Ambiguity as a Condition of Possibility: the European Endowment for Democracy and Democracy Promotion in the Caucasus

Simon Tordjman


In June 2012, the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) was established with an aim to address the shortcomings of existing EU programmes and provide direct assistance to opposition forces and civil society groups in both the Southern and Eastern Neighbourhood. According to its Statutes, the EED is governed by EU member states and institutions, but is officially registered as a private foundation under the Belgian law. Institutional ambiguity was meant to enable the EED to operate in a more flexible and less bureaucratic manner. Yet, the blurred position of the Endowment has also catalysed a constellation of interests and divergent approaches related to the mere methods and objectives of democratisation policies (regime change vs. incremental transformation, empowering subjects vs. democratising institutions, visibility vs. discrete operations). Through a particular focus on EED interventions in Armenia and Azerbaijan, based on participant observation and a series of interviews conducted in Brussels and the Caucasus, the contribution argues that ambiguity does not represent an obstacle to the operationalisation of the EU democracy support policy. On the contrary, oversights and differences of interpretation about the “problem” to be addressed and the methods to be implemented constitute the very condition of possibility for the autonomisation of democracy assistance and the maintenance of several initiatives in the region.


European Union, European Endowment for Democracy, Democratisation, Caucasus, Civil Society

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