EUROSPHERE FINAL CONFERENCE, 22 June 2012; 09:00-18:30, Brussels, Hotel Bloom 




The main objective of EUROSPHERE is to create innovative perspectives on the European public spheres and to identify the conditions that enable or undermine the articulation of inclusive democratic European Public Spheres. EUROSPHERE is an integrated project  funded by the European Union’s 6th Framework Programme. This conference is co-funded by the European Commission, the Research Council of Norway, and the University of Bergen.

The EUROSPHERE final conference is devised as a platform bringing together the representatives of European research milieus, the European Parliament, the European Commission, other EU-institutions, the European networks of civil society and policy-research organizations, and media in order to discuss the contributions of EUROSPHERE and other projects, the current problems associated with European integration, and the thematic priorities needed for future research in the field. The conference comprises four subsequent sections:

09.15-13.45: New Notions? New Conceptual Frameworks? Discoveries about the EPS’s Structure, Substance and Dynamics?

13.45-15.00: Transition from Liberal Democracy in Hungary and the European Public Sphere. Challenges for European Democracy?

15.15-16.30: European Public Sphere from the Perspectives of Diversity and Transnationalism. New Directions for Future Research?

16.45-18.30: What do citizens want? And what do civil society organizations and the EU do? New Forms of Democratic Legitimacy?


Registration by e-mail to: by 5 June 2012Information on Venue and DirectionsDownload the conference programme in pdf

A partners-dinner will be held on 21 June 2012, hosted by Prof. Anne Lise Fimreite (Vice Dean for Research, Faculty of Social Sciences, Univ. of  Bergen). The dinner will take place at Hotel Bloom. More information about the venue and time will be sent to the invitees in due course.



From a democracy point of view, a transnational public sphere with a transnational public, which is conscious of its role of overseeing the actions of the supranational policymakers, is desirable in Europe due to the increasing powers of the EU. Based on different notions of democracy, the European public sphere and the European public have been imagined in various ways in scholarly and policy work. Our departure point is the pluralistic idea that a European public is difficult to imagine in isolation from global, national and subaltern publics. Similarly, the European public sphere cannot be imagined without the transnational, national and subaltern public spaces that constitute it. Nor can it be imagined in isolation from the territorially and level-wise polycentric European power structures.

The important empirical question at this juncture is “how do the different types of public space and publics form and structure the European public sphere in encounters with each other, with the member states, and with the European Union?” In relation to the democratic development of the EU political system, the normatively driven question raised by EUROSPHERE is: “Does the current structuring of the European public sphere and the new legitimacies it creates privilege or emasculate certain publics or groups, leading to new inclusions and exclusions in the European public sphere?”

EUROSPHERE results show that the European public sphere is better understood as a sphere that consists of various types of public spaces that stretch over different levels and boundaries of society and governance. In this complex structure, the trans-European public sphere is merely one of the many parallel, multi-level public spaces that co-exist. Similarly, a trans-European public is only one of the multiple co-existing publics that constitute the diverse European public. Mainstream approaches conceive the European public sphere as Europeanization of national public spheres, discursive/ interactive overlaps/resonances between them, and in terms of how legitimate foreign-European speakers are considered in national public spaces. Differently from this, we hold that the European public sphere is constituted by encounters between the existing public spaces and publics, and it is distinguished by the presence of a parallel trans-European public space, and a parallel trans-European public, within the repertoire of existing publics and public spaces. This includes both the society-initiated and the EU-initiated trans-European publics and the new spaces of communication, interaction, and collective action that they create.

Against this background, the theme of EUROSPHERE’s final conference is the tension between the EU-initiated and the society-initiated processes and actors of European integration. The focus is on the implications of this tension for the future structuring of the European public sphere and its consequences for democracy. Since the early 1990s, the EU has been attempting to initiate a trans-European civil society. Many institutional actors that are involved in society-initiated European transnational structures express skepticism about the EU’s top-down integration attempts. What are the consequences of this duality for the evolvement of a European public sphere? Why are many civil society organizations skeptical towards being involved in the EU-initiated trans-European networks? And why are they hesitant towards coming into direct contact with the European Union’s political institutions? To what extent have the European Union’s policies on involving the society, civil dialogue, and communication been effective in bringing the EU closer to citizens? Have these policies created new legitimacies? If so, what are the consequences of the new legitimacies for European diversity and democracy? Which strategy – horizontal or vertical integration – is more capable of creating effective communication links and accountability frames between citizens and the EU?




Registration and Coffee


Knut Helland, Dean of Social Sciences Faculty, University of Bergen; Simon Schunz, The European Commission, DG Research; Hakan G. Sicakkan, EUROSPHERE Scientific Director




Diversity, Polity and the European Public Sphere by Hakan G. Sicakkan (Univ. of Bergen)


Citizens and the European Public Sphere by Yolanda Zografova (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)


Coffee Break


Civil Society, Media, and the European Public Sphere by Acar Kutay (Univ. of Bergen)


            Women’s Rights, Gender Equality, and the European Public Sphere by Birte Siim (Univ. of Aalborg)


The European Public Sphere and its Sub-spaces by Peter A. Kraus (Univ. of Helsinki) & Floris Vermeulen (Univ. of Amsterdam)




The EUROSPHERE Knowledgebase by Atle Alvheim (Norwegian Social Science Data Services)


Linking the citizens with the European Union by Hakan G. Sicakkan (Univ. of Bergen)



EUROFORUM: Transition from Liberal Democracy in Hungary?

Moderator: Giuseppe Sciortino, EUROSPHERE, University of Trento

Since 2010 Hungary has a new government which enjoys super-majority in the Parliament. The government used this unusual legitimacy to push through restrictive laws on the media, judiciary, to restrict the powers of Constitutional Court and checks and balances, just as to fill almost all independent positions with people coming from the governing party. Although the regime is still considered democracy, civil liberties degraded substantially according to the most recent Freedom House report. To what extent does the Hungarian case contribute to the revival of democratic values in Europe? To what extent are these issues taken up as part of the European public sphere?Speakers & Discussants: Andras Bozoki, EUROSPHERE Steering Committee Member, Central European University; Istvan Hegedus, President of the Hungarian Europe Society; Magdalena Marsovszky, Visiting Lecturer at Fulda University

Coffee Break


ERAFORUM: European Public Sphere from the Perspectives of Diversity and Transnationalism

Moderator: Peter Kraus, EUROSPHERE, University of Helsinki

This roundtable will discuss the implications of EUROSPHERE’s findings for the notion of public sphere and for further European integration research. The aim is to evaluate the contributions of different projects, including Eurosphere, to knowledge accumulation, how they complement each other, and in which direction the European research should go forward. The scholars invited to this panel have made significant contributions in this field, and they will reflect on the current state of the art concerning research on European integration.Speakers & Discussants: John Erik Fossum, RECON, Arena Centre for European Studies, Univ. of Oslo; Jostein Gripsrud, DIGICULT, Dep. of Information Science and Media Studies, U. Bergen; Engin Isin, OECUMENE and ENACT, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open Univ.; Angela Liberatore, DG Research, The European Commission; Philip Schlesinger, CIDEL, Centre for Cultural Policy Research, Univ. of Glasgow; Birte Siim, EUROSPHERE, Dep. of Culture and Global Studies, Univ. of Aalborg



EUROFORUM: What do citizens want? And what do civil society organizations and the EU do?

Moderator: Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, EUROSPHERE, Cardiff University

The point of departure for this roundtable discussion is EUROSPHERE’s findings concerning the tension between top-down policies and society-initiated processes of European integration. EUROSPHERE brings together policymakers, civil society organizations, think tanks, and other stakeholders to discuss the implications of the European Union’s attempts to structure a European public sphere and a European civil society. Speakers in this forum represent the European Parliament, the European Commission, central trans-European networks, and the Eurosphere Consortium.Speakers & Discussants: Sophie Beernaerts, Head of Unit ­in Charge of Citizens’ Policy, DG Communication; Bojan Brezigar, Editor in Chief and Board member, European Association of Daily Newspapers in Minority and Regional Languages (MIDAS); Isabelle Durant, Vice President, the European Parliament; Cécile Gréboval, Secretary General, European Women’s Lobby (EWL); Piotr Maciej Kaczynski, CEPS, Coordinator, European Policy Institutes Network (EPIN); Acar Kutay, Researcher, EUROSPHERE, U. Bergen; Marybel Perez, Researcher, EUROSPHERE, U. Bergen; Shannon Pfohman, Deputy Director, European Network against Racism (ENAR); Robert Sata, Researcher, EUROSPHERE, Central European U.; Floris Vermeulen, Partner, EUROSPHERE, U. Amsterdam

Farewell by Lise Rakner, Head of Dep. of Comparative Politics, U. Bergen


Informal gathering and networking at Hotel Bloom (All conference participants are invited to join us)

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