Press information

ETHOS - Towards a European THeory Of juStice and fairness, is a European Commission Horizon 2020 research project that seeks to provide building blocks for the development of an empirically informed European theory of justice and fairness. The project seeks to do so by:

  1. refining and deepening the knowledge on the European foundations of justice - both historically based and contemporary envisaged;
  2. enhancing awareness of mechanisms that impede the realisation of justice ideals as they are lived in contemporary Europe;
  3. advancing the understanding of the process of drawing and re-drawing of the boundaries of justice (fault lines); and
  4. providing guidance to politicians, policy makers, advocacies and other stakeholders on how to design and implement policies to reserve inequalities and prevent injustice.

ETHOS does not merely understand justice as an abstract moral ideal, that is universal and worth striving for. Rather, it is understood as a re-enacted and re-constructed "lived" experience. The experience is embedded in firm legal, political, moral, social, economic and cultural institutions that are geared to giving members of society what is their due. In the ETHOS project, justice is studied as an interdependent relationship between the ideal of justice, and its real manifestation – as set in the highly complex institutions of modern European societies. The relationship between the normative and practical, the formal and informal, is acknowledged and critically assessed through a multi-disciplinary approach.

To enhance the formulation of an empirically-based theory of justice and fairness, ETHOS will explore the normative (ideal) underpinnings of justice and its practical realisation in four heuristically defined domains of justice - social justice, economic justice, political justice, and civil and symbolic justice. These domains are revealed in several spheres:

  1. philosophical and political tradition,
  2. legal framework,
  3. daily (bureaucratic) practice,
  4. current public debates, and
  5. the accounts of the vulnerable populations in six European countries (the Netherlands, the UK, Hungary, Austria, Portugal and Turkey).

The question of drawing boundaries and redrawing the fault-lines of justice permeates the entire investigation.

Alongside Utrecht University in the Netherlands who coordinate the project, five further research institutions cooperate. They are based in Austria (European Training and Research Centre for Human Rights and Democracy), Hungary (Central European University), Portugal (Centre for Social Studies), Turkey (Boğaziçi University), and the UK (University of Bristol). The research project lasts from January 2017 to December 2019.

Project Details

Project No: 727112

Start Date: 01/01/2017

Project Duration: 36 months

More information on ETHOS can be found here:





Hashtag: #ETHOSjustice


European Landscapes of Justice (web) app:

For additional information please contact us at with a copy to the Project Manager Michael Robinson


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme under grant agreement No. 727112