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Rethinking and Reshaping the EU’s Democracy Support in its Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood

The project sets out to rethink, reshape, and review the EU’s democracy promotion policies, while elaborating and pilot testing a novel model of a Democracy Learning Loop. The model conceives of democracy support as collective democratic learning of all stakeholders involved in the process. This approach shifts the conceptualisation of democracy support away from seeing the EU’s partners as objects of foreign policy and instead puts all actors involved centre stage in the making of a more resilient and responsive EU democracy support agenda in both neighbourhoods.

Project number: 101059811 — SHAPEDEM-EU — HORIZON-CL2-2021-DEMOCRACY-01

Duration: 2022-2025

The project is implemented by a consortium of 12 multifaceted research entities and civil society organisations based in the EU and its Southern and Eastern Neighbourhoods. Against the background of the increasing contestation of the EU and the weakening impact of its policies on democracy support practices in the Southern and Eastern Neighbourhoods, SHAPEDEM-EU will test a Democracy Learning Loop to create new channels and tools for interaction between the EU and its neighbours and transfer these findings into policy recommendations for an improved EU policy toolkit.

The project is funded by the EU’s Horizon Europe under Programmes HORIZON.2.2 - Culture, creativity and inclusive society and HORIZON.2.2.1 - Democracy and Governance.

  1. (Re)Conceptualising Democracy & Democracy Support as Social Practices.
  2. Empirical Mapping of Democracy Support & Contestation Practices in the European Neighbourhood.
  3. Fostering Action – Synthesis and Policy Recommendations.

The project develops an analytical framework to evaluate the EU’s past efforts and provide a policy toolkit for the EU to pursue legitimate and effective democracy support practices that empower citizens in its neighbouring countries. By conceptualising democracy support as a social practice, the EU’s policies are perceived as democratic practices in themselves.

The team will collect, assess, and generate policies related to democracy support in six case countries: Lebanon, Palestine, Tunisia, Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia. By applying a mixed-methods approach (from textual and policy analysis, online surveys, focus-groups and citizen juries), researchers will investigate the role of EU member states, key EU institutions, third country actors, and international organisations. In all project phases the impact of gender equality & digital transformations in democracy support will be examined.

The University of Warwick leads Work Package 2 WP2 “Democratic Practices & Democracy Support in the Eastern Neighbourhood”.

WP2 takes stock of democracy-related dynamics in the EU neighbourhood by studying local expectations & practices of democracy. Case-studies include Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia, with Belarus, Azerbaijan and Moldova added where possible.

We aim to:

  • evaluate and contextualise perceptions & social practices of democracy
  • map out gaps in democracy practices & EU democracy support
  • explore mechanisms for a more effective and inclusive Democracy Learning Loop

The project results will be communicated and disseminated through:

  • A comprehensive collective Democracy Support Database, which will include research on local developments in the 6 case countries, the EU’s and selected member states’ and non-EU actors’ democracy support practices.
  • An interactive visualised Democracy Support Digital Dashboard.
  • A pilot tested Democracy Learning Loop.

Elena KorostelevaLink opens in a new window, Professor of Politics and Global Sustainable Development, and Director of IGSD

Dr Anastasiia KudlenkoLink opens in a new window, Research Fellow, IGSD


Project Coordinator:Link opens in a new window 

Justus Liebig University Giessen (JLU)


University of Warwick (UoW)

Carnegie Europe Foundation (CEF)

Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)

Roskilde University (RUC)

Barcelona Centre For International Affairs (CIDOB)

Jagiellonian University (JUK)

National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (NaUKMA)

American University of Beirut (AUB)

Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EAP-CSF)

Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center (KADEM)

European Research And Project Office Gmbh (EURICE)