Did the European Union Light a Beacon of Hope in North Africa? Assessing the Effectiveness of EU Democracy Promotion in Tunisia

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Series Details Volume 2017, Number 6
Publication Date May 2017
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This analysis addresses the European Union’s (EU) democracy promotion policy in Tunisia, aiming at understanding its evolution and at assessing its effectiveness: how did the EU’s approach to democracy promotion evolve overtime? To what extent was it effective in promoting Tunisia’s democratic transition?

In order to assess the impact of an external actor in the democratic transition, I opted for a two-folded approach: on the one hand, I analysed the EU’s declaratory policy regarding democracy promotion and its implementation. On the other hand, I identified several domestic key actors and analysed their perception of the EU’s contribution to the transition process. I argue that the EU did not apply a ‘democracy promotion’ policy, as this concept implies preparing the ground for political change by actively promoting democratic values. In Tunisia, the EU rather applied a ‘democracy support’ policy: once the regime collapsed, the EU exploited the new ‘window of opportunity’. However, the EU did not have a substantial impact on the outcome of Tunisia’s democratisation: according to the key players’ perception, the EU positively contributed to the success of the transition, but it did not make the difference: Tunisia would have become a democracy with or without the EU’s political and financial support.

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