Embracing change:
Overcoming obstacles and advancing democracy in the European Neighbourhood

Since the colour revolutions in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, and the Arab Spring in MENA, few countries in the European neighbourhood have made progress in democratisation. Instead, reverse trends towards de-democratisation and il-liberalisation can be observed.

The EU-funded EMBRACE project will investigate obstacles to democratisation in the European neighbourhood and identify ways to overcome them. It will examine various types of blockages (behavioural, institutional, structural) and study the cultural, historical and geopolitical contexts in which they emerge. The project will engage partners from EU and non-EU countries. Its work will include the development of an innovative policy toolkit supporting the EU’s efforts in promoting democracy in its Eastern and Southern neighbourhood.

Project duration

3 years

Grant amount

2,8 million €


13 institutions
+ 1 associated Partner


1 October 2022
  • EMBRACE analyses blockages to democratisation in the European neighbourhood, identifies ways to overcome them and suggests new policy tools for EU democracy promotion (EUDP).
  • EMBRACE takes stock of developments in democracy-building, assessing EUDP instruments, ambitions and concepts.
  • EMBRACE investigates episodes of political deadlock and opening to identify, analyse and explain behavioural, institutional and structural blockages, and the conditions under which they can be overcome.
  • EMBRACE is sensitive to variation in democratisation trajectories, and the cultural, historical, and geopolitical context in which blockages emerge. It also keeps an eye on the blockages from within the EU.
  • EMBRACE surveys the local needs for an improved EUDP and develops new policy tools for EUDP practitioners and pro-democracy activists.
  • EMBRACE’s approach to empirical research combines a quantitative large-n with a qualitative middle-n comparative research strategy. Quantitatively, EMBRACE analyses the larger trends of EUDP and its effects on democratisation over the last two decades in all 23 neighbours.
  • EMBRACE investigates qualitatively episodes of deadlock and opening from 12 selected countries in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, Western Balkans, Northern Africa and the Middle East. Intra- and cross-regional comparison is systematically included in EMBRACE’s research design and WP structure. For data collection and analysis, consortium partners located in EU- and in non-EU countries team up.
  • EMBRACE’s combined aim is to advance evidence-based knowledge on blockages in democratisation and ways to overcome them beyond the state of the art while strengthening the capacity of policy-makers and local stakeholders to advance democratisation in the European neighbourhood.
  • EMBRACE aims to identify a social problem, develop and pilot solutions, and refine and validate them in close interactions with relevant stakeholders.
  • EMBRACE will assess the achievements and failures of EUDP in the last two decades, conduct a comprehensive analysis of the conditions under which blockages to democratisation emerge, and identify ways to overcome these blockages based on locally owned solutions.
  • EMBRACE provides the EU with in-depth knowledge and an innovative policy toolkit enhancing partnerships for a stable and secure European neighbourhood, and incentivizing resilient political actors to embrace democratic change.
  • Stockholms Universitet
    Stockholm, Sweden
  • The University of Manchester
    Manchester, United Kingdom

    The associated partner UMAN is funded by UKRI with 200.000 EUR.
  • Universiteit Gent
    Gent, Belgium
  • Universiteit Maastricht
    Maastricht, Netherlands
  • Berghof Foundation Operations GmbH
    Berlin, Germany
  • ARI Centre pour une initiative arabe de réforme
    Paris, France
  • Universität Konstanz
    Konstanz, Germany
  • Universidad de Lleida
    Lleida, Spain
  • Univerzitet u Beogradu
    Belgrade, Serbia
  • Elliniko Idryma Evropaikis kai Exoterikis Politikis
    Athens, Greece
  • Ukrainska Asociaciya Evropeyskih Studiy
    Kiew, Ukraine
  • Ilia State University
    Tbilisi, Georgia
  • concentris research management gmbh
    Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany
  • Pal-Think for Strategic Studies
    Gaza, Palestine


Dr. Véronique Dudouet
Berghof Foundation Operations GmbH


PD Dr. Sonja Grimm
University of Konstanz

Project Management

concentris research management gmbh (concentris)
82256 Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)8141 6252 8570
Email: info [at] embrace-democracy.eu