The concept of European Citizenship is a dynamic and complex idea deeply connected with the ideals of democracy, participation and human rights in Europe. Beyond the legal definition of citizenship of the European Union, European Citizenship aims at enabling a space, where civic, political and social matters can be addressed beyond national borders and frameworks, and where European values and ethics can be cultivated, discussed and questioned.
The purpose of education for democratic citizenship and human rights education respectively has been defined by the Council of Europe as “education, training, awareness-raising, information, practices and activities which aim, by equipping learners with knowledge, skills and understanding and developing their attitudes and behaviour, to empower" learners:
- “to exercise and defend their democratic rights and responsibilities in society, to value diversity and to play an active part in democratic life, with a view to the promotion and protection of democracy and the rule of law;
- to contribute to the building and defence of a universal culture of human rights in society, with a view to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Council of Europe’s CM Recommendation 2010/7).
Applied to the European context, and its particularities (a shared history of both war and peace, institutions such as the European Union and the Council of Europe and their multiple programmes supporting European integration in the fields of education and youth, such as the Erasmus+ Programme and its predecessors or the European Solidarity Corps, multilateral exchanges and peer learning, etc.), young people in Europe all have the right, and are encouraged to learn about Europe, contribute to its development and to develop a sense of belonging and care towards this ongoing European construction.
In today’s world, the role of education is often discussed in relation to an eroding landscape for democracy and human rights, also in the European context. The rise of nationalism and extremism, combined with the worsening of the situation of minorities and migrants, an always greater gap between the socially excluded and more privileged groups, as well as less interest from citizens in European affairs or even sheer expressions of hostility towards Europe, cannot leave the worlds of education indifferent. Many practitioners of education for democratic citizenship understand that in this changing landscape, discussing the role of European democratic citizenship education, its challenges and its ways forward is necessary for both improving their practice and keeping it up to date as well as for contributing to policy change in this sector.
While formal education has a key role to play in European democratic citizenship education, non-formal education and, in particular, non-formal education in the context of youth work, plays a very important role, being close to young people, engaging them in discussions about European topics, encouraging them to vote in European elections and empowering them to become agents of social change in order to revive European values (through projects, campaigns, etc.). Notably also the new European Youth Strategy for 2019 – 2027 highlights the development of young people’s citizenship competencies through citizenship education and various learning strategies.
Given this context, there is a need for practitioners and multipliers from different fields related to democratic citizenship education and European awareness to have opportunities to learn from each other, place the debates related to European democratic citizenship education in the social and political context of Europe today, and create new ideas and initiatives on this topic.
What is Edu4Europe?
Edu4Europe is a forum on European democratic citizenship education, bringing together up to 120 practitioners from the youth and education fields, researchers, policy makers, civil society organisations, and other entities involved in European democratic citizenship education.
It provides space for exchange, mutual learning and joint exploration of education for European democratic citizenship. The first forum took place in November 2019, at the European Youth Centre of the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, focusing on the topic of future visions of Europe, looking at directions the European policies may take and how to involve young people in shaping this European future through educational processes.
The Edu4Europe forum aimed to:
- give an overview on existing experiences and networks related to education for European democratic citizenship (EEDC);
- offer a space for practitioners and active entities to discuss on meanings and dilemmas on EEDC;
- explore the visions for the future of Europe and the role of EEDC therein;
- strengthen youth work through sharing practices from several fields on EEDC;
- connect to policy and policy makers on EEDC, by bringing current issues, practices, needs and debates to their attention.