The Project

Project Title: Explaining Europe’s failure to deal with authoritarian regimes: Which actors make and break effective democracy promotion?

Summary: The aim of this project is to explain why Europe has struggled to develop an effective democracy promotion policy towards authoritarian regimes and whether it is likely to be able to develop a more effective democracy promotion strategy in the near future. Despite the intense public debate on Europe’s failure to promote democracy in authoritarian regimes following the 2011 Arab Spring popular revolts, current research seeking to explain the effectiveness of Europe’s democracy promotion is deadlocked in discussions about whether the European Union (EU) is a normative or a strategic actor. The project starts from the observation that Europe’s engagement with authoritarian regimes is too complex to be ‘boxed’ into either of these categories. The first objective of the project is to shift the focus of analysis away from the EU (as a whole) and EU supranational institutions. Instead, this project examines the influence of other actors who frequently engage with authoritarian regimes and are likely to play a powerful role in constraining or enhancing democracy promotion, such as multinational corporations, the church or EU member states. The second key objective of the project is to explain how these actors impact on the effectiveness of democracy promotion. Conventional approaches assume that policy-makers’ dilemma to choose between ‘values’ and ‘interests’ limits effective democracy promotion. This project draws on Habermas’ theory of communicative action and the assumption that policy-makers face far more complex choices, and that the effectiveness of EU democracy promotion hinges on the extent to which influential actors can agree on and justify their choice for democracy promotion as a legitimate course of action.

Project Nr.: 451-12-015