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EMBRACE analyses blockages to democratisation, identifies ways to overcome them and suggests new policy tools to improve the European Union’s democracy promotion

EMBRACE progress beyond the state of the art: The “rosy” picture of democracy promotion, which has been heavily criticised in research, is the starting point of the EMBRACE research. After all the rosy picture is rarely, if ever, matched by reality. On the contrary, despite intensive efforts by the EU and other pro-democracy-oriented actors in the last three decades, de-democratisation (democratic backsliding or democratic regression, in other words) and autocratisation (the strengthening of authoritarianism and authoritarian resilience) have been on the rise in partner countries.

The “rosy” picture of democracy promotion

EMBRACE starts its analysis of varieties of democratisation in the domestic political arenas of the Union’s neighbours. EMBRACE develops and makes use of a new theoretical framework, systematising and typologising blockages to democratisation in the domestic political arena in three different regime contexts:
(1) defective democracies and hybrid regimes that chose a trajectory of moderate democratisation in the aftermath of popular uprisings;
(2) deeply entrenched authoritarian regimes that at best pay lip service to liberalisation demands or, more frequently, reject such demands; and
(3) post-conflict political regimes whose (sometimes externally imposed) consociational democratic institutions have led to crisis-prone types of stalemate.
EMBRACE analyses and explains constellations of blockages to democratisation in all five regions of the European neighbourhood and searches for those common conditions under which blockages to democratisation emerge. This allows EMBRACE to understand and explain in a more comprehensive, systematic and theory-driven way why democratisation has stalled and how the EU – unintentionally – contributes to this result. On this ground, solutions to overcome these blockages can be built.

EMBRACE’s concept of blockages to democratization