The European Union and Democratization

By Paul J. Kubicek | Go to book overview

1

International norms, the European Union, and democratization

Tentative theory and evidence

Paul J. Kubicek

Numerous states, international organizations, and international non-governmental organizations take an active interest in promoting democracy and human rights across the globe. Alliances, trade pacts, and economic assistance are offered as means to encourage political liberalization or foster democratic consolidation. Whereas in the initial literature on democratization international factors and agents were assigned an "indirect, usually marginal role," 1 in the post-Cold War environment these variables have arguably become "more decisive" and exerted a "more profound" influence. 2 This has been most obvious in the countries of Eastern Europe, where one can speak of the international influences of Gorbachev's reforms, the role of transnational communications, the "contagion effect" that led communist regimes to fall like dominoes across the region, and the moral example of Western democracies as factors that spurred political change. More generally, one can argue that the changes of 1989-1991 have created a new international environment more conducive for democratization, and indeed in the past decade one has witnessed numerous efforts to establish democratic systems throughout parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The notion that democracies do not fight each other gives an added justification for democratic states to encourage the formation of democracies elsewhere.

Among international actors interested in democratization, a leading role should be assigned to the European Union (EU). The EU itself, of course, is composed of fifteen democratic states, and in recent years it has made several efforts to transform itself from primarily a trading bloc into an important international actor in the political arena. Among changes in the EU's foreign relations have been an emphasis on democratization, human rights, genuine pluralism, and the rule of law. These concerns have been enshrined in European Council declarations dating from 1991, Association and Partnership and Cooperation Agreements with former Communist states, the Maastricht Treaty, the most recent Lomé Convention, and in the 1993 Copenhagen Criteria establishing democratic requirements for EU membership. 3 Development aid has been made increasingly conditional on the recipients' respect for human rights. Programs, such as PHARE (Poland and Hungary Assistance for the Restructuring of the Economy), have been

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