Challenges of Democracy in the European Union and its Neighbours

On the 23rd of May in Brussels, the Centre for European Political Studies (CEPS) presented the book: “Challenges of Democracy in the European Union and its Neighbours” by Aylin Ünver Noi and Sasha Toperich (SAIS 2015).

The authors of the book addressed the following problem: Democracy, which protects freedom and citizens’ rights more than any other form of governance, is in crisis. In recent years, it has been sorely tested in both the centre of Europe and in its periphery. Citizens’ trust in the European Union’s democratic institutions is waning. The EU’s ‘normative power’ – its ability to spread its norms and values to other states, and its ‘soft power’ – its ability to attract others to its point of view – are now seen as less likely to spread democracy within EU countries or to create a ring of well-governed states among its neighbours. Democracy and its institutions need to adapt to these new challenges.

The editors of the book Asst. Prof. Aylin Ünver Noi and Dr. Sasha Toperich – both IMG_1731researchers at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies-SAIS – presented the case studies of Turkey as well as of Bosnia and Herzegovina demonstrating challenges to the democratization in these countries and the failures of the European transformative power.

Prof. Dr. Mario Telo, Emeritus IEE-ULB President and Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Belgium, addressed the conceptual challenge to transnational democracies in the EU. He suggested a post-revisionist approach for re-thinking the EU’s external policy. Since the EU failed as a normative power and has no chance to develop as a military power due to its historical background, Prof. Telo suggests it could further develop as a civilian power. Moreover, he stressed the need to develop a partnership approach in the EU’s external relations, instead of the Eurocentric one.

Talking of EU-Russia relations, Prof. Telo stressed that this is an exception. Against the background of the destructive external governance of Russia towards the EU in form of financial support to the far right political parties and anti-EU movements, Russia does not fit into the conceptual framework of post-revisionist approach. On the long term, the EU has to change its relations with Russia. Prof. Telo said:

Russia represents an assertive illiberal regime, which wants to destroy the European Union.