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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

I have always been interested in the SWANA/MENA region and in the latest years my research focus has shifted from a sole interest in the region, towards the study of specific countries' relations with the European Union.

Host Institutions

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


  • Raffaele Marchetti
  • Anders Wivel

Research abstract

In 2011 a wave of mass mobilizations in several countries in the SWANA/MENA region toppled long-standing dictators and came to be known as ‘Arab Spring’. Mass protests began in Tunisia in December 2010 and then spread like fire to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and in a more limited way to almost every other country in the region. Despite the centrality of socioeconomic grievances as a major cause of the uprisings, soon after the fall of the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt they were put aside and formal transition processes were set in motion.
Already two years after the 'transition', nonetheless, the newly elected governments had not been able to address the grievances that lit the protests in the first place, populist discourses started substituting justice claims, and even in academia the optimism of the first years started fading away.
Counter-revolutionary practices deployed by almost all the regimes in the region as well as calls for stability by Western actors were mirrored by the spread of an ‘Arab winter’ paradigm which contributed to normalize a return to the status quo ante, despite protests cyclically continuing in almost every country in the area.
Even though they have varied across countries, counter-revolutionary discourses and practices since 2011 have contributed to prevent political change in the whole region and have been more or less openly backed by diverse international actors. The meddling of competing regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Qatar, has in fact been mirrored and/or opposed by several Western countries which, hiding behind discourses of democracy and human rights, have actually pursued strategic policies aimed at nothing more than stabilization.
Despite international and domestic resistance, nonetheless, protests have continued, and this resilience is at the core of this research, whose aim is to investigate the reasons why the ongoing contentious processes set off by the Arab Uprisings did not (yet) succeed in achieving meaningful social, political and economic change by tracing the nature and development of the counterrevolutionary discourses and practices and then investigating grassroots alternatives in selected countries.