External democracy promotion in times of internal rule-of-law crisis: the EU and its neighbourhood

Olga Burlyuk, Assem Dandashly, Gergana Noutcheva*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Feb 2023


  • Legitimacy
  • EU foreign policy
  • perceptions
  • decentring
  • rule of law
  • European neighbourhood

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