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Institute of Political Science and Sociology

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Sonja Grimm and Nea Solander at ECPR Joint Sessions Workshop 2024


Sonja Grimm and Nea Solander from the Chair of International Relations and European Studies presented two papers to the 2024 ECPR Joint Sessions Workshop “Supporting and Promoting Democracy in the European Union’s Neighbourhood” at Leuphana University Lüneburg.

The workshop, organised by Tina Freyburg, University of St. Gallen, CH, and Theofanis Theofanis Exadaktylos, University of Surrey, UK, focused on the challenges encountered by the EU in supporting democracy and democratic initiatives in its eastern and southern neighbourhood.

Among the discussed questions were:

  • How effective are the EU’s strategies for democracy support towards the neighbourhood countries?
  • Has the EU’s good governance agenda been instrumental in promoting democracy?
  • How does the competition between other international players affect democratisation in the neighbourhood countries?
  • What kind of a democracy is externally promoted, and what demand and support exists on the ground?
  • What is the opportunity for grassroot emergence of democratic initiatives?

As an integration project dedicated to preserving peace among its Member States, the European Union has evolved over the past six decades into a community of like-minded members who share a host of fundamental values such as human rights, equality, freedom and the rule of law. Crucially, democracy is the necessary scaffolding for supporting the principles that guide all EU policies, and which Brussels seeks to promote both within and outside its borders. The EU’s external democracy support efforts have revolved around mechanisms such as accession conditionality and socialisation, underpinned by the transfer of values, norms and procedures across an expanding area of EU external action. But while the definitive prospect of membership provided strong incentives for democratisation to Central and Eastern European candidate countries, the challenges to democracy support in the EU’s eastern and southern neighbourhood proved more formidable.

These challenges can come in various ways:

  1. From the EU itself as the process of integration is continuing and as its own member states face democratic backsliding and erosion through the increase in right-wing populist party support;
  2. From the geopolitical location of the EU’s eastern and southern neighbours, considering the Great Power competition with Russia, China, the US and the sensitive relations in the Middle East;
  3. From the demand for democracy and support for democratisation processes within the countries of the eastern and southern neighbourhood.

Contributions to the workshop reflected on these challenges and their effects on the European Union’s democracy promotion.

The workshop was supported by three Horizon Europe sister projects:

REDEMOS: Reconfiguring EU Democracy Support – Towards a sustained demos in the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood

SHAPEDEM-EU: Rethinking and Reshaping the EU’s Democracy Support in its Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood

EMBRACE: Embracing Change: Overcoming Blockages and Advancing Democracy in the European Neighbourhood.


EMBRACE is co-coordinated by the Chair of International Relations and European Studies. More about EMBRACE can be found here.