Social Sciences

Challenges to Democracy and Social Life in European Small States

A research project of the University of Luxembourg funded by the European Commission under the Erasmus+ scheme aims to bridge the knowledge gap regarding small states and their challenges. Challenges to Democracy and Social Life in European Small States underlines the vast differences in the challenges faced by small states compared to bigger nations. By raising awareness of the situation in which small states find themselves, this project aims to facilitate the exchange of information and to promote knowledge of the approaches adopted by small states as well as their policies.

Small and large states, differing in their challenges and perceptions

Small states – with less than half 1.5 million inhabitants – often face different challenges in policymaking compared to large states, or are affected by the same challenges, but in different ways.
Military capacity, the economy paired with labour markets, and limited personnel in various administrations are just three examples of areas that present different challenges.
Due to their small size, there are limitations to the military capacity these states can develop. This can lead to the adoption of a distinct perspective on security issues and foreign policy. For example, each state has a different role in the resolution of conflicts abroad, such as the Cyprus conflict, and their involvement in said conflicts. History shows that small states have long found it challenging to establish and defend their national sovereignty and to gain diplomatic recognition at the international level.
The limited economies of small states and their labour markets create a need to cooperate and integrate economically with neighbouring states. Small states also experience high levels of labour migration, again requiring them to shape strategies concerning infrastructure development and cultural integration.
Furthermore, small states face the challenge of limited personnel working in administration, which has to be overcome to ensure the unimpeded functioning of the state. State operation is further influenced by its political life. Politics of small states are often perceived as happening much closer to the citizens. This can be attributed to the more limited geographical distances, as well as a higher ratio of potential voters to political representatives.

A gap in knowledge

Research and teaching on European small states is very limited. This would not be a problem if the results of studies of larger states could be applied easily to small states. However, small states not only face a set of distinct challenges but are also affected differently by common challenges. A knowledge gap has developed, and this is further emphasised by the applicability of just a few comparative studies on different approaches to those challenges.
The University of Luxembourg project entitled Challenges to Democracy and Social Life in European Small States aims to raise awareness of the existence and special situation of small states. A further focus is to promote understanding of the role and importance of small states.

Stimulating exchange about small states

To achieve these aims, the project studies a range of topics from a comparative perspective. To examine the different problematics further, it focuses on European states with fewer than 1.5 million inhabitants, including Luxembourg,  Liechtenstein, Estonia, Iceland, Malta, Andorra, Montenegro, Cyprus and San Marino. By comparing small states in terms of their similarities and differences, common challenges as well as differing challenges can be identified.
Through such comparative studies, the project intends to facilitate information exchange between academics, the public and interested shareholders on small states in Europe.
A subsequent website will present the project and its findings in more detail and offer access to high-quality teaching materials for adult education and beyond.

The project is funded by the European Commission under the Erasmus+ scheme and runs from September 2018 to September 2021.

People related to this project