Romanian-Icelandic Research Cooperation on Democracy, Memory Politics and Post-Crisis Reconstruction

About the Project

Romanian-Icelandic Research Cooperation on Democracy, Memory Politics and Post-Crisis Reconstruction is a trilateral project led by the EDDA Research Center at the University of Iceland in partnership with the Ratiu Democracy Centre and the Babes Bolyai University. It is part of the EEA and Norway Grants scheme and financed by the Fund for Bilateral Relations 2014–2021.

Research-Based Knowledge Development: Research activities will be carried out and published between May 2022 and December 2023. Areas in focus will include the state of the liberal democratic order, experiences of and responses to societal disruptions, as well as democracy, memory politics and post-crisis.

Joint Conference Series in Romania and Iceland: The project includes a series of public conferences in Romania and Iceland, held in 2022 and 2023. Researchers from the EDDA Center, the Rațiu Democracy Centre, and the Babes-Bolyai University, as well as invited experts, will reunite in May 2022 at the Rațiu Conference Centre in Turda, Romania, for a public event that will be made available to both in-person and online participants. The conference series will continue in the autumn of 2022 in Reykjavik, Iceland, and the concluding event will be held in Turda in the spring of 2023.


Explore the state of the liberal democratic order in Romania and Iceland from various political, social and historical perspectives.

Compare and contrast recent Romanian and Icelandic experiences of societal crises.

Compare and contrast Romanian and Icelandic responses to societal disruptions, such as democratic transitions, political and economic crises and pandemics and place them in a broader European context.

Raise awareness among the broader public on important topics such as democracy, memory politics and post-crisis, by using research-based knowledge developments.


The Context

Liberal democracy has, in the last decade, come under intense pressure for various reasons, including political, economic and social crises. To respond to pandemics, political and social unrest, terrorism, financial crises, governments and supranational organizations have increasingly turned to emergency powers or to other extraordinary measures, restricting the rule of law or adopting various measures to suspend democratic processes.  

What has coincided with the proliferation of “states of exception” is a surge of authoritarian and populist tendencies, with political leaders taking advantage of an “illiberal moment” to delegitimize democratic norms and practices.  

While Romania and Iceland have followed different historical trajectories, they are both parts of the European project, with the former being an EU and NATO member and the latter an EEA and NATO member. Both have had to grapple with societal crises that have led to widespread protest and political instability.


For Iceland, the starting point will be the political, social and economic reactions to and consequences of the 2008 fall of its banking system, both within national and European contexts. The focus will be both on backwards-looking memory battles, particularly with respect to questions of blame and guilt, as well as on forward-looking narratives designed to provide “new beginnings”, such as the debate over a “crowd-sourced” constitution and the ” branding” of Icelandic economic reconstruction efforts. This experience will then be tied to the recent COVID-19 state of exception by looking specifically at the societal and political effects of the pandemic and the emergency measures adopted by the government.


Unlike Iceland, Romania had to go through difficult post-communist democratization and western institutional integration processes. Yet, both countries were hard hit by the 2008 global financial crisis and are currently struggling with the societal effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and of the recently emerged refugees crisis, in the context of the Ukraine war.

A key focus of the project research component includes the legacies of the 1989 revolution in the field of institutions, democratization, human rights, economic transition and Europeanization.


The project also supports the goal of enhanced researched-based knowledge development in areas where the partners have high competency, including politics, democratization, institution building, gender issues, and social inclusion. 

Using a comparative perspective to account for similarities and differences in the Icelandic and Romanian experiences, the project will the following themes:

Democratic institution-building and adaptation to European norms and structures.

Project and instrumentalization of the Romanian past and national identity in government.

Educational and public discourses.

The impact of recent semi-authoritarian development in Central and South-Eastern Europe on Romanian democracy.

Government public responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Bilateral priority area that was identified includes the promotion of core European values, such as respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the respect for human rights, regardless of their racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation or gender identities.