EU democracy projection in Tunisia: The case of civil society consultations

By Ragnar Weilandt


Tunisia’s civil society has widely been identified as one of the factors that prevented the country from following the unfortunate path of other Arab states in which long-term autocrats were ousted in 2011. Hence, the EU has identified it as a key interlocutor, began to provide more substantial support to associations and started to regularly consult with activists. While substantial research has been devoted to the EU’s financial assistance for civil society, interactions outside the donor-recipient relationship have received less attention. In line with this special issues’ objective to examine how the EU projects democratic norms through its interactions with non-state actors in in the Southern Mediterranean, this article zooms in on its consultations with Tunisian civil society. It finds that the EU is including only a non-representative subset of civil society activists as a result of its practices. To what extent these activists’ perspectives and preferences are conveyed to Brussels is not entirely clear either. Moreover, some of its practices strengthen the perception of the EU being a patronizing and paternalistic actor.