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

Explore 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
25 January 2023 - 16 June 2023

The summer school aims to analyze the complex and delicate phase of the development of contemporary democracies. Indeed, they seem to be struggling with an identity and values crisis that jeopardizes the very stability of fundamental rights. In this context, could the dialogue between national constitutional Courts and European Courts actually contribute to the progressive construction of a common heritage of rights? Moreover, may this trend represent one of the suitable ways to overcome the democratic crisis, also understood as a "crisis of rights"? 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, with a particular focus on the so-called "dialogue between courts".

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 ECtHR
  • 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: 25 January 2023 - 16 June 2023 Total workload: 100 hours
Format: Blended ECTS: 4*
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, more precisely from 12 to 16 June 2023, at the Department of Political Science of Sapienza Università di Roma. All activities will be held in the mornings and in the afternoons, generally the afternoon will be dedicated to workshops where participants will be able to put into practice the notions assimilated during the lectures and work together in groups. In particular, it is planned to organize an initial opening event to illustrate the various initiatives and welcome the participants; eight lectures given by professors and researchers involved in the project on the above-mentioned topics; three workshops actively involving the students; a round table discussion on the last day; and 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, participants will gain the opportunity to be part of the academic community of Sapienza Università di Roma, which is in fact 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

Virtual classes will take place between January and May 2023 (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. Materials for students will be provided and made available in advance through common and shared drives online.

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):

  • “Introduction to CIVIS Summer School” (25 January)
  • “The Human Dimension of International Law - Part I” (SESSION 1, 30 January)
  • “The Human Dimension of International Law - Part II” (SESSION 1, 3 February)
  • “Citizenship in the Roman Law – Part I” (SESSION 1, 10 February)
  • “European citizens’ initiative and ECJ – Part I” (SESSION 2, 24 February)
  • “The Spanish and German Constitutional Court and the “dialogic” relationship with the ECJ – Part I” (SESSION 3, 28 February)
  • “EU Protection of Fundamental Rights – Part I” (SESSION 3, 10 March)
  • “Facial recognition and protection of fundamental rights” (SESSION 4, 16 March)
  • “The multilevel protection of fundamental rights and the role of the Courts in the problematic emergence of new rights” and “The issue of surrogacy from a biopolitical perspective” (SESSION 4, 23 March)
  • “The right to a remedy against an automated decision(SESSION 4, 30 March)
  • “Citizenship in the Roman Law - Part II” (SESSION 1, 13 April)
  • “European citizens’ initiative and ECJ – Part II” (SESSION 2, 18 April)
  • “The Democratization of the EU – Part I” (SESSION 2, 28 April)
  • “The Spanish and German Constitutional Court and the “dialogic” relationship with the ECJ – Part II” (SESSION 3, 3 May)
  •  “The Democratization of the EU – Part II” (SESSION 2, 8 May)
  • “EU Protection of Fundamental Rights – Part II” (SESSION 3, 19 May)


This course is open to Master's and PhD students at CIVIS member universities.

Applicants should be enrolled or have a strong interest in the following fields of studies: Law, Political Science, Social Studies and Humanities.

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

Application process

Send your application by filling in the online application form by 30 November 2022 with the following documents:

  • CV
  • Motivation letter


Students will be constantly encouraged to actively participate in classes and lectures. Both during the physical and virtual components, they will be evaluated by professors on the basis of group activities, consisting in analyzing, discussing and presenting selected case-studies.

In particular, during the virtual part, students will be required to choose a topic related to one of the sessions attended and to write a short essay (max. 4 pages) to be submitted before starting the physical part (no later than 5 June 2023).

During the physical part, activities will consist of workshop performance and presentations. Small groups of students will be formed in order to carry out one of the following tasks:

  • Role playing/simulation: The competent professors may shortly explain the circumstances of a case taken by a real judgment of a national court, the ECtHR or the CJ. Then, they may assign student roles.The groups could play the different roles within a determined time frame, under the supervision and the coordination of the competent professors.
  • Practical cases: The competent professors shortly design the circumstances of a problem taken by a real judgment of a national court, the ECtHR or the CJ. The students discuss the solution that could be adopted or the interests/rights at stake, the techniques used by the court and/or the court’s decisions.

They will finally present the outcomes to the rest of the class.

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.

  • Maria Grazia Rodomonte, Prof. of Public Law, Sapienza University of Rome
  • Antonio Lopez Castillo, Prof. of Constitutional Law, Autonomous University of Madrid
  • Raphaël Déchaux, Lecturer in Public Law, Aix Marseille University
  • Athina Dimoupoulou, Prof. of Legal History, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
  • Ludovica Durst, Lecturer in Public Law, Sapienza University of Rome
  • Martin Nettesheim, Prof. of European and International Law, University of Tübingen
  • J. Michael Rainer, Prof. of Private Law, Paris Lodron University Salzburg
  • Nathalie Rubio, Prof. of Public and European Law, Aix Marseille University
  • Elena Simina Tănăsescu, Prof. of Constitutional and EU law, University of Bucharest, Judge of the Romanian Constitutional Court