About the European Capital of Democracy

We invite you to join us in creating a Europe-wide initiative for strengthening democracy: the European Capital of Democracy.

 

A European Capital of Democracy will be designated for every year, starting in 2021. In cooperation with civil society and citizens, the designated city will, throughout the course of the year, curate, organise, and implement a wide range of activities and events designed to improve and strengthen democracy. Visitors from all over Europe – politicians, experts, artists, citizens, and members of the media – will be invited to observe and to participate in these efforts.

Please see also our Timeline.

Furthermore, the city will host events such as international conferences, exhibitions on societal change, fairs dedicated to the latest participation technologies, and music and film festivals. This gives organisations, foundations, and institutions plenty of opportunities to come together, discuss and exchange best practices, and implement their initiatives.

What we aim to accomplish: We aim to establish a highly visible space where the citizens of Europe come together, get involved, experience new forms of real democracy in action and draw inspiration from a comprehensive programme designed to bring democracy forward and rebuild trust. Best democratic practice will shine under the media spotlight.

How cities will be selected: Each city’s application must include a self-evaluation of their democratic track record and an outline for a year-long programme aimed at strengthening and broadening democratic practice. Based on transparent criteria, our group of experts will create a shortlist from all applicants. Finally, a jury of 10,000 citizens, representative of the European population, will select the winner.

What cities will get: A city carrying this title will enjoy a wide range of benefits, such as an enhanced international reputation as a centre of education and innovation, the chance to host international events and meetings of leading European politicians, and of course heightened civic pride.

For the cities which are not selected, the competitive application process in itself will have an impact on politicians, administration staff and citizens alike.

The first two cities: In 2021 and 2022, while we are developing the envisaged selection process, two cities will lead the way in bringing this initiative to life and serve as showcases of what to expect in the future

 

European Capitals of Democracy will attract leading thinkers, highly motivated visitors, state-of-the-art technology developers, pre-eminent artists, and renowned journalists. Cities, after all, are the historic cradle of democracy. The process of bidding for the title and the curation of a democratic programme as a part of this process will in and of itself serve to enhance democratic practice in participating cities.

The citizens of Europe enjoy hands-on involvement in developing new forms of democratic politics: as jury members, as participants in exchange conferences, and as visitors.

Politicians in Europe are inspired by best practice. They participate in an open, personal network of political innovators beyond party lines, across borders, and at all levels of policy-making.

The partners of the European Capital of Democracy initiative participate in launching a sustainable, Europe-wide institution built to last for decades. The European Capital of Democracy initiative makes a substantial contribution to ensuring our quality of life.

The Innovation in Politics Institute accomplishes its mission: building a stronger Europe based on our common values of social balance, prosperity, human rights, and democracy.

Cities are incubators of democracy.

Cities are often best placed to help safeguard and develop democracy, protect the rule of law, and uphold human rights. Why? Cities are closest to the needs, talents, and dynamics of their populations, and their scale makes them agile and flexible. They can tailor programmes, policies, infrastructure, and spatial development to fit their goals and budgets effectively.

Cities can create opportunity and innovation for improving quality of life. Many cities have shown the way by organising citizens’ consultations on issues such as the process of immigrant integration, traffic-free zones, the preservation of cultural heritage, and improving public transport. Meanwhile, consultative processes at the city level are expanding into additional areas such as “the smart city” and the use of renewable energy.

Our rules and regulations allow for a wider interpretation of the term “city”: smaller cities which are geographically close might join forces to apply for the European Capital of Democracy title. A city might also include activities in its surrounding region or rural areas in its application.

European Capitals of Democracy establish themselves as a stage for innovation in democracy.

1. Participation

The city provides inspiring solutions on how to involve citizens in setting the goals and priorities of the city administration, and in deciding how these goals should be achieved.

2. Bridge-building

The city brings together various groups in society, provides effective methods of building intercultural and community engagement, motivates citizens to collaborate in pursuit of achieving common goals, and exhibits due respect for minority rights.

3. Entrepreneurship

The city provides for an equal and open playing field for founders of new initiatives, reduces bureaucratic restrictions for all citizens, and enables citizens to realise their dreams – whether social or commercial.

4. Human Rights

The city fosters the implementation of the European human rights and equality standards.

5. Basic Needs

The city takes action to provide for the changing needs of all citizens in a way that builds sustainable communities and neighbourhoods – from housing to jobs, from education to services for older people, from transport to telecommunication, and from environmental protection to access to the arts.

Cities across the member states of the Council of Europe are invited to take part in a competitive three-stage selection process.

Stage 1: Application by the city

Becoming a European Capital of Democracy is a joint effort between the city administration, civil society, and citizens. Co-creation and co-governance designs will also be welcomed. Meanwhile, all application procedures are designed to ensure that a European Capital of Democracy has its citizens at heart.

In their application, cities provide information on two levels: firstly, how their track record in improving democracy in recent years qualifies them to become a European Capital of Democracy, and secondly, how their planned programme meets the criteria.

While the track record is important for credibility, proposed actions by the city as a European Capital of Democracy will carry more weight in the selection process.

Cities may include activities in their surrounding region in their application: in rural areas, voluntary work, mobile education or counselling as well as regional networking often play a significant role in helping generate participation in democratic processes – especially among young people.

Stage 2: Assessment by experts

The international Group of Experts assesses all applications. If all formal criteria are met, experts will visit the city to conduct formal interviews and on-site assessment. From all entries, the Group of Experts then assemble a shortlist of the five cities which best meet all criteria and which propose the most comprehensive programme for the whole year.

Stage 3: Selection by the citizens’ jury

A jury of 10,000 European citizens across the 47 member states of the Council of Europe has the final vote on the shortlisted cities. Voting takes place online and in English, using a secure database. The jury will consist of a cross-section of society so that their decisions will be comparable, objective, and fair.

In 2021 and 2022, while we are developing the envisaged selection process, two cities will lead the way in bringing this initiative to life and serve as showcases of what to expect in the future. Further application information will be available in spring 2021.

IS YOUR CITY READY TO BECOME EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF DEMOCRACY?

If you are a mayor or local leader interested in taking part in the European Capital of Democracy initiative, 
please contact us at democracy@innovationinpolitics.eu

We will be happy to answer your questions.

Timeline

  • 18 September 2020

    Official launch

  • Autumn 2020

    Public announcement of the first pre-selected European Capital of Democracy

    Europe-wide communication campaign
    to generate awareness and promote future submissions

  • Spring 2021

    Call for submissions for first elected European Capital of Democracy 2023-2024

  • Autumn 2021

    Public announcement of the second pre-selected European Capital of Democracy

  • Autumn 2021 – Autumn 2022

    First pre-selected city holds the title of European Capital of Democracy

  • March 2022

    The first contender cities have completed their registration.

  • April – July 2022

    The international Group of Experts assesses all applications, visits cities
    for interviews, and selects
    a shortlist of five cities.

  • August 2022

    A jury of 10,000 citizens selects the next European Capital of Democracy.
  • 15 September 2022

    Public announcement of the jury-selected third European Capital of Democracy on
    the International Day of Democracy

  • Autumn 2022 − Autumn 2023

    The second pre-selected city holds the title of European Capital of Democracy.

  • September 2022 – September 2023

    The third European Capital of Democracy prepares its year-long programme. Pre-events with jurors, civil society, politicians, and other citizens

  • 15 September 2023

    Opening ceremony for the third European Capital of Democracy on the International Day of Democracy