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The reluctant debutante: The European Union as promoter of democracy in its neighbourhood

By Senem Aydin, Richard Youngs (01/07/2005) Other publications

In its discourse the EU places democracy and the rule of law as number one. This paper examines the extent to which the EU is a coherent actor in pursuing this goal in practice, especially in its wider neighbourhood. Case studies are presented, covering much of the neighbourhood: Balkans, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine, Maghreb and Israel-Palestine.

The distinction is made between the enlargementrelated sphere, which is an extension of EU internal policies and the foreign policy sphere beyond. In the enlargement process, the EU has worked powerfully as a promoter of democracy both through its gravitational attraction and explicit political conditionality. In the foreign policy sphere, a whole set of institutional and historical inhibitions and partly conflicting priorities muffle the outcome for democracy promotion.

However, these two spheres, the internal and external, are in practice overlapping. The EU’s official neighbourhood policy, which sets democratisation as the number one priority, is subject to ambiguous interpretations, between the EU that claims it is a foreign policy, whereas various partner states view it as a pre-accession strategy.

Recent developments see new dynamics. On the one hand, the Constitutional ratification crisis will shatter some pre-accession illusions, yet on the other, this may drive the EU to give greater substance to its neighbourhood policy in order to mitigate discouragement.

Moreover, in the neighbouring regions from former Soviet Union states to the north and the Arab world to the south, there develops a fresh momentum to the democratic transition, with apparent contagion of ideas and revolutionary behaviour that is even reminiscent of some of the major historical episodes in the evolution of political liberalism on the European continent.

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PhD candidate in Political Science at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) and an Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), Brussels. Her principle research interests are Turkey-EU relations and enlargement of the EU.
Democracy promotion. EU foreign policy.

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Dear Friends and Colleagues,

FRIDE ceased its think tank activities on 31st December 2015 for economic reasons. The Board of Trustees had to take this difficult decision since, despite many efforts to diversify its funding sources, FRIDE cannot sustain its think tank operations with a view to 2016 and beyond.

Established in 1999, FRIDE has made a major contribution to shape debate on Europe’s external activities in an increasingly challenging international environment. It has covered issues ranging from democracy and human rights to sustainable development, new approaches to multilateral cooperation and security affairs. FRIDE’s long-standing focus on the extended neighbourhood of the European Union proves today all the more relevant given widespread turbulence in the region. FRIDE’s emphasis on the importance of the values framing Europe’s external activities is central to current political debates in Europe and beyond. This shows the need for continued engagement in the pursuit of a common European foreign policy that is both effective and informed by the core values of European integration.

The Board wishes to thank Diego Hidalgo, FRIDE’s founder, for his tireless commitment and very generous support for many years. The Board also wishes to thank FRIDE’s dedicated staff, the members of the Board and the Advisory Committee for their contribution in making FRIDE one of the top foreign policy think tanks in Europe. We are very grateful to all those who have supported FRIDE’s work and projects over the years and we thank the many partners from all parts of the world who have worked with FRIDE on joint initiatives. We hope that FRIDE’s extensive input to the debate on Europe in the world will continue to inform thinking and action at a very critical time for Europe’s future.

The President of the Board

FRIDE cesó sus actividades como think tank el 31 de diciembre de 2015 por razones económicas. El Patronato tuvo que adoptar esta difícil decisión dado que, a pesar de los intensos esfuerzos realizados para diversificar sus fuentes de financiación, FRIDE no puede sostener sus operaciones como think tank a partir de 2016.

Establecido en 1999, FRIDE ha realizado una gran contribución al debate sobre las actividades exteriores de Europa en un ambiente internacional cada vez más complejo. Ha trabajado en temas que van desde la democracia y los derechos humanos al desarrollo sostenible, los nuevos enfoques en la cooperación multilateral y las cuestiones de seguridad. La atención prestada por FRIDE a la vecindad extendida de la Unión Europea durante mucho tiempo prueba ser hoy aún más relevante debido a la turbulencia que azota a la región. El énfasis de FRIDE en la importancia de los valores que enmarcan las actividades exteriores europeas es central en los debates en Europa y más allá. Esto muestra la necesidad de un compromiso continuo con la búsqueda de una política exterior europea común que sea eficaz y esté basada en los principios fundamentales de la integración europea.

El Patronato desea agradecer a Diego Hidalgo, fundador de FRIDE, por su incansable compromiso y muy generoso apoyo a lo largo de tantos años. También quiere expresar su gratitud a la dedicada plantilla, a los propios miembros del Patronato y del Comité Asesor por sus contribuciones para hacer de FRIDE uno de los principales think tanks de Europa en cuestiones de política exterior. Estamos muy agradecidos con todos aquellos que han apoyado el trabajo y los proyectos de FRIDE a través de los años y también damos las gracias a los numerosos socios de todas partes del mundo que han colaborado con FRIDE en iniciativas conjuntas. Esperamos que las extensas aportaciones de FRIDE al debate sobre Europa en el mundo continuará informando el pensamiento y la acción en un momento muy crítico para el futuro de Europa.

El Presidente del Patronato

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