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The EU's Democracy Promotion and the Mediterranean Neighbours

Thursday December 12, 2013, from 14:00 to 16:00
Room Fred Halliday - IBEI (1st Floor)
Research seminar
Ann-Kristin Jonasson (University of Gothenburg)

Recently, serious problems in the EU’s promotion of democracy, not least in relation to the Mediterranean region, have been unravelled. In earlier research, I have argued for the importance of three vital elements in order for democracy promotion to be successful, namely (1) orientation towards to the project of democracy promotion on the part of the target country, (2) local ownership of the project, based on a basic commitment to democracy, and (3) dialogue between the democracy promoter and different segments of the target state (Jonasson, 2013). Without orientation, ownership and dialogue, democracy is not likely to ensue along this argument. This argument, which is based in a social constructivist approach, is also shared – rhetorically – by the EU.

Given this approach, my earlier research points out three major shortcomings in the EU’s democracy promotion: Firstly, while constantly appealing to democracy in rhetorics, the EU has long prioritized security and stability over democracy in the Mediterranean, which has led a lack of credibility. Secondly, it has become increasingly clear that the meaning of the so called “common value” democracy is far from obvious. “Democracy” is used as a positively laden normative term, appealed to by the different partners, however without a clear specification. Instead, the meaning of democracy is taken for granted on different sides. However, the analysis indicates that the partners attach very different meanings to “democracy”. Indeed, on both sides, understandings of democracy differ markedly. Also, not least the EU attaches different meanings to democracy in different circumstances. Thirdly, the EU’s main tool to promote democracy is conditionality, awarding benefits when partners meet pre-set criteria, but granting limited lee-way for partners to hammer out their own approach to democracy. Along the argument pursued here, such shortcomings make for bleak prospects for EU’s democracy promotion: Partners are expected to meet ill-defined democracy criteria that they have not set themselves, well aware that such compliance has little direct bearing on relations to the EU as other preoccupations dominate the EU’s policies.


Seminar IBEI Jonasson