A clash of norms: Normative power and EU democracy promotion in Tunisia

Brieg Tomos Powel

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39 Citations (SciVal)


As the European Union (EU) evolved as an international actor in the 1990s, it placed a commitment to promote certain values at the core of its foreign policy. These values include democracy, and alongside others such as a respect for human rights and the rule of law, they have resulted in the branding of the EU by some scholars as a ‘normative power’. Democracy, however, is but one of many values promoted by the EU, and may not necessarily represent the most important in its relationship with Tunisia, where President Zine el Abidine Bin Ali and the ruling elite base their authority on claims championing stable development, modernization, and promoting secular values. Political actors advocating different values to the government are suppressed in the name of stability, leaving little space for a democratic opposition to develop. Evidence suggests that in the Tunisian context, stability is now increasingly preferred by EU policy-makers. This has a negative effect on both the potential for external support for political reform in Tunisia, and on the EU's wider claims to being committed to the promotion of democracy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-214
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Tunisia
  • European Union
  • democracy promotion
  • normative power
  • Euro-Mediterranean Partnership


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