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The Swiss Chair on Federalism and Democracy

This Chair has been made available by the generosity of the Swiss Federal Office for Education and Science. During an initial period of two years, Professors Alexander Trechsel (2002/03) and Juerg Steiner (2003/04) held this chair on a part-time basis.

In 2004, the profile of the Chair was extended to focus on both topics of federalism and democracy on a full-time basis.

From January 2005 till August 2016 the Swiss Chair was held by Prof. Alexander Trechsel.


Achievements of the Swiss Chair in Federalism and Democracy in the Academic Year 2012-13


Chair personnel

Throughout 2012-13, Professor Alexander H. Trechsel was the holder of the Swiss Chair in Federalism and Democracy on a full-time basis.

  • Secretarial assistance to the chair holder was provided by Ms Adele Battistini
  • Maria Laura Sudulich was awarded a Max Weber Fellowship under the mentorship of Prof. Trechsel for the academic year 2012/13 to carry out the research project “Political Implications of Voting Advice Platforms as well as the Contributions that those sites can bring to Survey Research”

Teaching and supervision

  • During the Fall term of 2012, Prof. Trechsel offered a seminar on EU Federalism and Democracy. Federalism and democracy are two fundamental sets of institutions of numerous political orders. Within the field of EU studies, both topics occupy an ever more central place. In the state of acute crisis that befalls Europe, a better understanding of federalism and democracy becomes indispensable.Through weekly readings, discussions and talks given by specialists the seminar participants tried to answer these questions using a comparative approach to the phenomena of federalism and democracy in the EU. The seminar was very successful, as judged by the evaluations that can be provided on demand. It is also a seminar that goes to the core of the Swiss chair’s mission.
  • In the Spring term of 2013, Prof. Trechsel, together with Prof. Giovanni Sartor from the EUI’s Law Department, offered a seminar on the topic of Internet, Law and Politics. This seminar addressed some of the most salient issues rising at the crossroads of information and communication technologies, legal studies and political science. The Internet in particular is affecting a wide range of societal dynamics and therefore challenges the social sciences as a whole. Studying the impact of the Internet on society has become a major academic focus around the world. The seminar parted from the discussion of whether or not something really might be “rotten in the state of European democracy” and investigated the state of the art in social scientific research on the challenges confronting democratic practice in the European Union and in its member-states. The seminar was very successful, as judged by the evaluations that can be provided on demand.
  • In April 2013, the chair holder, together with Dr Jonathan Bright, offered at the EUI a Teaching Workshop for Graduate (Ph.D) level students on Research Skills for the World of Big Data. The workshop combined theoretical sessions on the challenges involved in creating, storing and manipulating very large datasets with practical sessions teaching programming skills in Python language and a series of clinics where researchers discussed their own data challenges. The workshop built on EUDO’s experiences in managing large datasets (in particular the data generated by the EU Profiler and the related EUDO Dataverse project), and featured both talks from researchers involved in these projects and hands-on work with the data generated. The aim of the event was to allow researchers to both share knowledge on large data handling and to build skills to support future large scale research projects on European democracy.
  • In the Fall of 2012, Prof. Trechsel recruited three new Ph.D. researchers
  • In 2012-13, three Ph.D. researchers supervised by Prof. Trechsel successfully defended their doctoral thesis at the EUI
  • In 2012-2013, Prof. Trechsel was the mentor of one Max Weber Fellow (see above)

Institution building and research

The Chair holder serves as one of the two coordinating directors of the European Union Democracy Observatory (EUDO), which was initially launched in the Spring of 2006 and has since become a major platform within the EUI's Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS) with a long-term horizon.

The European Union Democracy Observatory is an independent and interdisciplinary academic organization and its declared goals are:

  • To translate scientific and academic research on the key issues of European democracy into policy-relevant and publicly-understandable outputs
  • To produce a periodic evaluation of democratic practices within the EU
  • To develop practical suggestions for improving democratic performance in the EU
  • To offer expertise, information, and policy reports on relevant EU institutions
  • To serve as a forum where research results, experiences, ideas, and good practices can be exchanged between scholars and policy-makers

All information on EUDO and its wide range of activities is availlable online.

Public events and conference participation

  • January 2013: Prof. Trechsel participated in the First Forum for the Dialogue between Switzerland and Italy (Forum Italo-Svizzero), organised by the Swiss Embassy in Italy, in Rome
  • April 2013: Prof. Trechsel participated in the Policy Planning Seminar on The Promotion of Democracy and Beyond: New Challenges, Strategies and Instruments, organised by the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, France

Recent publications by the Holder of the Swiss Chair

  • Gasser, Urs, and Alexander H. Trechsel, 2013. “Casting Votes over the Internet: What Switzerland Might Teach Us About the Future of Elections”, Harvard International Review, Spring 2013: 53-57.
  • Trechsel, Alexander H., and Josef Hien, 2013. “Einige Gedanken zur Geburtsstunde der Europäischen Bürgerinitiative”, pp. 415-27 in Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Andreas Auer, Bern: Stämpfli.11
  • Rose, Richard, and Alexander H. Trechsel, 2013. “How Size Matters: Portugal as an EU Member”, SPP Working Paper 500, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.
  • Trechsel, Alexander H., and Wagemann C., "The EU in 2012: political and institutional tensions“, in Natali D. und Vanhercke B. (Hrsg.), Social Developments in the European Union 2012. Brüssel: ETUI aisbl, 2013, 45-61
  • Trechsel, Alexander H., and Wagemann C., "L’UE en 2012: tensions politiques et institutionelles“,in Natali D. und Vanhercke B. (Hrsg.), Social Developments in the European Union 2012. Brüssel: ETUI aisbl, 2013, 47-64
  • De Witte, B., Adrienne Héritier and Alexander H. Trechsel (eds), The Euro Crisis and the State of European Democracy: Contributions from the 2012 EUDO Dissemination Conference, Florence: EUI, 2013
  • Glencross, Andrew, and Alexander H. Trechsel, 2011. “First or Second Order Referendums? Understanding the Votes on the EU Constitutional Treaty in Four EU Member States”, West European Politics. 34(4), pp. 121-145.
  • Trechsel, Alexander H., and Peter Mair, 2011. "When parties (also) position themselves – an introduction to the EU Profiler”, Journal of Information Technology and Politics. 8(1), pp. 1-20.

Previous appointments

  • Alexander H. Trechsel (University of Geneva) (March-June 2003)
  • Jürg Steiner (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/University of Berne, CH) (January-May 2004)
  • Research Fellows (As of January 2005 this position is not anymore available)
  • Rory Domm (May-December 2003)
  • André Bächtiger (January-October 2004)

Conferences organized within the framework of the Swiss Chair

  • Towards a Federal Europe? Conference organised by the Swiss Chair on Federalist Studies, Prof. Alexander H. Trechsel (2-3 June, 2003)
  • Empirical Approaches to Deliberative Politics 21-22 May, 2004. Conference organized by the Swiss Chair (Jürg Steiner and André Bächtiger)


Page last updated on 18 August 2017