The European Union as Promoter of Democracy

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2011

18 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents


1.Core Value: Democracy
a.The Rank of Democracy in the EU’s legal foundations
b.What is in the Name: Democracy
i.Liberal / Libertarian Democracy
ii.Communitarian Democracy
iii.Deliberative Democracy
c.European Democracy: A Working Title

2.Promotion of Democracy in EU External Action
i.Democracy Assistance
ii.Political Conditionality
iii.Incentives Conditionality
iv.lndirect Approach
v.Socialisation Dynamics

3.Cases and Outcomes
a.Tunisi a
b.Middle East
c.Central Asia




In this paper the guiding questions are the following: What Is the EU concept of democracy? Can this supposedly universal norm be promoted by and with the EU external governance scheme? What means are in stock? What has been used? What is used? What are the results? What can be, what has to be changed?

For the sake of that approach pre-defined by the questions the paper will follow this line of argumentation: After developing a working definition of democracy, the scale of success is provided for which can be applied to the to be described objectives and means in the European Unions ‘foreign policy’. The strategies are depicted and than short descriptions of cases of application of those concepts follow. Thus the level of ambition in democracy promotion of the European Union will be transparent, the means to realize this ambition will be shown and the successes orfailures in application will be made explainable.

1. CoreValue: Democracy

a. The Rank of Democracy in the EU’s legal foundations

For preservation of the stringency in argument, in this chapter the identification of the term’s relevance for the policy area of external relations in the framework of the EU is set before the definition of the term. A selection of citations from the very capstone document manifesting the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon (ToL)1, shall indicate the term’s significance.

Article 2 in the ToL indicates the values which are guiding forthe EU:

“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”

The first paragraph in Article 3 of the ToL states:

“The Union's aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples.”

Another indicator for requirements fundamental to the promulgation of the Union’s values is given in Article 6:

“The Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union of 7 December 2000, as adapted at Strasbourg, on 12 December 2007, which shall have the same legal value as the Treaties.“

Specifically for the policy area of “external action” the ToL establishes among others the following provision in Article 21, para 1:

“The Union's action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.”

This can be consistently subsumed into the following phrase: Being one of the EU’s prime values, democracy has to be advanced and promoted internally and externally by all policies of the EU, being it implicitly and explicitly. Notably, the principles fundamental for the EU’s foundation are to be forwarded pro-actively in the arena of international relations. Here democracy is not a value among others, but is named as the prime term, if first in sequence gives precedence. But in order to obey to the demand of promotion of democracy in the world, EU institutions and personnel must have an idea of what gives live to this term and what are the ingredients of that concept for suitable operationalization.

b. What is in the Name: Democracy

As shown, “democracy” is one of the five core values of the European Union. It ranks equal among “peace”, “liberty”, “rule of law” and “human rights” not only in Treaty of Lisbon, but over the last fifty years in the whole vast body of the aquis communautaire and the aquis politique. From this core of common values four so-called minor values can be deduced: “Social solidarity”, “anti-discrimination”, “sustainable development” and the most recently obtained norm of “good governance”.2 Yet there is supposedly little research currently undertaken to conceptualize the term democracy in the context of the European Union as promoter of democratization. In this chapter three general approaches to define democracy are shortly introduced and merged into a working definition for the utilization in this paper’s argument: The approaches are coined liberal, communitarian and deliberative.

i. Liberal / Libertarian Democracy

lt is merely taken for granted that whenever the European Union is concerned, “democracy” can be understood as meaning “liberal democracy”.3 But what makes a democracy liberal? The classical and most basic definition of liberal democracy is inspired by Karl Popper who put the main emphasis on the aspect of peaceful power transfer from one government to another: All citizens have the right to vote, the result of the election obtained by indentifying the proposal favoured by the majority of votes leads to a peaceful change of the government and the losing minority does not face bullying by the victors.

The liberal democracy model is in that sense a procedural concept enabling societal peace by means of de-confliction in providing a mechanism of governance for election of leading representatives, as Joseph Schumpeter tried to boil it down on a basic denominator.4 This concept deliberately avoids to find or define normative aspects of democracy for the sake of clarity and versatility. But pure democratic procedurals might and frequently do lead to illiberal policies (e. g. “guided democracy”). Therefore the concept of democracy and liberalism in the context of the European Union must refer to a standard including facets of culture and morality.

Individual rights limit the majority rule in a democracy for the perseverance of human dignity in maintaining freedom by liberty of person, thought and property. This is basically the negation of intrusion into personal freedom by society as defined in John Locke’s political philosophy.5 But this negative approach to values constituting society was amplified positively in the course of history in reference to the application and prioritization (Or again: De-confliction) of competing individual and aggregated concepts for the common good, as Cathleen Kantner pointed out in 2006:

“As a matter of fact, it is a central civilizing achievement of the liberal state of law and modern representative democracy to organize political life by procedures for conflict resolution without pressure to reach consensus on values. Citizens in a democracy have the right to be different and distant from each other. The pluralism of values and the search for political compromises are, in addition, important mechanisms for peaceful change and reform in modern democracies.”6

Liberal democracy is in that sense pluralistic by rule of law, especially of the individual human rights, as it is essential for European liberalism. Consequentially, if state or institutional power to intervene is limited to protect individual rights and to prevent bloodshed by democratic de-confliction by compromise of solely political power struggles, this political system might be not liberal, but libertarian: Accumulation of wealth and property without social control, a self-regulating market economy, democracy only in politics, formalized assurance of human rights which might be dented by the free-contract law denote a system where citizens, while equal before the law, might lose their dignity by resulting socio-economic inequality.

ii. Communitarian Democracy

Communitarians can be distinguished from liberals by their affirmative outlook on state activity and political responsible citizenship.7 Society and politics therefore are not deemed as separate social spheres, but are one in the sense of self-governance by the people in the institutional framework of the state. This pre-supposes a strong and conscious ethical bond of the citizens. Pre-political beliefs like an assumed identity in ethnicity, culture or religion are providing an a priori basic identification of every community member with society itself, an imagined community.8 A communitarian democracy, being unable to retain normative neutrality concerning the individual fate in comparison to the society as a whole, must include socio-economic standards as yardstick defining basic rights not only in politics, but in economics as well. These rights and obligations are at best codified as well as constitutional regarding participation, social security and means of just material distribution and redistribution. Negative and positive freedoms are not only formally in force, but are enforced or executed to realization.

iii. Deliberative Democracy

A deliberative approach to democracy is distinctive by rejecting the notion of any pre-existing sets of moral values, but that even these are product of a society in dialogue with itself.9 In this dialogue moral conflict is integral part of the interaction. The democratic discourse perceived philosophically by Jürgen Habermas10 does not only provide output as aggregation and prioritization of preferences, but as a process is the manifestation of democracy: The public debate among equals weighing argument against argument. A deliberative institutional design relies on safeguards ensuring fairness and transparency as well as accessibility to the process of deliberation. Power asymmetries have to harnessed for giving opportunity to unimpeded societal input from everybody. In contrast to the liberal approach, a deliberative democracy might absent from majority rule, but would see a consensual result as appropriate and normatively sound for the decision-making process. ‘Experts’ in respective issues supposedly give a scientifically and technically reliable foundation for indicating options, inputs to the discourse or the means of input are not formalized or monopolized but democratized, transparency is of the essence for enabling accountability and ex-post evaluation.

c. European Democracy: A Working Title

Liberal democracy was perceived by supporters and adversaries alike as inherently linked to individual empowerment and to the according promotion of market liberalism. The financial market crisis discredited promoters of liberal democracy as de-facto economic liberalists using human rights as fig-leaf for introducing market-radicalism.11 But liberalism has its historical roots not in promotion of the interests of the already affluent, but in the case of the works of John Locke liberalism started out as a campaign for private property in order to set a progressive concept against serfdom. Private property was seen by Locke as means for self-emancipation of the suppressed individual.12 Anti-dogmatism, prudence, control as well as checks and balances were the means which build the concepts of empowering the individual and harnessing state power in the European Enlightenment. The societal categories for this concept explicitly and deliberately marked two distinct and separated spheres: Civic and political society. Only free individuals of merit from civic life were seen suitable for honourable representation on the political scene.


1 Official Journal ofthe European Union (2008): “Consolidated Versions ofthe Treaty of the European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning ofthe European Union (2008/C 115/01)”, Bruxelles.

2 Manners, Ian (2002): “Normative Power Europe: A Contradiction in Terms?”, Journal of Common Market Studies no. 40 2/2002, p. 242.

3 Kurki, Milja (2010): Democracy and Conceptual Contestability: Reconsidering Conceptions of Democracy in Democracy Promotion“, International Studies Review 12/2010, p. 364.

4 Williams, Michael J. (2008): “Democracy and Democratization: The Problem with using the Democratic Peace Theory as Principle of Foreign Policy”, ISA 49th Annual Convention Paper, p. 7.

5 Tuckness, Alex (2005): “Locke’s Political Philosophy”, retrieved from:, accessed January 12, 2011.

6 Kantner, Cathleen (2006): “Collective Identity as Shared Ethical Self-Understanding: The Case ofthe Emerging European Identity”, European Journal of Social Theory 9(4), p. 516

7 Borräs, Susana / Conzelmann, Thomas (2007): “Democracy, Legitimacy and Soft Modes of Governance in the EU: The Empirical Turn”, in: European Integration 5/2007, p. 539.

8 Kantner, Cathleen (2006): “Collective Identity as Shared Ethical Self-Understanding: The Case ofthe Emerging European Identity”, European Journal of Social Theory 9(4), p. 513.

9 Borräs, Susana / Conzelmann, Thomas (2007): “Democracy, Legitimacy and Soft Modes of Governance in the EU: The Empirical Turn”, in: European Integration 5/2007, p. 539.

10 Peter, Fabienne (2010): “Political Legitimacy”, retrieved from:, accessed January 23, 2011.

11 Youngs, Richard (2011): “Misunderstandings and maladies of liberal democracy promotion”, in: FRIDE working paper no. 106, pp. 5-6.

12 Tuckness, Alex (2005): “Locke’s Political Philosophy”, retrieved from:, accessed January 12, 2011.

Excerpt out of 18 pages


The European Union as Promoter of Democracy
University of Flensburg  (International Institute for Management)
External Relations of the European Union
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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474 KB
Europäische Union, External Relations, Gemeinsame Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik, GASP, European Union, Demokratie, Democracy
Quote paper
Johannes Wiedemann (Author), 2011, The European Union as Promoter of Democracy, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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