Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsIn this lecture, we invite you to recall our discussion in Week five about how Europe was constructed as a democratic space. You have learned that identity and democracy are mutually intertwined. Democracy is a relationship between the government and the people. For multiple individuals to become a people, they need something that will bond them together. They need some sort of a common identity. Precisely this lack of a common European identity, a European demos, has often been cited as a main challenge to the legitimacy of EU institutions and policy making.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 secondsWhereas the legitimacy of the EU's governing processes has been quite extensively discussed in Weeks four and five, we will now unbond the relationship between identity and democracy to reveal how Europe is constructed, vis-a-vis the non-Europe. You have heard several times already that any form of identity formation entails a process of setting boundaries. It's quite simple. By saying who I am, I also say who I am not. And vice versa, by saying who I am not, I also define who I am. By the very same logic, by saying that Europe is a democratic space, we also say that non-democratic countries cannot be European.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 secondsThe relationship between the EU and countries of Central Europe and Eastern Europe present a good case in point. Not only was democratisation a focal point of all EU's policies in the region, also, for countries of Central Europe, EU accession meant a confirmation that their transition to democracy was successful. We should not forget that the region's return to Europe discourse, which was so passionately promoted by intellectuals such as Vaclav Havel, had a very strong emphasis on democracy. Today, more than a decade after the EU's enlargement to the east, democracy and democracy promotion remain a key component of EU's relations with the eastern and southeastern neighbours. It is central to who the EU is as a global and a regional actor.

Skip to 2 minutes and 35 secondsSo what do we mean with the other, and who is Europe's other? And how is this all related to democracy? So far, it's all relatively peachy. Democracy is a key value of the Union. It is even explicitly stated in the treaties. And the Union promotes democracy beyond its borders. At times, as democratic transformations in Central Europe have shown us, it is even successful in this process. So where is the problem, or is there a problem at all? Well, this story is very Eurocentric. On top of that, it is EU-centric. Europe and EU certainly have much to say on the question of democracy.

Skip to 3 minutes and 23 secondsAt the same time, we should refrain from saying our model of democracy is the best, and you should all follow it. Europeanisation in the field of democratisation and EU's external democratisation agenda needs to remain open to connections and a dialogue with other countries. This concerns EU neighbours in particular, as these countries are the main beneficiaries of the EU's democratisation efforts. Democracy should be promoted through mutual engagement, dialogue, and practises of empowerment. Any other format will meet resistance. So how is this Europe's other imagined, and what kind of a European project does it legitimise? If the EU constructs itself as democratic, then the flip side of the story is that it needs to have somebody else who is non-democratic.

Skip to 4 minutes and 21 secondsAuthors such as Iver Neuman or Thomas Diez continue to stress that by criticising governance processes and policies in its own member states or Eastern or Southeastern Europe as problematic, the EU has legitimised its own role as a foreign policy actor. Sanctions against Austria in 2000, the European Neighbourhood Policy, but also the very recent reactions to the political processes in Hungary or Poland are a good case in point. They show us how EU identity is defined through democratisation discourse. By openly criticising, for instance, the Polish media laws, or by demanding stronger involvement of civil society in decision making in the scope of the Neighbourhood Policy, the EU creates a precise boundary between democratic and the non-democratic.

Skip to 5 minutes and 21 secondsThe EU establishes a particular identity for itself by othering third parties as non-democratic. It also legitimises its own democratisation agenda and terms itself as a positive force in international relations. So what are the consequences of this practise of othering? Sharon Pardo's study of the EU's relations with Israel reveals a lot. Pardo argues that the demands made on Israel had a greater impact on the EU's own self-identification than on the Israeli policies that faced EU's criticism. Pardo's findings confirmed that a direct consequence of the EU's democratisation agenda is a confirmation of the EU's own identity as a foreign policy actor.

Skip to 6 minutes and 10 secondsPardo also explains that the demands for action against Israel were first articulated by the EU citizens, and only then adopted by the political elites. EU citizens thought it was the right thing to do for the EU to promote democracy beyond its borders. A failure to act would compromise the idea of democracy as one of the core norms that define the European Union. Pardo confirms the thesis that othering is essential to self-identification. He shows how othering of third parties as non-democratic strengthens the idea of Europe as a space of democracy. But how actually can we find the voice of the other? Where do we find these voices? And how is democracy constructed from Europe's margins?

Skip to 7 minutes and 4 secondsDemocratisation efforts can be meaningful only if they are conducted in an open dialogue with all of the involved parties. We can give the others a voice if we move away from a strictly EU-centric reading of democracy. To be able to do that, EU elites and citizens need to be self-reflective. Firstly, they need to reconsider the idea that democratisation is a linear progression towards a certain fixed model of democracy. Secondly, the EU's democratisation agenda needs to include the perspective of the others. And thirdly, democratisation should become an open dialogue that includes and empowers also bottom-up actors.

European democracy and/as the Other

In this video, Dr Senka Neuman-Stanivukovic explains how processes of othering influence the EU’s foreign policy.

In this lecture, we invite you to recall our discussion in Week 5 about how Europe was constructed as a democratic space. You have learned that identity and democracy are mutually intertwined. Democracy is a relationship between the government and the people. For multiple individuals to become a people, they need something that will bound them together; they need some form of a common identity.

Precisely this lack of a common European identity, or a European demos – Europeans – has often been cited as a main challenge to the legitimacy of EU institutions and policy-making. We will now unbound the relationship between identity and democracy to reveal how Europe is constructed vis-à-vis ‘non-Europe’. If the EU constructs itself as democratic, then the flip side is that it needs to see some else as non-democratic.

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European Culture and Politics

University of Groningen

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