Negotiating democracy with authoritarian regimes. EU democracy promotion in North Africa

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In order to better understand the dynamics of international cooperation on democracy promotion with authoritarian regimes, this article looks into the processes and results of negotiations on democracy (promotion) between the European Union (EU) and two of its North African neighbours (Morocco, Tunisia) in the decade leading up to the Arab uprisings. Asking if, how, and to what effect the EU and its Mediterranean partners have negotiated issues related to democracy promotion, it analyses official documents issued on the occasion of their respective association council meetings in 2000-2010. It shows that partners have indeed addressed these issues since the early 2000s, however, without engaging in substantive exchanges. Most of the time, conflicts have been neither directly addressed nor resolved. Where there are traces of actual negotiations leading to an agreement, these are clearly based on a logic of bargaining rather than arguing. These findings challenge the picture of harmony and cooperation between the EU and Morocco. Furthermore, they point to the low quality of these exchanges which reinforces the dilemma of international democracy promotion in cooperation with authoritarian regimes.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)869-888
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 04.07.2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I would like to thank the members of the German Research Network “External Democracy Promotion” and all the participants of the panel on “Negotiating International Democracy Promotion” at the 2018 Annual Convention of the International Studies Association for their valuable feedback. Special thanks go to Anke Draude, Sonja Grimm, Julia Leininger, Annika Poppe, Esther Seha, Jonas Wolff, and the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on earlier versions of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

    Research areas

  • authoritarianism, bargaining, democracy promotion, European Union, leverage, Morocco, negotiation, Tunisia
  • Politics