The European Union’s approach and support to the MENA has mainly focused on economic stability and neoliberal reforms. Several scholars argued that these neoliberal policies exacerbated the people’s despair over their own economic situation, partially causing the Arab Uprisings on 2010/11. Nonetheless, in the years after the Uprisings, the EU continued to emphasise the promotion of “deep democracy” in combination with economic reforms. By analysing the European Union’s Single Support Framework for Egypt for 2017-2020, this article shows that economic development and the implementation of neoliberal reforms still remain the focus of the EU’s approach to the region. Moreover, the EU assumes a spillover effect from economic development to democratisation by equating these two.
For decades, the European Union’s democratisation of its neighbours and potential future accession countries has been the primary objective of its external relations and at the core of what constitutes it as “soft power”. Now, 16 years after the accession of the eastern European countries, it remains questionable whether the intended democratisation succeeded. Several countries, above all Hungary and Poland, show increasing authoritarian tendencies and a retreat from liberal democracy. This article analyses the EU’s democratisation process before the 2004 enlargement and seeks to shed light on whether and why democratisation seems to have failed in Eastern European countries.