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Tattered EU Flag: Photo: “Tattered EU flag,” by Derek Bennett licensed under CC BY 2.0 DEED. The hue is modified from the original.

Olga Burlyuk, Assem Dandashly & Gergana Noutcheva (2023) External democracy promotion in times of internal rule-of-law crisis: the EU and its neighbourhood, Journal of European Public Policy


This article seeks to unpack the implications of the deteriorating rule of law within the EU’s eastern members for the EU’s external democracy promotion. We examine the legitimacy of the EU’s support for democracy in the European neighbourhood in light of the internal EU rule-of-law crisis. Adopting a sociological perspective, we emphasize local perceptions of the EU by tracing the legitimation dynamics at play in neighbouring societies. We adopt a tripartite conception of external legitimacy based on appropriateness, utilitarian consensus, and empathy. Using representative public opinion surveys, we show that the democratic erosion in the eastern EU members has not (yet) negatively impacted the EU’s credibility in supporting democracy in the neighbourhood. The article contributes to the research on the legitimacy of EU foreign policy and the literature on the legitimacy of international organizations. It also contributes to the broader effort at provincializing International Relations and decentring EU foreign policy studies.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.