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Debora Del Piano

GEM-DIAMOND doctoral fellow

ESR 4 – EU grand strategy in a competitive system: European liberal democracy in a multipolar world

Since I've always been interested in the Middle East and North Africa, I started my academic career with a BA in Foreign Languages to study Arabic language and literature. During my BA, nonetheless, I realized I was particularly interested in the political phenomena peculiar to the area, and hence I moved towards the study of Political Science, and finally International Relations.
In the latest years, my academic focus has shifted from a sole interest in MENA countries, towards the study of their relation with the European Union. During my PhD journey, in particular, I will research EU democracy promotion efforts towards selected countries in the MENA, and how these projects are perceived and received on the ground.

Host Institutions

EU grand strategy in a competitive system: European liberal democracy in a multipolar world


  • Raffaele Marchetti
  • Anders Wivel

Research abstract

Dissensus and contestation have become increasingly researched topics in IR. In the field of European foreign policy, the study of dissensus has thus far most prominently regarded the emergence of competitive sets of norms and values promoted by a vast plurality of ‘new’ actors. This is especially visible in the EU’s so-called ‘Southern Neighborhood’.
The role of the EU in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has evolved throughout the years. Before the so-called Arab Uprisings (2010-11), the EU overall focus was on the promotion of slight reforms against the framework of cooperation with established regimes on migration, terrorism, energy and economic matters, first at multilateral level with the 1995 Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, and later at a bilateral level with the 2003 European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) which has so far been revised twice (in 2011 and 2015).
The 2015 ENP Review marked a change in the EU’s attitude towards the area, with a deeper focus on the engagement with civil society actors aimed at promoting ‘deep’ democracy and human rights. Nonetheless, most MENA countries have shown little or no advancement in this regard, with worsening social and political polarization becoming more and more manifest.
In the last decades, furthermore, the increasingly diversified volume of aid, investment and general foreign involvement in the MENA area has seemed to decrease the influence of the EU in favor of rising international and regional actors.
Against this background, the aim of this research would be twofold. While on one hand, the author wants to assess the extent of success of EU-funded democracy promotion projects in the area, it aims, above all, at defining and investigating the dissensus stemming from those very projects in its Southern Neighborhood, and whether this dissensus is paving the way to illiberal power foci contesting its normative role.