Dr Susana del Río Villar has a BA in History, PhD Cum Laude in Political Science, and received the Extraordinary Doctorate Award in Social Sciences and Law. She is a member of the independent Committee of Experts of the European Commission in Citizens and governance in the knowledge based society, and author and director of the EU project Upgrading Europe. She is also the director of the Erasmus + AGM + para AGM programme. She is the author of several books and numerous publications on citizenship participation in the European Union.

In her latest book, Europe: Project and Process. Citizens, Democracy, Participation Dr Susana del Río explores the relevance of two vectors that are part of the European integration and EU’s personality: the value of being both Project and Process.  As its title suggests, Europe: Project and Process looks at the European Union focusing on its inherent value as a project and on its potential stemming from this essential characteristic. The book is written at an important time for the European project, as the EU has been experiencing over the past years not only significant economic decline, but also a severe identity crisis.  In this context, it remains a fundamental challenge to restore the faith of citizens in this great political project that is the European Union.

As Dr del Río explains: “I have embarked on the task of writing this new book with a sense of responsibility for the times that we are living through in Europe. I am grateful for having the opportunity of expressing my ideas once more in the pages of this book where I deposit my sixteen years of work on Europe, my vocation and lots of conviction in the validity and necessity of the European project and its process”.

At the foundation of Europe: Project and Process lies a collection of ideas initially developed in Dr del Río’s doctoral thesis: “La sociedad civil y su progresiva participación en la construcción europea: de la Conferencia Intergubernamental de 1996 a la Convención constitucional. Un proceso constituyente para la Unión, un referéndum para el demos europeo”.  While her doctoral thesis was completed in 2003, many of the reflections and conclusions drawn from it continue to be relevant today. For example, the innovative model of the European Convention, the way it operates and how it applied its method constitute, without a doubt, principles to be remembered and re-instituted, as they initiated a process within the European project: a constituent process.

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The first European Convention achieved the drafting of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, legally linked to the treaty in force, the Treaty of Lisbon. The second Convention prepared the draft European Constitution. Many of its enunciations can be found in the Treaty of Lisbon such as the Legislative Citizens’ Initiative of the draft Constitution - now called the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI).  This initiative is a clear example of a process with a result, during the time period 2002-2012.  Over these ten years, the EU has learnt and has seen European supranational democracy strengthened, and has embarked on a search for inter-institutional agreements and entities and civil society platforms that have managed to synthesise their proposals so that the ECI would enter into force on 1 April 2012. With the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Parliament has more power which in turn means that citizens have more power to influence EU law-making.

Other key works such as Europa: el estado de la Unión, Aranzadi, (2006) and Ciudadanía activa en Europa. Proceso participativo y nuevos espacios para la comunicación, Difusión jurídica y temas de actualidad, (2008) are also included in this book.  The project Upgrading Europe is also included in this book.  As Dr. del Río puts it: “This is the title I gave it because we have to go further than simply updating.  We must update and improve, give the European Union a higher grade.  For them, and though we are in a complicated period of crisis, we must continue to make Europe’s achievements visible.  The image of Upgrading Europe is a tree with its roots, it trunk, the top of the tree, connections between its leaves and its branches”.

The book is divided into a first part dealing with a more academic analysis, followed by a second part featuring concrete examples related to topics currently being developed and that show Europe’s progress. The book also highlights those topics that are, in the author’s opinion, establishing a trend in the European Union today. 

The key themes of the book are European supranational democracy; civil society participation in the EU; the interaction between European citizens and European institutions, education as a key element of active citizenship, solidarity and the necessary formulation of a new European policy. The key items are: citizens of the European Union, European integration, representative democracy complemented by participatory democracy, solidarity, participation, education and communication, integral communication, communicative action and new technologies. 

Europe: Project and Process. Citizens, Democracy, Participation was published in July 2014 and can be ordered online here.