published on blogs.idos-research.de, 08.02.2023
In her last annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament, European Commission President von der Leyen called for a rethink of the EU’s foreign policy agenda. Reflecting on the global implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she considered that “this is the time to invest in the power of democracies”. Although “our friends in every single democratic nation on this globe” form a core group of like-minded partners with which the EU seeks to shape global goods, von der Leyen also recognised the need to engage beyond the EU’s democratic partners – including through its Global Gateway infrastructure investment initiative. The EU’s efforts to become energy-independent from Russia underlines the need for a broad engagement, but also highlights the challenge of doing so in a way that is consistent with its democracy promotion commitments. One example of this tension was von der Leyen’s presence at the opening of the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria pipeline that enables direct gas imports from Azerbaijanregime has been accused of carrying out an extensive crackdown on civil and political liberties in recent years. The EU’s credibility and effectiveness as a democracy promotion actor requires awareness of this tension between its commitment to democracy and its economic interests.