This paper employs a civic learning approach to discussing recent developments in citizenship education through an analysis of contemporary democratic thinking. By reviving Europe’s great democratic tradition in the sense of a liberal republicanist understanding of citizenship, it argues the case for the transformation of democratic norms into policy structures, educational initiatives and school curricula. Central to the analysis is the Council of Europe’s EDCHRE programme and the lessons to be drawn from this uniquely observed pan-European project that equips young people to participate actively in society and in daily school life. The paper makes an effort to present and evaluate various aspects of the Greek school curriculum that are relevant to the study. The general conclusion to be drawn is that citizenship education relates to the search for a ‘democracy of ideas’ in Pettit’s sense of the term that can link together two different incentives of civic learning: on the one hand, the notion of a participatory ethos at the traditional state level and, on the other, the practice of active citizenship alongside and even beyond that level.