The promotion of democracy and human rights is proclaimed as a fundamental objective of European foreign policy. However, despite some notable successes, above all through the process of enlargement, European promotion of democratic values now appears to have stalled. To find out why, and to explore how the European Union may make its support of democracy and human rights more effective, ECFR has joined with the Madrid-based think tank FRIDE to launch a research project on democracy promotion.
The project is based on the idea that the challenges Europe faces in promoting democracy and human rights require both new thinking and new commitment. The process of enlargement, which has been at the centre of European achievements in supporting democratic reform, is slowing. At the same time, the economic success and political confidence of countries like Russia and China appears to present a plausible rival to liberal democracy, while the Iraq War may have tarnished the wider appeal of democracy promotion.
The task of assessing Europe's ability to promote democratic values is an urgent one. The ECFR/FRIDE project will try to meet this challenge by looking at Europe's record in supporting democracy and human rights in the European neighbourhood, since this is the region where European influence is greatest and at which European efforts have been most heavily directed. The European neighbourhood is the laboratory where Europe's efforts to integrate democratic rights into its foreign policy will most clearly succeed or fail.
As part of the project, ECFR and FRIDE have commissioned a book looking in depth at Europe's record in supporting political reform in a group of representative countries from the Eastern and Southern neighbourhood. The book examines the following countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ukraine, Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco. Building on the working papers, we will then publish a report that gives an overview of the book's findings.