Special Section of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs

Special Section of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs on ‘Comparative Perspectives on the Substance of EU Democracy Promotion’, edited by Anne Wetzel, Jan Orbie and Fabienne Bossuyt, Vol. 28, No. 1, 2015.

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Summary of Contributions:

The introductory article presents the theoretical and empirical contribution of the Special Section on comparative perspectives of the substance of the European Union’s (EU) democracy promotion. It states the central research question and defines what is understood by ‘substance’ of democracy promotion. Next, it motivates the focus on the EU as a major supporter of democracy worldwide, in comparison to other international actors that engage in democracy promotion. Finally, it concludes that in comparison with other international actors, the EU’s conceptual approach to democracy promotion is diffuse, which in turn makes the EU a particularly flexible democracy promoter when it comes to implementation. At the same time, there are limits to this flexibility on the level of concepts and frames, which indicates the distinct character of the substance of EU democracy promotion.

The first two contributions to the Special Section relate mostly to the conceptual dimension of substance, whereas the third article addresses the framing dimension and the three subsequent articles deal with the implementation dimension. Jessica Schmidt compares the conceptual substance of UN and EU democracy promotion through the prism of sovereignty, inspired by the Foucauldian notions of sovereign power and norms-based power. The author claims that UN discourses have been dominated by a sovereignty-focused, institution-centric notion of democracy, while EU discourses have increasingly embraced a social, ‘norms-based’ conception of democracy. Comparing the EU and the US from a political economy perspective, Jeff Bridoux and Milja Kurki, in turn, explain the differences and shifts that exist in the models of liberal democracy that the EU and the US promote. In the empirical part of their article, they analyse US and EU approaches to civil society to illustrate how nuances in politico-economic conceptions of democracy impact on the US and EU democracy promotion through civil society and specifically their delivery methods.

Next, Mariya Omelicheva discerns alternative ways in which democracy and democracy promotion are presented in Central Asia through a frame analysis of the governance forms promoted in the region by the US, the EU, Russia and China. She claims that the substance of the US and EU democracy promotion in Central Asia has neglected the cultural and political contexts of these states, while the Russian and Chinese models of governance and development have provided a better match to the interests of the ruling elites.

Karen Del Biondo compares the substance of EU and US democracy assistance in Ethiopia, paying particular attention to the role of institutions in determining the substance of democracy assistance. Her analysis finds that differences in the democratic substance promoted by the EU and the US can be traced to the interaction between institutions and ideas.

Subsequently, Adam Fagan compares the EU to all the other international democracy promoters active in Kosovo, including NGOs and political foundations. Fagan’s findings suggest that there is greater specialization, especially among the smaller donors, and reveal a move towards a clearer mix of political, developmental and governance-oriented strategies for all democracy promoting actors, including the EU, which has the most comprehensive agenda.

Finally, Tsveta Petrova compares the EU to the new Member States from Central and Eastern Europe. Focusing on Poland and Slovakia, Petrova’s article finds that the latter countries consistently model the substance of their democracy promotion activities on their own transformation experience, notably through their emphasis on civil society. The author indicates, however, that they have been unsuccessful at influencing the EU’s substance into this direction.

Table of Contents

Wetzel, A., J. Orbie, J. and F. Bossuyt, F. (2015) ‘One of What Kind? Comparative Perspectives on the Substance of EU Democracy Promotion’,Introduction: One-of-what-kind? Comparative Perspectives on the Substance of EU Democracy Promotion Cambridge Review of International Affairs 28 (1), pp.28 21-34.

Schmidt, J.(2015) ‘Constructing New Environments versus Attitude Adjustment: Contrasting the Substance of Democracy in UN and EU Democracy Promotion Discourses’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs 28(1), pp.35-54.

Kurki, M. and J. Bridoux, J. (2015) ‘Cosmetic Aagreements and the Ccracks Bbeneath: Iideological Cconvergences and Ddivergences in US and EU's Ddemocracy Ppromotion in Ccivil Ssociety’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs 28(1), pp.55-74.

Omelicheva, M.Y. ( 2015) ‘Competing Perspectives on Democracy and Democratization: Assessing Alternative Models of Democracy Promoted in Central Asian States’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs 28(1), pp.75-94.

Del Biondo, K. (2015) ‘Promoting dDemocracy or the Eexternal cContext? Comparing the sSubstance of EU and US dDemocracy aAssistance in Ethiopia’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs 28(1), pp.95-114.

Fagan, A. (2015) ‘Democracy Promotion in Kosovo: Mapping the Substance of Donor Assistance and a Comparative Analysis of Strategies’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs 28(1), pp.115-135.

Omelicheva, M.Y. 2015 Competing Perspectives on Democracy and Democratization: Assessing Alternative Models of Democracy Promoted in Central Asian States Cambridge Review of International Affairs 28.

Petrova, T. (2015) International, National, or Local? Explaining the Substance of Democracy Promotion: The Case of Eastern European Democracy Promotion’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs 28(1), pp.136-155.

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