SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Transitions and democracy in Europe


At the end of August 2015, under the direction of Johan Schot as conference chair, SPRU hosted the International Sustainability Transitions (IST 2015) Conference.

With contributions from many members of SPRU, the conference provided a platform to demonstrate the extensive range of sustainability transition research taking place within SPRU. 

Cian O’Donovan and Phil Johnstone convened a session on Transitions and Democracy in Europe, focussed on the myriad of complex political and democratic issues emerging as the European Union continues to evolve.

The panel was chaired by Hannah Lownsbrough (38 Degrees) and was made up of both academics and activists, including Richard Joly (IDS), Tina Caballero (Podemos Feminismos), Guppi Bola (New Economics Foundation), and Phil Johnstone (SPRU).

After a fantastic overview of the history of austerity policies and the often questionable democratic mandate of such policies, the discussion inevitably turned to the Greek crisis and the ways in which the democratic deficit sitting at the heart of European bureaucratic institutions has been revealed. Other issues discussed included the rise of Podemos and the SNP; the emergence of far right political groups that position themselves against perceived elitist European political culture; and the free movement policies of the Union.

A particularly fruitful aspect of the discussion focussed on how academia can work with activists to fight for a more inclusive and collective European project that counters the market dominated and anti-democratic tendencies of many EU institutions. As Britain gears itself up for an in/out referendum on Europe, the struggle for a more democratic and inclusive European project is one of the defining struggles of our times.

Please watch the video of the Transitions and Democracy in Europe session.