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EU-LAC - The protection of democracy in integration organisations in Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean

About the Project



How can regional organisations such as the European Union (EU), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) contribute to the protection of democracy in their respective member states? This study explored the performance of regional organisations in Latin America, the Caribbean and the EU and concluded that governments design democracy protection mechanisms with a strong intergovernmental bias that gives ample political discretion in reacting to eventual violations by offenders.

The EU, Latin America and the Caribbean have experienced successive waves of democratisation. Starting from the 1970s, almost all countries in both regions can be qualified as democratic. In several cases, though, these democracies can be labelled as imperfect. Moreover, some countries have experienced instances of anti-democratic involution (in the most extreme cases) or an erosion of democratic institutions. Membership of regional organisations has contributed greatly to transition to democracy and democratic consolidation.

Both scholars and political leaders perceive that regional organisations have played a significant role, among other mechanisms through democratic conditionality. In most cases, these regional organisations have included provisions to verify that their member states remain democratic (and/or obey other values such as rule of law). But the relationship between the mechanisms for scrutinising compliance with these values and the performance of the organisation applying them has remained underexplored.

This study funded by the EU-LAC Foundation and written by Carlos Closa Montero, Stefano Palestini Céspedes, Pablo Castillo Ortiz analysed the institutional design of Mechanisms of Democracy Protection (MDPs) in regional organisations in the EU, Latin America and the Caribbean. Three elements of the institutional design showed as particularly relevant:

  • the procedures for activation of MDPs and the role of different actors (i.e. governments and/or autonomous organisation bodies);
  • the mechanism for verification and review; and
  • the type of sanctions in combination with the procedures to adopt them.

The study concluded by making the case that intergovernmental decision-making for MDPs leaves ample room for political discretion and suggested a number of possible elements for improving institutional design.

The project ran from October 2014 to December 2015 and the study was published in September 2016: http://cadmus.eui.eu//handle/1814/43086 (English)

Page last updated on 11 October 2018