New Governance and the European Employment Strategy (Routledge Research in EU Law)

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Flores L. Iapadre and M. Schulz eds. De Lombaerde ed. From Luxembourg to Lisbon and Beyond. Maastricht: EIPA pp. Deckmyn ed. Increasing Transparency in the European Union? Laursen ed. Odense University Press pp. Rethinking the European Union. Free trade agreements and customs unions. Experiences, challenges and constraints. Best, S.

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Duke and P. Direct and Participatory Democracy at Grassroots Level. Jacobs, F. While the actions taken by Russia and China are well known, many other governments are also becoming more open, systematic, and effective in reducing the scope for externally supported democracy initiatives.

Over one hundred governments, including many in the EU, have in recent years imposed some kind of restrictions on civil society, ranging from outright violent attacks through to harsh new laws against nongovernmental organizations NGOs and on to more covert and subtle forms of intimidation. Many governments have clamped down hard on pro-democracy protests, as these have become more numerous around the world in recent years.

Intimidation of journalists is also on the rise. Opposition to democracy support does not take place solely in the domestic context but is increasingly also woven into the foreign policies of key authoritarian states. Former president Barack Obama was relatively cautious in this area of policy. Thanks to Congress, the level of U. Yet, the general direction of U. Manipulation in the digital sphere: A decade ago, the geopolitical consequences of information and communication technology were only just emerging as policy issues and were largely absent from thinking about democracy support.

This is the area of perhaps the most far-reaching change since Authoritarian regimes are now systematically using digital tools to intensify their attacks on democratic reformers and, indeed, on Western democracies. Digital communication technology seems to have become a danger to democracy rather than simply a tool of benign individual empowerment. Many-to-many communication has enabled authoritarian states to subvert the democratic debate through disinformation and misinformation, while hacking and the manipulation of social media threaten the integrity of electoral processes.

More challenging immediate interests: The failure of the Arab Spring uprisings that began in late to bring about true democratic change and the large increase in migration flows in the summer of , along with multiple terrorist attacks in the EU, led to a shift in foreign policy priorities.


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This has resulted in a greater focus within the EU institutions on the short-term goals of stability, security, and curbing migration, with an apparent downgrading of democracy support and development policy. EU troubles: The EU itself does not enjoy the same power or prestige as it did when it agreed on the last council conclusions in While reformers in other regions want support for democracy, they now tend to be more selective in what they seek from the union, and which EU norms and rules they wish to emulate. This means the EU cannot rely to quite the same extent on replicating its own integration model and rules as a means of democracy support.

Policymakers have increasingly recognized this reality, at least rhetorically, but it is a change yet to be fully incorporated into EU external democracy support. Whether measured through nominal gross domestic product GDP or purchasing power parity, the EU share of the global economy continues to decline as the shares of others grow more rapidly. The EU accounted for Ten years ago, some members were ambivalent about democracy support, but today some of them more fundamentally question the validity of trying to uphold democratic norms. Taken together, these challenges raise some profound and searching questions about the wisdom and propriety of democracy support.

The danger appears greater today that outside support may be counterproductive in certain contexts: democracy promotion efforts cause regimes bent on the centralization of power to clamp down far more than in the past. The danger also appears more real that support to certain state institutions can in many contexts be detrimental to democracy in the long term, by consolidating the power of undemocratic regimes rather than promoting inclusive and accountable governance.

Democracy support in such circumstances must be rethought—or many are likely to question whether it still has a place in EU foreign policy at all. In the last several years, these challenges have begun to have an impact on EU democracy support policies. To some degree, they have diluted the European commitment to democracy and human rights globally. Yet in some places, the EU has retained a significant level of effort to foster democratic reforms.

The more difficult contextual factors have not entirely killed off EU democracy support; in some measure, they have accentuated long-standing features of European policies, such as a focus on gently encouraging very incremental change. Overall, EU policies in this area exhibit a degree of continuity. The flipside of this is that the EU has struggled to refashion its democracy and human rights strategies in a way that is commensurate with overarching political and strategic trends.

In the decade since the conclusions, numerous EU documents have referred to the importance of democracy in external action and development policy.

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The Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy and the — Action Plan tightened operational guidelines and improved internal processes. The treaties that govern the EU institutions mention democracy as both a founding value and a principle of external action.

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The EU has never been especially drawn to punitive approaches to democracy support and, if anything, has become more circumspect in its use of political conditionality in the last decade. Yet the union is not averse to using sanctions and additional critical measures for specific foreign policy goals. As of , the EU had more than forty sets of sanctions in place.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, while the union has been willing to use sanctions with notable frequency in the last decade, most of its punitive measures relate to security or stability concerns rather than to democracy.

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While these measures have penalized nondemocratic regimes—and could thus be said indirectly to have a democracy component—the absence of democracy was not the reason why the union imposed the sanctions. On some occasions, the EU has exerted relatively tough pressure more directly in relation to democratic regression.


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The EU pressured the Albanian government with some effect to agree to widespread justice reform as a condition for launching membership negotiations. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the EU adopted targeted sanctions against members of the government who were seeking to exert control over the December presidential and parliamentary elections.

In November , the EU froze support to the government of Tanzania in response to negative political developments in the country. The EU is currently considering whether to suspend Myanmar from the Generalized Scheme of Preferences GSP , which removes import duties from products coming into the EU from certain developing countries. The union has also launched a GSP withdrawal procedure against Cambodia, to be decided on in early This move suggests that the EU has weeded out authoritarian regimes from this more preferential trade scheme. The EU exerts some of its strongest pressure on governments that are at least partly democratic and with which it has especially comprehensive and broad engagement.

Since , the union has on three occasions delayed tranches of macroeconomic aid to Ukraine in response to delays in anticorruption reforms.

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In Georgia in , EU ambassadors pushed hard to ensure that then president Mikheil Saakashvili accepted a transfer of power after his party lost the parliamentary election. In the case of Iran, the EU priority has been to uphold the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which involves a dilution of European sanctions in return for Iran limiting its uranium enrichment activities.

However, the EU has added targeted measures in response to its conviction that the Iranian regime is implicated in the killing of opposition members on European soil. In January , the EU imposed sanctions on the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security and two Iranian nationals, based on indications that they were involved in the killing of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin and in planned attacks in France and Denmark.

In a potentially significant step forward in December , EU foreign ministers approved a Dutch proposal for an EU-wide sanctions regime to apply to individuals guilty of human rights abuses.

The proposal also includes the use of majority voting to make sanctions easier to deploy. In March , the European Parliament backed this proposal. Discussions are ongoing among the ambassadors of the EU member states in the Political and Security Committee, with a view to adopting a new sanctions instrument when the next foreign policy high representative takes office in November. These examples show that the EU has sometimes exerted pressure on democracy-related issues through punitive measures.