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About CO3

Societal disintegration has led to novel challenges to social contracts in contemporary societies. The financial crisis, climate crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic have increased disengagement among citizens and widened discrepancies within European politics. This has resulted in growing distrust towards democratic institutions.

The Continuous Construction of Resilient Social Contracts Through Societal Transformations (CO3) project is dedicated to strengthening the political and social resilience of democracies in the face of societal challenges, crises, and anti-democratic tendencies. Through rigorous research, innovative methodologies and extensive stakeholder engagement, we promote and develop a more democratic, inclusive, and open model of social contracts for contemporary societies.

Country cases

CO3 approaches resilient social contracts through eleven empirical country cases in European countries.


France offers a unique perspective on social contracts through its history of revolution and subsequent commitment to three key principles: equality, popular sovereignty, and administrative capacity. Commitment to these principles needs to be constantly renewed, as France faces internal criticism regarding the tension between the values of solidarity and the rising inequalities in the country. Currently, the French social contract faces three major challenges. First, there is discontent about differences in prosperity and access to services between different areas (big and wealthy cities, middle-size cities, peri-urban areas, and rural areas), expressed through the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ protests. Second, the social contract is challenged by the populism of the far right. Third, there is a rising polarisation and distrust of the political sphere and public powers.


Beginning with its transition from a multi-Ethnic Ottoman empire to a nation-state, the social contract in Türkiye was re-negotiated multiple times in the 20th and 21st centuries. Although nation-state formation was based on the idea of unity with security concerns, many historical and current challenges lead to reconstruction of the social contract in its second century. Türkiye is also a textbook example of how affective polarisation undermines pluralistic democracy and increases the support for populist and majoritarian parties, ultimately making the country vulnerable to the poly-crises of today.


Sweden’s social contract was built on the ideals of an inclusive welfare state after WWII. Immigration to Sweden, and the fact that it has not been involved in warfare since 1809, have contributed to its economic development. The newest generations of immigrants have arrived from South Eastern Europe, MENA and Africa. Their inclusion in the folkhemmet (literally, people’s home as Sweden was called) has been slow and difficult, as the country has gone through drastic neoliberalisation. In addition, the ethnically Swedish population has maintained their distance from the newcomers. At present, Swedish social contract faces challenges from residential segregation, rising populism, tensions surrounding the crumbling welfare society, and increases in gang-related violence.


Hungary has a history of being partly colonised by the Ottoman Empire and later the Habsburg Empire, where it became an autonomous Kingdom containing for example Croatia and parts of Western Ukraine. The Hungarian social contract has been significantly shaped by this history. More recently, the country’s populist and eurosceptic government has been a challenge for the European social contract. As the promise of economic prosperity has been the basis of the Hungarian social contract since the 1960s, it is interesting how Hungarian political leaders will survive the current crises and the loss of EU funding as a mechanism of criticism for weakening the rule of law.


The roots of the Croatian national social contract lie in the 19th century under the Austro-Hungarian empire. This contract was reconfigured when Croatia was part of the so-called First Yugoslavia and the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. The CO3 project, tracing both the stable features on the one hand, and breakdowns and ruptures in the social contract on the other, will show the continuities and discontinuities of the social contracts. Additionally, the 2024 European Elections provide particular insights into the trust Croatian citizens put in the EU institutions designed to fight corruption, such as the European Chief Prosecutor and OLAF.


With historical legacies of Russian, Polish-Lithuanian and Austro-Hungarian empires, Ukraine has had a complex transition to democracy and independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. All the social contracts that existed in Ukraine since 1991 revolved around three main systemic conflicts (post-Soviet vs. national-patriotic or colonial vs. independent state, oligarchic vs. public interest, pro-Russian vs. pro-Western orientation) and were marked by the permanent balances between principal stakeholders as well as by constant Russian intervention, and invasion starting from 2014. After Ukraine’s victory, the country will have to renegotiate its social contract in terms of integration of refugees and IDPs, rehabilitation of veterans, relations to the EU and NATO, fighting corruption, and reforms in education, health and institutions.


Portugal’s transition from a colonial empire to a semi-peripheral democracy has presented the country with a number of questions regarding the social contract, especially about people linked with the European colonial empires, and the socially and individually traumatic situations generated by the abrupt shift. Populations to be studied in the CO3 project include: the formerly colonised populations, people who were born under the Portuguese empire but excluded from the Portuguese democratic social contract, and those who were born after the independence of their own countries but who aim to come to and stay in Portugal.


Having experienced two autocratic systems – National Socialism in the whole of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and Soviet-Style Socialism in Eastern Germany from 1945 to 1990 – Germany presents another unique case to be analysed in terms of its social contract(s). The Western German social contract has been marked by a combination of economic prosperity and a conservative Welfare State Model that still strongly relates to a male breadwinner and a female part-time worker, limited childcare provisions, and a strong state support for the institution of marriage. The Eastern German social contract, in contrast, has been more gender egalitarian and more related to state welfare provisions. In 1990, reunification extended the Western social contract to the new Eastern states instead of renegotiating it. The former split between East and West Germany in terms of the social contract is remarkable until today, and is reflected in differing views on democracy and social cohesion.


Finland has shaped into an independent state after being ruled by its neighbouring regimes until 1917. Both Swedish and Russian rules have had significant implications to the political and cultural formation of the Finnish social contract: under the ruling powers, the local political institutions, language and culture have developed into those of a Nordic welfare state, relying on parliamentary democracy. The Cold War and accession to the EU and NATO have additionally forced a re-negotiation of the Finnish social contract. The CO3 project combines the implications of this history with the formation of key issues to the development of social contracts in Finland, including minorities, the myth of the Winter War, and the politics of care, for example.


As in other post-socialist states, the social contract underwent significant changes after 1989 in Bulgaria. Firstly, the transformations were negotiated in the Roundtable talks, which led to the first free multiparty elections and the adoption of a new post-communist constitution in 1991. The next step in studying the social contract is to trace the social and political transformations that shaped the pro-European consensus and steered the country on the path towards European integration (1997–2007). The CO3 project places a focus on the protest waves of 2012–2014 and 2020, and the political crisis of 2021–2024. Especially in the context of Bulgaria’s relations to the EU and the reforms agreed under the Recovery and Resilience Facility for Bulgaria, these crises offer an opportunity for renegotiating a stronger social contract.


Bosnia-Herzegovina became an independent state in 1992, following the breakup of Yugoslavia. With independence came a complex process of political, economic, institutional and identity-related transition that was pivotal to the reconstitution of the social contract. This process has resulted in Bosnia-Herzegovina being granted EU candidate status in 2022. Although the focus of analysis in Bosnia-Herzegovina is on the post-independence period, the inclusion of a long-term perspective will give a deeper understanding of continuities and discontinuities in the social contract, as well as resilient features emerging from the interaction with the EU.

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