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The EU's two-track approach to democracy promotion: the case of Ukraine

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This contribution argues that the European Union (EU) promotes two forms of democracy in its policy towards Ukraine: formal democracy (institutions and procedures at polity level guaranteeing a free and fair electoral process) and substantive democracy (principles and mechanisms that allow for an ongoing societal control over policy processes). While the first form of democracy is mainly promoted through intergovernmental channels, the latter is promoted both at a transgovernmental and more weakly at an intergovernmental level. The question raised is why more progress has been made in formal democratic reforms in Ukraine (between 2006 and 2009), than in the field of substantive democracy. Two explanations are put forward: the higher visibility of formal democratic reforms in the framework of Ukraine's legitimacy seeking with the EU and the strategic behaviour of domestic actors. It is argued that institutional democratic reforms are regarded as the litmus test for Ukraine's feasibility for future EU membership and act to a degree as a sort of ‘self-imposed’ conditionality. This, however, is counterbalanced by strategic behaviour of domestic actors, resisting deeper democratic change to compensate for the power they lose as a result of a more democratic electoral process. The EU's one-sided emphasis on the promotion of formal democracy over substantive democracy facilitates this.
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Keywords: European Neighbourhood Policy; European Union; Ukraine; democracy promotion; democratization; substantive democracy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Brussels School of International Studies,University of Kent, Boulevard de la Plaine 5, 1050Brussels, Belgium

Publication date: 2011-08-01

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