by Matjaž GRUDEN, Director of Policy Planning I am pleased to introduce the new, more concise electronic format of the Schools
newsletter. It is a point of entry to information about the recent activities of the Schools Network. A particular feature of the Network’s activities in 2017 has been a thematic cluster of activities on the subject of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe. This series of meetings began with the Civic Roundtable on "Forced migration and asylum: Dynamics and policy responses in Europe and its neighbourhood" for SPS Alumni and other young leaders from Europe and beyond. It is being followed in October by the Regional Seminar for the Maghreb countries, organised in Tunisia on "The challenge of migration in the Euro-Mediterranean Region". At the 2017 World Forum for Democracy in November, a panel sponsored by the Network of Schools will discuss responses to anti-migrant populist rhetoric and action. These activities respond to the need for better strategies to promote and support the integration of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe. In a longer-term perspective, the Council of Europe is considering setting-up an "Academy for Democratic Leadership" for persons with a refugee background, aimed at training and capacity-building for young men and women with a refugee background, as well as other individuals working in areas relating to integration and migration, all of whom have demonstrated the ability to inspire and facilitate dialogue on these matters.
Co-organised by the Council of Europe and the Association of Schools of Political Studies of the Council of Europe, the 2017 Civic Roundtable addressed the theme of "Forced Migration and Asylum". Selected alumni from the Network of Schools and other young leaders from Western Europe and beyond discussed the dynamics of forced migration and asylum, policy responses in the Council of Europe context and possible ways to contribute to more coherent and effective international and national policy responses. Keynote speakers were Kilian KLEINSCHMIDT, Founder and Chairman of Switxboard Global Networking and Humanitarian Expertise, former Head of UNHCR Za’atari Refugee Camp and Guilia LAGANÀ, Senior Policy Analyst, EU Migration and Asylum Policies, Open Society European Policy Institute.
Schools participants took part in the World Forum 2016, on the theme "Democracy and equality - does education matter?". The Association of Schools of Political Studies sponsored the Forum's LAB 9, on "Training Tomorrow’s Democratic Leaders: How to Make a Difference". In addition to the main Forum events, a series of events and meetings were designed specifically for the Schools, notably a diploma ceremony and visits to the European Court of Human rights. Schools are now getting prepared for the 2017 Forum (Strasbourg, 8 - 10 November) under the theme "The role of political paties and media in the context of rising populism". The Schools will be organising a panel debate on "Responses to anti-migrant populist rhetoric and action".
The two yearly meetings of the Directors of Schools of Political Studies enable Directors to exchange on recent and possible future developments with regard to the Network of Schools and to consider past and forthcoming events from each School’s perspective. The 2017 Spring meeting took place in Ljubljana in June. It was opened by the Speaker of the National Assembly of Slovenia, Dr Milan BRGLEZ. This meeting included a workshop on the main findings of a study on the Schools' curriculum development and teaching methods, helping Schools to continually work on improving the quality of their activities.
New Schools of Political Studies?
A bi-communal school-to-be in Cyprus To date, two pilot seminars have taken place in Cyprus: in June 2015 on "Prospects to set up a School of Political
Studies in Cyprus" and in December 2016 on "Participatory Democracy, Good Governance and Transparency". Given the recent suspension of the peace talks on the island, the idea of a bi-communal School has become all the more relevant and will be pursued in order to keep the dialogue open. The stakeholders are now seeking resources to ensure the sustainability of the project. Future School of Political Studies in Kyrgyzstan In view of the possible creation of a School of Political Studies in Kyrgyzstan, two pilot seminars were organised in Bishkek, in January 2017 on "Participatory Democracy in Kyrgyzstan: Challenges and Opportunities" and in February 2017 on "Culture, Education and the Challenge of Populism", financed by a generous voluntary contribution from the United Kingdom. Support for future funding is being sought. First step towards a School of Political Studies in Slovenia During the meeting of the Association of Schools of Political Studies (ASPS), in Ljubljana, the representative of the Democratic and Social Institute in Ljubljana informed the Directors about the launch of a Summer School on democracy for young Slovenian leaders, which may be considered an initial step towards a School of Political Studies in Slovenia. Training young leaders with a refugee background The major influx of refugees into Europe has allowed a populist trend to exploit this issue while refugees and asylum seekers are in need of competent role models and multipliers who reflect the system of democraticEuropean values and the rights and obligations stemming from it. In this context, the Council of Europe is considering setting up an Academy for Democratic Leadership for persons with a refugee background. The Academy would work with destination countries on building the capacity of migrants to integrate into their host societies. Such initiatives could be of mutual benefit as European societies can also learn a great deal from migrants. Different aspects of the proposal were also examined at the June 2017 Civic Round Table of the Council of Europe and gave rise to a number of recommendations.
Regional Seminars for the South Mediterranean region (2013-2017)
Seminar on Democracy and Climate change, Marrakech 16 - 18 November 2016 Under the auspices of the joint EU-CoE South Programme II, the Moroccan School of Political Studies organised this seminar, the fourth of its kind, with the support of the Tunisian School of Politics and the Moroccan Coalition for Climate Justice. Experts from both sides of the Mediterranean and parts of western Africa participated in the meeting, representing various academic, political and civil society institutions, as well as regional and international institutions promoting democracy and human rights.
The 2017 seminar will take place in Tunisia on 23-24 October on the theme: "The challenge of migration in the Euro-Mediterranean region".
Summer Academy for Strengthening Democracy in the Euro-Med Region (2014 - 2017) This initiative of the Bulgarian School of Politics "Dimitry Panitza" was organised for the fourth time in cooperation with the Tunisian School of Politics and the Citizenship School of Political Studies in Morocco. Its main goal is to reinforce democratic reforms and to establish democratic governance in the Southern Mediterranean region. The Summer Academy 2017 addressed the topic of "Violent Radicalisation and Extremism in the Euro-Med Region and the Role of Civil Society in Developing Successful Countering Strategies"
Western Balkans Anti-Corruption Forum This initiative by the Visegrád School of Political Studies in partnership with the Schools of Political Studies in the Western Balkans is aimed at identifying the gaps in combating corruption in the Western Balkans, to share the V4 experiences in the field, and to equip participants with the skills and knowledge required to improve anticorruption measures in their countries. Following the Forum's first two parts in June and July 2016, a Series of town hall meetings in six Western Balkan countries concluded the 3-part 2016 Forum.
During the meeting of the Association of Schools of Political Studies (Ljubljana, 2-3 June 2017), the Schools directors voiced their outrage at the continuing illegal
detention of their Baku colleague since February 2013,recalled the relevant judgement of the European Court of Human Rights, and issued a statement in which they called for the immediate release of Ilgar Mammadov.
A new version of the Schools website has gone online. In addition, this new format of the Schools newsletter, is more user-friendly, allowing for a clearer and more efficient navigation. The Schools Association has also launched a new website.
Sharing your thoughts
We would be glad to receive any comments or reflections you wish to share. Please insert ‘Schools Newsletter – Sharing thoughts’ at the beginning of the 'Subject' field - followed by your country / your organisation’s name (if relevant) and your profession, to suzette.saint-marc[at]coe.int