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The Politics of Double-Standard? Revisiting the EU’s Engagement with Authoritarian Regimes

Giselle Bosse
Maastricht Universiteit
Elena Baracani
Università di Bologna
Tom Casier
University of Kent

Abstract

The proposed workshop aims to critically analyse the EU’s multilateral foreign policy towards authoritarian regimes on its Southern and Eastern rim. The popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen in early 2011 have not only shaken the ruling political elites but also international diplomacy, notably that of the EU, which, over decades, did not hesitate to consider the regimes in the Mediterranean as strategic allies. The recent events in Egypt and elsewhere in the region are exemplary for an EU policy that is fearful that democratic transformation of the countries could endanger stability. Likewise, the EU’s pragmatic engagement with Belarus under the Eastern Partnership was severely called into question following the brutal crackdown of demonstrations held in central Minsk following the presidential elections in late December 2010. The workshop analyses what paradigms and strategies have guided EU policies towards authoritarian regimes over the past decades, to what extent the EU has applied double standards and the factors which explain the recent failures of EU policies vis-à-vis authoritarian regimes such as Egypt, Tunisia or Belarus. Most studies to date focus on the effectiveness of EU policy towards countries which aspire integration with the EU (‘most likely’ cases). Very few attempts have been made to provide a comprehensive study contrasting EU engagement with countries which have explicitly ruled out integration with the EU (‘least likely’ cases). The current literature on EU foreign policy clearly lacks a coherent comparative study of EU relations with authoritarian regimes across geographical space.

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