The EU’s First Response to the ‘Arab Spring’: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity

Mediterranean Politics, Vol. 17, Issue 3, 2012

This paper uses critical discourse analysis (CDA) to analyse the EU’s first policy reassessment in light of the Arab uprisings. COM(2011)200 A Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity (PfDSP) claims to outline a new framework for EU Democracy Assistance (DA) based on a new conception of democracy, and a new position for democracy in the EU’s external relations. The paper analyses PfDSP and one of its key antecedents, COM(2001)252, to assess this claim, focusing on the way two pillars of the debate on democracy – civil–political and socio-economic rights – are defined and how they are organized into a narrative about democracy and its promotion. This analysis suggests that the conceptual structure – and therefore policy implications – of PfDSP maintain unaltered the substantive vision of a liberal model for both development and democratization in the region. This continuity sets the EU up to repeat earlier mistakes, which resulted before 2011 in the poor reputation of the EU on democracy promotion among pro-democracy opposition groups – many of which were central to the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings.

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