Mapping out democracy promotion in the EU's external relations

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As a non-traditional actor on the international stage, the European Union (EU) presents itself as a successful example of peaceful, democratic cooperation between its Member States. Its foreign policy, existing alongside rather than replacing that of the Member States, is not driven by military strength but backed-up with formidable economic clout. The EU's own treaty arrangements state that EU action on the international scene shall be guided by a set of principles which are central to its own existence - and the first of these is 'democracy' (Article 21(1) TEU). How, then, is the promotion of democracy carried out in the EU's relations with the wider world? Defining 'democracy promotion' is as complex a task as identifying the myriad of policy areas in which elements of exporting the EU's system of governance can be perceived. The purpose of this article to identify and explore the instances in which a wide conception of democracy promotion can be expressly or impliedly perceived within the EU's external relations. The article widens the scope of analysis to map out aspects of EU external policies which do not expressly have democracy promotion as their aim, but nevertheless seek to export elements of a certain model of democracy. Instances of democracy promotion are categorized as express or implied and positive or negative. By casting a wide net, the extent of democracy promotion can be seen to be wider than previously thought which helps to broaden the debate about how the EU puts in place its Treaty obligations to promote democracy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-40
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Foreign Affairs Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • European Union
  • normative power
  • democracy promotion

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