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Rights and Democracy: the multilevel protection of fundamental rights and the role of Constitutional and European Courts

Discover insights on the relationship between Rights and Democracy at the present stage, with a focus on the key role of National Constitutional Courts and European Courts

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CIVIS focus area
Society, culture, heritage
Open to
  • Master's
  • PhD
Field of studies
  • Law
  • Social Science and humanities
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
1 February 2024 - 14 June 2024

The course aims to analyze the complex and delicate phase of the development of contemporary democracies, especially regarding the construction of a common european identity, while facing values crisis that jeopardizes the very stability of fundamental rights. In this context, a particular role is played by the dialogue between national Constitutional Courts and European Courts.

The main goal of the course, thus, is to offer an opportunity for exploring this problematic framework and to discuss possible perspectives for a democratic "revitalization" in Europe. The main focus will be on the so-called "dialogue between courts", thanks to the contribution of academic and experts coming from various CIVIS partner univeristies during the physical and virtual part of the programme.

Therefore, we intend to invite Master and PhD students to attend virtual classes and to take part in the classes and workshops held during the physical Summer school on the following main topics:

  • An introductory overview of the common European heritage. In particular, we will focus on how these relevant common roots have influenced the notion of “fundamental right”, the idea of human dignity as well as political institutions and laws. We will examine their key contribution in shaping the European civilization and, most importantly, the constitutional and cultural evolution of the modern Western world.
  • The crisis of democracy in Europe and its relationship with the protection of rights. The topic will be dealt also considering the problem of the ever-deepening distance between citizens and the institutions of the European Union. We will explore the participatory tools suitable for stimulating the active involvement of civil society in democratic processes, which may give new life to political participation and to citizens’ rights.
  • The most recent trends in the “dialogue” between national constitutional Courts, common jurisdictions, the CJEU and the ECHR. Nowadays, European Courts and national jurisdictional bodies are part of a well-established transnational judiciary network, which has contributed in building a permanent and mutually influencing dialogue between different constitutional systems and judicial models. In this light, propulsive and homogenizing tendencies coming from supranational Courts will be critically analyzed. It will be payed special attention to the role of the ECHR and CJEU by highlighting strengths and weaknesses of the “model” of multilevel protection of rights.
  • The heterogeneous and undefined complex of the so-called “third” or even “fourth” generation of rights. These “new” rights appear to be relatively complex to define and are not contemplated in democratic Constitutions but recognized through the hermeneutical process by constitutional and European Courts, even by a dialogue between Courts. In this context, we can include some rights to self-determination, rights of minority groups or environmental rights, new social rights and those of vulnerable people, as well as the so-called rights of future generations. The aim of this session is to highlight and discuss some of the most controversial aspects that especially characterize some of them.
  • The problematic relationship between constitutional Courts and legislative power. This challenging issue will be notably addressed also in the light of the emergence of the above mentioned “new rights”, which are defined exclusively by case-law. This subject will also be explored from the point of view of the decision-making techniques used by Constitutional Courts, focusing on constitutional systems of the country involved in the project.

The BIP has also been recognized as "Corso di Alta Formazione" in the Sapienza Università di Roma training program.

Main topics addressed

  • The common European heritage
  • The crisis of democracy in Europe and its relationship with the protection of rights
  • The most recent trends in the "dialogue" between national constitutional Courts, common jurisdictions, the CJEU and the ECHR
  • The heterogeneous and undefined complex of the so-called "third" or even "fourth" generation of rights
  • The problematic relationship between constitutional courts and legislative power.

Learning outcomes

The course aims at:

  • deepen knowledge on the subject of democracy and the protection of rights in the European context;
  • provide the key skills to understand the decision-making procedures of the constitutional courts and the European courts;
  • foster an empirical perspective through the analysis of relevant case law;
  • encourage constructive exchanges among participants and between participants and professors or experts in the field;
  • experiencing international collaboration and teamwork, challenging the difficulties that can arise from different cultural frameworks, inequality and social changes;
  • enabling participants to develop a debate on the most controversial aspects of multilevel protection of fundamental rights;
  • providing a comprehensive overview of selected topics and contributing to the academic debate in this field of research.
Dates: 1 February - 14 June 2024 Total workload: 125 hours
Format: Blended ECTS: 5*
Location: Rome, Italy Language: English (B2)

*Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university.

Physical mobility

The physical part of the Summer School will take place over 5 days, between 10 - 14 June 2024, at the Department of Political Science of Sapienza Università di Roma.

All activities will be held in the mornings and in the afternoons. The second part of the day will be dedicated to workshops during which the participants will be able to put into practice the notions assimilated during the lectures and work together in groups.

We will have:

  • an initial opening event illustrating the various initiatives and welcome the participants;
  • lectures given by professors and researchers involved in the project on the above-mentioned topics;
  • workshops actively involving the students;
  • a round table discussion (on the last day);
  • a visit to the Italian Parliament.

The lectures and activities planned in person also represent an added value as they will allow students and scholars to exchange research ideas and study experiences, as well as to develop new lines of research for future joint projects.

Moreover, the participants will be given the opportunity to be part of the academic community of Sapienza Università di Roma - one of the oldest universities in the world and the largest university in Europe. Its mission is to support the development of a knowledge society through research, excellence, high-quality education, as well as international networking. This tradition of research and culture is fully rooted in the humus of a city whose millennial history has helped shape and define Europe's cultural and legal roots.

Virtual part

The online classes will take place between January and May 2024 (around 35 hours in total) and will be taught by experts and academics, providing insights on the topics which will be further examined during the summer school.

Students from different universities will be involved in group presentations concerning the topics discussed. The materials for the students will be provided and made available in advance through shared online drives.

The classes are organized into 4 Topic Sessions:

  1. Rights, Democracy and the Common European Heritage 
  2. Democracy and Participation in EU
  3. Multilevel Protection of Rights
  4. New Rights, Constitutional Courts and Legislative Power

The agenda is organized as follows (see also the calendar provided in the attachement):

  • 1 Fbr: “Introduction to CIVIS Summer School”
  • 6 Fbr: “Citizenship in the Roman Law” - session 1
  • 13 Fbr: “Citizenship in the Roman Law - Workshop” 
  • 20 Fbr: “The Erosion of Democracy and the Rule of Law in EU Member States (and what the EU Can Do about it)” - session 1
  • 27 Fbr: “The Human Dimension of International Law, Part II” - session 2
  • 8 Mar: “EU Protection of Fundamental Rights, Part I” - session 2
  • 15 Mar: “EU Protection of Fundamental Rights, Part II” - session 2
  • 19 Mar: “The Spanish and German Constitutional Court and the “dialogic” relationship with the ECJ – Part I” - session 2 
  • 26 Mar: “Minority rights: monitoring and reporting human rights violation in a fragile context” (Human Rights in action)
  • 4 Apr: “European citizens’ initiative and ECJ” - session 3
  • 9 Apr: “European citizens’ initiative and ECJ - Workshop” - session 3
  • 11 Apr: “The Democratization of the EU” -  session 3
  • 16 Apr: “The Democratization of the EU - Workshop” - session 3
  • 23 Apr: “AI and fundamental rights protection” - session 4
  • 30 Apr: “AI and fundamental rights protection - Workshop” - session 4
  • 7 May: “The methodological tools of the European Court of Human Rights in immigration related cases: margin of appreciation and judicial activism arguments” - session 4
  •  14 May: “The right to health care and end of life issues” (Human Rights in action)


This course is open to Master's and PhD's students at CIVIS member universities enrolled or with a strong interest in Law, Political Science, Social Studies and Humanities.

An intermediate level of English (B2 or above) is required. However, language certificates are not requested.

Participants should also have a critical thinking, legal-oriented approach, trans-disciplinary mindset and teamwork attitude.

NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

Students from CIVIS’ strategic partner universities in Africa cannot apply for participation in this course.

Application process

Send your application by filling in the online application form by 7 November 2023, including:

  • CV
  • Motivation letter

Applicants will be selected on the basis of their academic background and motivation. 

Apply now


The assessment will be based on the following criteria:

  • Attendance and active participation during the online sessions (30%)
  • Group work (20%)
  • Attendance and active participation during the physical part (20%)
  • A final presentation (30%)

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

GDPR Consent

The CIVIS alliance and its member universities will treat the information you provide with respect. Please refer to our privacy policy for more information on our privacy practices. By applying to this course you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

  • prof. Maria Grazia Rodomonte, Public Law, Sapienza Università di Roma
  • prof. Antonio Lopez Castillo, Constitutional Law, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
  • lect. Raphaël DéchauxPublic Law, University of Lorraine
  • prof. Athina Dimoupoulou, Legal History, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
  • prof. Ludovica Durst, Public Law, Sapienza Università di Roma
  • prof. Daniele MattiangeliRoman Law, Paris Lodron University of Salzburg
  • prof. Martin Nettesheim, Law, University of Tübingen
  • prof. J. Michael Rainer, Private Law, Paris Lodron University of Salzburg
  • prof. Nathalie Rubio, Public and European Law, Aix-Marseille Université
  • prof. Elena Simina TănăsescuConstitutional and EU law, University of Bucharest and Judge of the Romanian Constitutional Court
  • judge Octavia Spineanu-Matei, CJEU
  • prof. Linos Alexander SicilianosInternational LawNational and Kapodistrian University of Athens and Former President of the ECHR
  • adv. Giovanni Pitruzzella, General Advocate of the CJEU
  • prof. Giovanna Razzano, Constitutional law, Sapienza Università di Roma and member of the National Bioethics Committee (comitato nazionale di bioetica)
  • lect. Giulia Santomauro, Public Law, Muenster University
  • lect. Giulia Vasino, Public Law, University of Urbino
  • prof. Andras Jakab, Constitutional law, Paris Lodron University of Salzburg
  • postdoctoral researcher Silvia Gagliardi, Norwegian Center for Human Rights