Skip to main content
Centre for European Research

Critical Perspectives on Democracy Promotion in the Mediterranean

17 May 2018 - 18 May 2018

Time: 2:00 - 2:00pm

Workshop co-organised by the Centre of European Research, School of Politics and International Relations of Queen Mary University of London and the Department of International Relations and the Institute for European Studies, University of Malta with the support of Malta Enterprise.




The Arab uprisings have exposed the failure of European foreign policies towards the Mediterranean region. The Arab uprisings and their lasting consequences have displayed the inadequacies of external democracy promoters who have overlooked the roots of the uprisings namely socio-economic inequalities, the gap between centres and peripheries, and the lack of prospects for youth.

By acting as if the uprisings embraced a Western liberal democracy model, the US and the EU have failed to take into account what some authors have called the ‘contingent character of democracy’. Neoliberal economic policy recipes have also continued as before, ignoring the negative consequences they might have on the local populations, for instance by deepening inequalities or strengthening central authoritarian institutions. Demonstrations, linking political and economic demands, have continued. Transnational links in the region are evolving, such as for instance the transnational Islamist feminist movements, Amazigh activism and linkages between anti-corruption campaign mobilizations across the Mediterranean.

Starting from an evaluation of EU foreign policies post-Arab uprisings, this research seminar will analyse similarities and differences in Mediterranean mobilisations and how the EU, but also other external democracy promoters, have responded to it. This seminar is particularly interested in providing new avenues for research from a critical international relations perspective and encourage an ability to de-centre a research agenda that has remained very Western-centric so far.


PROGRAMME - Day 1 (17th May):

Arrival of participants, registration

14:00-14:30 - Welcoming and Presentation of the overall project.

M. Harwood, A. Khakee, and S. Wolff,

14:30-16:00 - Critical Perspectives on Democracy Promotion in the Mediterranean region:

  • Refugee Rentier States in the Middle East – The Domestic Politics of the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Jordan,Lebanon, and Turkey (G. Tsourapas, Birmingham University)
  • Secular Power Europe, colonial legacies and democracy promotion (S. Wolff, QMUL)
  • Post-colonial perspectives on democratization and democracy promotion in the Mediterranean (D. Fenech, University of Malta)

Discussant: A. Khakee, University of Malta

16:15-17:45 - Changing geopolitics and regional spheres of influence:

  • Qatari influence on Maghreb’s domestic politics: a practical geopolitics approach, (B. Aras, Sabanci University).
  • A critical perspective on the ENP geo-politics of democracy promotion, (R. Youngs, Carnegie Europe)
  • EU engagement in the Mediterranean region after the Arab uprisings (R. Pace, University of Malta)

Discussant: M. Wohlfeld, Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, University of Malta

18.00 - Keynote Speaker: Dr Michael Frendo - Maltese Minister for Foreign Affairs (2004 -2008) and Speaker of the House of Representative (2010-2013)

Day 2 (18th May):

09:30-10:30- The political economy of democracy promotion in the Mediterranean region:

  • Inclusion of societal actors in Euro Mediterranean trade negotiations: the cases of Morocco and Tunisia (A. Khakee, University of Malta)
  • Post-Arab Spring politics: the pitfalls of globalisation’s economic and social liberalisation, (Imad Salamey, Lebanese American University)

Discussant: R. Pace, University of Malta

10:30-11:00 - Break

11:00-12:30 - New social and political transnational activism in the Mediterranean:

  • The European Endowment for Democracy’s role in the MENA region: Selecting change makers and facilitating transregional civil society networks? (S. Bergh, ISS)
  • Youth agency and political engagement in the Mediterranean, (M. Catusse IREMAM Aix en Provence)
  • Democratisation without Coercion: Parliamentary Bodies in the Mediterranean (M. Harwood, University of Malta)

Discussant: S. Wolff, QMUL

12:30-13:45 - Lunch for panellists and discussants

(From 14:00 - participants leave)



Among the vast number of participants, on the first day Dr Sarah Wolff (QMUL) will present a paper on ‘Secular Power Europe, colonial legacies and democracy promotion’, Prof. Roderick Pace (University of Malta) will focus on ‘EU engagement in the Mediterranean region after the Arab uprisings’ and Prof. Richard Youngs (Carnegie Europe and University of Warwick) will investigate ‘the ENP geo-politics of democracy promotion’. We will also have contributions from Prof. Dominic Fenech (University of Malta) with perspectives on post-colonialism, Prof. Bulent Aras (Sabanci University) on Qatari influence on Maghrebi politics and Dr Sylvia Bergh (Erasmus University Rotterdam) on the European Endowment for Democracy. The second day considers the political economy of democracy promotion in the Mediterranean region. There will be contributions from Dr Anna Khakee (University of Malta) on the inclusion of societal actors in Euro-Mediterranean trade negotiations, Prof. Imad Salamey (Lebanese American University) on the pitfalls of globalisation in the region and of Dr Isabelle Calleja (University of Malta) on the impact of EU funds on the political economy of the West Bank. The workshop will end with a panel on new social and political transnational activism in the Mediterranean, with the participation of Dr Gerasimos Tsourapas (University of Birmingham) on migrants’ agency, Dr Myriam Catusse (Aix-Marseille Université) on youth agency and Dr Mark Harwood (University of Malta) on parliaments.



The workshop, convened by Dr. Sarah Wolff, Dr. Anna Khakee and Dr Mark Harwood, is open to the public, and we welcome especially post-graduate students and academics. Entry is on a first come, first served basis and a maximum of 55 attendees will be welcomed. Therefore, if you are interested to participate, please email the Institute at

Back to top