Symbiosis was founded in May 2011 drawing upon collaborations in the Balkans and Greece in education, rights, and anti-discrimination. Based on the premise that practicing human rights protection equals to democratic rule of law, Symbiosis focuses on information and education, freedom of expression, documentation and analysis, public debate, and active civic participation, so that people and communities voice their needs and ideas. Grounded on the need for global civics, citizenship, social inclusion, and political participation, Symbiosis works towards democratic participation in political processes free of discrimination and exclusion, and on developing civic awareness on institutional practices regarding rights. Symbiosis advocates for the political, social, and economic participation of migrants, refugees, and marginalized communities.

In 2020, Symbiosis has been awarded the European Citizens’ Prize by the European Parliament for the activities of the School of Political Studies in Greece. The organization participates in networks such as the Fundamental Rights Platform of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, the Greek Housing Network, the Anna Lindh Foundation Network, Select Respect Network, and the Thessaloniki Municipality Migrants’ Integration Council (2012-19).

The School for Political Studies in Greece was established by Symbiosis and the Council of Europe in 2014 and affiliated to the Network of Council of Europe Schools of Political Studies. This initiative of the Council of Europe aims to develop and strengthen democratic processes, strengthen civil society, and promote democratic initiatives. The 21 Schools that make it up focus on the challenges that arise for democracy and its institutions. The educational programme of the School in Greece consists of an annual cycle of seminars, participation in the Council of Europe World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, as well as training, and it aims at education, cooperation, and dialogue among civil society, policy makers, experts, and the media. It focuses on human rights, anti-discrimination, social inclusion, democratic citizenship, freedom of expression, democratic governance, equality, gender-based violence, migration, and the protection of the environment.

Based on the premise that practicing human rights protection equals to democratic rule of law, and there is no one right way to educate for democratic leadership, but understanding that democratising the educational process is important, the Symbiosis School of Political Studies in Greece aims to foster democratic governance and participation in public debate by promoting democratic political culture, civic participation, free media, and by giving a voice to those marginalized or unheard.

The question of citizenship lies at the heart of the legitimacy of rule and political subjectivity. Discussions on citizenship – what it means to be a citizen, who can act as a citizen, what obligations derive from citizenship – are at the forefront of much political discourse. Time again and again we seek to understand how citizenship is claimed, disputed, built — in short, enacted. Citizenship has been an unprecedented project in the making. But it is not simply about status and rights. There is a dynamic element too: citizens, migrants, refugees, illegal aliens and states, all enact claims to citizenship. How do acts shape our ideas of subjects of citizenship, and the very idea of citizenship itself? Acts that articulate claims to citizenship (and produce claimants) create new sites of belonging and identification, differing from traditional, and still important, sites of citizenship, such as voting, social security, and military obligation. Acts of citizenship stretch across boundaries and produce new subjects and scales of citizenship. We expand the focus from what people say (opinions, perceptions, attitudes) to what people do – an important supplement, and sometimes a corrective, to a conventional focus on what people or authorities — be it the CoE, the EU, as well as national courts, agencies, and organisations — say about citizenship and identification.

Despina Syrri
Co-Founder of Symbiosis-School of Political Studies in Greece, affiliated to the Council of Europe Network of Schools