New Publication: EU democracy projection in the Southern Mediterranean a practice analysis

By Anna Khakee and Sarah Wolff


This special issue expands on the existing literature on the international dimension of democratization by focusing on democracy projection, defined as the projection of (democratic) norms in the every-day practice of interactions, beyond any donor-recipient relationship, between states and foreign civil society actors on issue areas where both have interests to defend. The SI examines the issue areas of trade, anti-corruption, applied research, gender and LGBTI, focusing on EU practices in its everyday dealings with civil society in the Southern Mediterranean. The authors conclude, based on comparative case studies relying on extensive interviews, direct observations and content analysis, that democracy projection varies according to four main factors: EU’s perceived interest, its ideational commitment to norms of dialogue and inclusion, the degree of institutional inertia and discourses/structures of meanings dominating in some policy areas which preclude EU engagement on substance.

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New Publication: Gender equality in Tunisia: The EU’s tripartite dialogue

By Sarah Wolff


To what extent is the EU projecting democratic norms in the area of gender? Gender equality and women’s empowerment have been at the heart of the EU’s external action since the Arab uprisings. This article is an in-depth study of how the EU interacts with non-state actors in practice, and beyond the recipient-donor relationship, in the format of tripartite dialogue whereby the EU, civil society and the Tunisian government consult each other before any major EU meeting. First, this article reviews what EU democracy projection involves in the field of gender equality. Then it offers a mapping of the local, active participants on feminism and gender equality. Third, the article focuses on an innovative practice of trust-building, that of the gender sub-group of the tripartite dialogue. The main argument is that the dialogue has provided a new venue to project trust-building practices that are central to the consolidation of democracy. Yet this practice is weakened by the lack of considerations of major divides around gender in Tunisian society. Interaction on democratic norms thus remains secluded to a very selective venue. Democracy projection is, however, not fully ‘transversal’ as the Islamist-secularist cleavage, socioeconomic inequalities and divides of the rural peripheries constrain the impact of the tripartite dialogue and subsequent democracy projection.

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New Publication: European Union Responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic: adaptability in times of Permanent Emergency

By Sarah Wolff and Stella Ladi


Exploring the challenges of Covid-19 for the European Union (EU) during March-August 2020, this article argues that contrary to prior crises the EU has demonstrated a certain degree of adaptability to a ‘permanent’ emergency mode. This adaptability varies across policy areas under study. Inter-crisis learning has been higher in state aid and economic governance than in the area of Schengen. Discursive shifts co-exist and have been central to the areas of cybercrime, economic governance and climate change. Additionally, and despite the tensions, there are signs of renewed political commitment to the European project and an acceleration of decisions and initiatives that had been decided or discussed before the pandemic. Although de-politicization and politicization trends continue to co-exist, we observe politicization at the top with European elites perceiving the Covid-19 emergency as an existential threat for the EU. Finally, we argue that the EU’s adaptability and acceleration of prior trends do not necessarily involve a race that favor supranational tendencies.

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Welcoming New Staff: Agathe Piquet

Agathe Piquet has joined SPIR and the Centre for European Research in January 2020 as a post-doctoral research assistant to the NEXTEUK Project on the future of the EU-UK relations, a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence Project co-funded by the Erasmus + Programme of the European Union.

She holds a MA in Politics (Sciences Po Toulouse) and a MA in International Relations and Security Policies (Toulouse University). She recently completed a PhD in political science at Panthéon-Assas University in Paris, entitled “Europol, a European police? Creation and autonomisation of an agency” under the supervision of Professor Yves Surel. Her dissertation focuses on Europol’s institutional trajectory from the 1990s to 2018 and offers an analytical alternative to the principal-agent model, by exploring the academic works on autonomy, renewed by a cognitive and sociological approach. By demonstrating how Europol has gradually gained some form of autonomy from its complex and multi-level environment, this research offers to contribute to the existing research on the integration of core-state powers. She has taught at Panthéon-Assas University, Saint-Denis University and Villetaneuse University. 

Agathe will assist Sarah Wolff in implementing the working programme of the NEXTEUK project. She will also be teaching POLM072 Case studies in policy-making.