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The book investigates the substance of the European Union's (EU) democracy promotion policy. It focuses on elections, civil and political rights, horizontal accountability, effective power to govern, stateness, state administrative capacity, civil society, and socio-economic context as components of embedded liberal democracy.



The Substance of EU Democracy Promotion: Introduction and Conceptual Framework

1. The Substance of EU Democracy Promotion: Introduction and Conceptual Framework

When, in October 2009, the European Parliament adopted its resolution on democracy building in the European Union’s (EU) external relations, it urged the EU ‘to publicly endorse the UN General Assembly’s 2005 definition of democracy as the reference point for its own democratisation work’ (European Parliament 2009: Art. 7). This call is remarkable because it exemplifies the thin conceptual basis of EU democracy promotion. At that time, it represented a further step in ongoing attempts to define the meaning of ‘democracy’ in EU external actions. Eventually, however, the call went unheard. To this day, the EU has not (yet) accepted a single definition of democracy that guides its democracy promotion activities. Scholars have recently come to the conclusion that the conceptual basis of EU democracy promotion can be summarized as ‘fuzzy liberalism’ (see the chapter by Milja Kurki in this edited volume).

Anne Wetzel

Alternative Reflections on the EU as a Liberal Democracy Promoter


2. Law Perspective: Praise Undeserved? The EU as a Democracy Promoter: A Sceptical Account

A significant reshuffling of the European Union’s (EU) approaches to national-level democracy in its member states is urgently required.1 This should be accompanied by a toning down of the EU’s claims externally. Fundamentally, it seems that all the uncertainties and challenges related to the promotion and preservation of democracy internally and externally ultimately relate to the vacuum the Union suffers from at its core (Williams 2010): attempting to construct and enforce an approach to justice which is essentially market-based (for a multi-faceted analysis, see Kochenov et al. 2014a), failing to withstand the scrutiny of the project from outside the market paradigm (for a proposal of how to break this trend, see for example Kochenov 2013a) and making wholehearted democracy-related mobilization of the Union legal system impossible (Weiler 2009: 51). Clarity concerning the substance of EU values, in particular democracy and the rule of law, is lacking (Kochenov et al. 2014b), causing many problems in practice. In this context, democracy largely fails to emerge as a guiding principle of EU law, joining an array of highly imprecise malleable values vaguely indicating the desiderata informing the construction of the internal market. To be very clear, the EU acquis on democracy is simply non-existent.

Dimitry Kochenov

3. Political Economy Perspective: Fuzzy Liberalism and EU Democracy Promotion: Why Concepts Matter

This book studies the substance of European Union (EU) democracy promotion, a very pertinent study indeed today. While EU democracy promotion is much talked about — including its contribution to the EU’s ‘normative power’ role in world politics — its content has received comparatively little scholarly attention. This is problematic because the EU’s broad range of activities in support of democracy cannot be assumed to be ‘consistent and coherent’, even as the EU itself constantly calls for the manifestation of such qualities.

Milja Kurki

4. Critical Social Theory Perspective: Embeddedness as Substance: The EU’s Socialized Approach to Democratization

Over the past 20 years, governance has evolved into the main trope in international relations, the question of ‘world order’ and the problem of how to capture state-society relations. ‘While there is no internationally agreed definition of governance’, the 2003 European Commission Communication on Governance and Development explains, ‘the concept has gained in importance’ (European Commission 2003a: 3). Consequently, the question of the substance of democracy and approaches to democratization and democracy promotion has found itself right at the centre of this ‘governance turn’. This governance turn — and the suspicion that ‘somehow’ it is affecting democracy and its promotion — has thus instigated this volume (see the introductory chapter). While the rise of governance in framing and addressing international problems (Dillon and Reid 2000, Duffield 2001, Larner and Walters 2004, Neumann and Sending 2010, Roberts 2010), generally, and regarding the EU specifically (Kohler-Koch and Rittberger 2006, Youngs 2009, Chandler 2010, Lavenex and Schimmelfennig 2011, Wetzel 2011) has gone far from unnoticed in academic discussions, this turn to governance, in fact, begs us to pause for a moment. It is, at this point, worth looking at the broader epistemological shifts that have occurred and ask how EU discourses on democratization have come to operate within them.

Jessica Schmidt

5. Governance Perspective: Democratic Governance Promotion Through Functional Cooperation

Democracy promotion has so far mainly been studied with a (sometimes implicit) model of liberal democracy in mind (for example Schimmelfennig et al. 2006, Magen et al. 2009). The same is true for the democratization literature (O’Donnell and Schmitter 1989: 4–14, Schmitter and Karl 1991). Taking its point of departure in the existing literature (see the introductory chapter), this edited volume follows this conventional perspective by employing a framework of ‘embedded liberal democracy’ — and in doing so potentially reinforces an existing bias. While ‘embedded liberal democracy’ exceeds by far minimalist definitions of democracy, it can still be said to (partly) miss the substance of some specific activities that different perspectives on democracy promotion would put at their centre. This chapter deals with ‘democratic governance’ as one of these under-addressed substances.1 More particularly, it will focus on ‘democratic governance’ as the substance that the European Union (EU) promotes in third countries through functional cooperation in transgovernmental networks. It proceeds as follows. The first section will briefly introduce democratic governance promotion as a complementary EU democracy promotion strategy. The next section will present a short overview of the literature on democracy promotion through transgovernmental relations.

Anne Wetzel

Country Chapters


6. Addressing the Remnants of a Communist Past Through Accession: Slovakia and the Czech Republic

Enlargement is often considered to be the European Union’s (EU) most successful foreign policy tool (Zielonka 2006, De Ridder et al. 2008). The integration of candidate countries into the EU grants the Union unique leverage over the domestic developments of third countries. This leverage is not limited to transposing EU legislation to future member states, but provides the EU with a wide array of possibilities of impacting upon the development of democracy in the candidates for membership. At the same time, however, limits to the Union’s scope of influence can be identified.

Eline De Ridder

7. Different Trajectories yet the Same Substance: Croatia and Turkey

Croatia and Turkey began European Union (EU) accession negotiations on the same date, 3 October 2005. The opening of negotiations with Croatia was a classic case of trade-off bargaining between member states. Austria laid down Croatia’s start of negotiations as a condition for the opening of negotiations with Turkey. Turkey has long been in the queue for accession, since it first signed the Agreement of Association, known as the Ankara Agreement, on 12 September 1963, which sought to integrate the country into a customs union with the European Economic Community (EEC) while acknowledging the ultimate goal of membership (EEC-Turkey 1963). Croatia was the second country to sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU in 2001. Following Croatia’s application for EU membership in February 2003, the European Council of December 2004 decided that accession negotiations would be opened. After an initial period of crisis in the negotiations, Croatia’s accession finally took place in July 2013.

Canan Balkır, Müge Aknur

8. Promoting Democracy in Post-Conflict Societies: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo

For more than a decade, the European Union (EU) has been involved in the Western Balkans. It has played various roles in the region. In some countries, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter, Bosnia or BiH) and Kosovo, it has acted as a kind of ‘international protector’, without excluding the use of its conditionality mechanism. In other cases, including Albania, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Montenegro and Serbia, the EU has merely used the ‘carrot and stick’ of conditionality to stabilize and put these states on their EU integration pathways. Moreover, the EU also played the role of ‘facilitator’ in the peaceful disintegration of the union between Serbia and Montenegro, and of ‘conflict preventer’ and ‘interlocutor’ in the case of FYROM during the conflict there in 2001. The EU and other international actors have invested a lot of energy and money in the region. A certain degree of progress has been achieved, at least in terms of establishing negative peace (the absence of war; see Donais 2005: 32) in the region, but this stability remains fragile, while its future is to some degree contested. The major positive developments appear to be Croatia’s accession to the EU and the deal between Kosovo and Serbia on principles for the normalization of relations, both of which were achieved in 2013.

Labinot Greiçevci, Bekim Çollaku

9. Power Relations Meet Domestic Structures: Russia and Ukraine

In the years immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the European Union (EU) had two priorities regarding the countries to its east. The first was to establish a working relationship with the Russian Federation as the official successor to the USSR. The second was to respond to the increasingly insistent aspirations being formulated by the previous satellite states of the USSR in Central and Eastern Europe to ‘return to the fold’, which implied EU accession. The second priority resulted in ten states from the former socialist bloc joining the EU in 2004/2007. As for the first, the EU signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Russia in 1994. The outbreak of the first war in Chechnya in 1995 delayed the entry into force of the agreement, but did not shake the assumption on which it was based: that Russia and the EU shared a fundamental commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and that Russia was on a clear path towards implementing these values. This assumption set a course for EU democracy promotion efforts in Russia that continues to have important implications to this day.

Susan Stewart

10. Neither Integrated Nor Comprehensive in Substance: Armenia and Georgia

Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the European Union (EU) moved to establish contractual relationships with the newly independent states. In 1999 Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) with Armenia and Georgia were enacted. In view of the 2004 eastward enlargement, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was established and the South Caucasus countries joined in 2004. Since the initial agreements, the EU’s cooperation with Armenia and Georgia has gradually extended. Besides participating in the ENP, they have also been included in the EU’s Black Sea Synergy (European Commission 2007g) and the Eastern Partnership (European Commission 2008h). The ENP mid-term review in 2011 was the latest effort to redraw EU policies towards its neighbours. The negotiations of the new-generation Association Agreements were concluded with Armenia and Georgia. However, Armenia refused to sign the agreement with the EU and opted for membership of the Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan instead. The Association Agreements deepen partner countries’ European integration and widen their political relationship with the EU. The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) that is considered an integral part of the Association Agreement focuses on the economic aspect of the relationship. In addition, the EU concluded visa facilitation/readmission agreements negotiations with Armenia and Georgia and continues visa liberalisation dialogue with Georgia.

Hrant Kostanyan

11. Democracy Through the Invisible Hand? Egypt and Tunisia

The establishment of democracy is one of the objectives of the European Union (EU) within the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP; established 1995), the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM; established in 2008) and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP; established in 2003), the policies designed by the EU to guide its relations with its southern Mediterranean neighbours. In the 1990s, however, the EU hardly focused on the promotion of democracy and human rights, despite the high hopes created by the EMP. This changed in 2002, when the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) published its first Arab Human Development Report (UNDP 2002). This report, which showed that the Arab region fell considerably below the world average on issues such as democracy and human rights, triggered the European Commission to give a new impetus to the promotion of democratic values in the Mediterranean region. This led to greater (although still limited) attention being paid to democracy and human rights in the EU’s policy towards the region. However, this renewed attention to the political situation in the Mediterranean countries did not lead to significant changes in the domestic context of those countries. Following the demonstrations and revolutions of the spring of 2011, the EU reflected on how it could contribute more to the evolution towards democracy in the region.

Vicky Reynaert

12. When Security Trumps Democracy: Israel and Palestine

As part of the Mediterranean and the Middle East region, Israel and Palestine1 are among the countries targeted by European Union (EU) policies aimed at democracy promotion. As democracy and human rights are universal values, it is to be expected that every actor in the world should uphold the standards they set, including inside the EU. The local context of Israel and Palestine, however, is particularly ridden with contradictions and plagued by one of the most intractable conflicts in the world, thus raising a set of considerations that, when taken together, present actors promoting democracy with stark choices. As a consequence, the EU has routinely addressed external conditions for democracy more than democracy itself, embracing a shallow liberal democracy promotion agenda due to the local situation of conflict and the related security concerns.

Benedetta Voltolini, Federica Bicchi

13. Favouring Leaders over Laggards: Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

This chapter maps the substance of EU democracy promotion in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and identifies the factors that shape this substance. In applying the framework and hypotheses presented in the opening chapter of this volume, the empirical analysis focuses on the period 2007–2013.1 We consider both the EU’s discourse and its actual policy implementation. The chapter consists of two parts. The first part sketches the democratic substance promoted by the EU. It finds that the EU does more to promote ‘broad’ liberal democracy in Kyrgyzstan than in Kazakhstan. In the second part, possible factors are examined that shape the content of the EU’s democracy promotion in order to understand the variance between the two target countries. We conclude with a summary of the main findings based upon review of EU documents, interviews and assessments of the extent of democratic reform in both countries.

Fabienne Bossuyt, Paul Kubicek

14. Democracy Promotion in Restrictive Environments: Ethiopia and Eritrea

Ethiopia and Eritrea are located in the conflict-ridden Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is currently governed by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which defeated the communist dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. Multi-party elections have been held since 1995, but they have been dominated by the ruling party. Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a long war against successive Ethiopian governments. President Isaias Afewerki, who led the struggle for independence from Ethiopia as secretary general of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, took power and promised to hold multi-party elections according to a new constitution adopted in 1997. However, this constitution was never implemented.

Karen Del Biondo

15. Responding to Political Crises in the South Pacific: The Solomon Islands and Fiji

This chapter investigates the substance of EU democracy promotion in two South Pacific states: the Solomon Islands and Fiji. The Solomon Islands and Fiji are particular in the sense that the domestic context made it necessary for the EU to ‘do something’ in the field of the partial regimes of liberal democracy. Unconstitutional changes of government are unacceptable to the EU and, as a rule, lead to the opening of the Article 96 procedure of the Cotonou Agreement, which allows the EU to employ sanctions, including the suspension of aid, after consultations with the host government (Portela 2010).

Maurizio Carbone, Karen Del Biondo

16. Much Ado About Nothing? Brazil and Venezuela

Latin America does not hold a prominent place in the literature on European Union (EU) democracy promotion (Youngs 2008, Magen et al. 2009), and experts on EU-Latin America relations do not tend to focus on democracy promotion either (Freres 2000, Grugel 2004, Gratius 2011). The scarce literature on EU democracy promotion in Latin America suggests that these policies and activities are not seen as relevant, or do not inspire a demand for more bilateral engagement in this area. Possible justifications are that Latin America has been on the right track in its democratization process, or that local actors or other donors already do enough. Is the concern with EU democracy promotion in Latin America, then, simply ‘much ado about nothing’?

Andrea Ribeiro Hoffmann

17. Comparing Country Cases: Output-Oriented EU Democracy Promotion?

The purpose of this book has been to map and explain the substance of European Union (EU) democracy promotion. The adapted framework of embedded liberal democracy provided the analytical framework for the mapping exercise, whereas the four hypotheses guided the authors’ search for explanations (see the introductory chapter). Based on our systematic and comparative analysis involving the EU’s policy towards 22 countries, this concluding chapter will formulate a number of general conclusions. We find that the ‘default substance’ of the EU’s democracy promotion is output-oriented, specifically targeting ‘socio-economic development’ and ‘state administrative capacity’. Partial regimes, and in particular ‘horizontal accountability’ and ‘effective power to govern’, tend to be under-addressed.

Anne Wetzel, Jan Orbie


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