A Partnership with Dictatorship: Explaining the Paradigm Shift in European Union Policy towards Belarus

G. Bosse*

*Corresponding author for this work

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13 Citations (Web of Science)


The European Union's policies towards autocratic regimes have come under renewed scrutiny following the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the spring of 2011, and the pressure on the EU to revise its approach towards the region has been growing. Over decades, the EU had pursued a policy of pragmatic engagement with autocratic regimes for stability in the region, to the detriment of democracy promotion. This article examines the EU's policy towards Belarus, often labelled the 'last dictatorship' in Europe, and demonstrates that the EU has not just pursued pragmatic politics in the MENA - it has also gradually moved from democracy promotion towards interest-based functional co-operation in its relations with the most 'reluctant democratizer' in eastern Europe. It is argued here that the case of Belarus and other states with autocratic leanings in eastern Europe are examples of an increasingly institutionalized pragmatic approach of the EU towards autocratic regimes, which is likely to dominate its policies in years to come - notwithstanding the recent events in the MENA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-384
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Common Market Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2012



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