switek summarizes, “On a national level, we understand political parties to be a core element of a functioning and strong democracy – in this vein there is a discussion about the potential of the transnational European party federations to take on a more prominent role. One attempt was the Spitzenkandidaten (leading candidates) that were nominated on party congresses of the Europarties for the European elections in 2014 and 2019. They represented the joint election manifestos and engaged in multiple TV debates broadcasted in every EU member state, creating a rare instance of a European public. While the people apparently have appreciated the new model (the number of respondents that feel their voice counts in the EU went up significantly), it proved to not be in line with the larger institutional setting of the EU.

“While the EPP’s leading candidate Juncker became president of the European Commission in 2014, the European council in 2019 could not agree on one of the candidates and instead nominated Ursula von der Leyen. To be more influential, the Europarties would clearly need more substantial institutional reforms. However, considering the joint manifestos they offer and the role as communicators in the election campaigns, they surely will be addressed as one important building block when thinking about the future of the EU.”

Dr. Switek’s lecture was recorded and is available as a podcast here.


On April 15, Dr. Kristina Weissenbach joined us to present her lecture New Parties in Europe. Formation and Institutionalization of New Parties in EU Member States.

Kristina Weissenbach, Senior Lecturer, University of Duisburg/Essen, (Ph.D. Political Science, 2012, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany) is currently an Affiliate Professor for Political Science at the University of Washington. She is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Research Unit at the NRW School of Governance, Institute for Political Science, University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany). Her primary research interests include the organization and institutionalization of (new and digital) political parties, party assistance and institutions in new democracies, the political system of Germany and political communication.


On May 20, Dr. Phillip Ayoub presented his lecture, Pride amid Prejudice: The Impact of the First Pride in Sarajevo.

Phillip M. Ayoub is Associate Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellow in International Security at the Hertie School. He is the author of When States Come Out: Europe’s Sexual Minorities and the Politics of Visibility (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and his articles have appeared in the American Political Science Review, Comparative Political Studies, the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, the European Journal of International Relations, the European Journal of Political Research, Mobilization, the European Political Science Review, the Journal of Human Rights, Social Politics, Political Research Quarterly, and Social Movement Studies, among others.

Dr. Ayoub’s lecture was recorded and is available as a podcast here.

The EU Democracy Forum lecture series is organized by the Center for European Studies and the Jean Monnet Center of Excellence with support from the Lee and Stuart Scheingold European Studies Fund, the EU Erasmus+ Program, the Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies, and the Center for Global Studies.