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European Colonial Pasts and the EU’s Democracy-promoting Present: Silences and Continuities


How is EU democracy promotion made compatible with European colonial powers’ recent history of quashing democratic and human rights? A discourse analysis of general programmatic EU statements and texts related to selected salient historic junctures – the Algerian Hirak, the 2018 Democratic Republic of Congo elections and the Arab Uprisings – reveals that EU policy-makers reconcile the colonial past and the democracy-promoting present mostly through a silencing of colonialism. The consequence is that colonial-time hierarchical discourses are left undisturbed. Moreover, the projection of peace, democracy and the rule of law becomes not only the oft-noted break with the past, but also a continuity with colonial discourses of Europeans as ‘democratic’, ‘humanitarian’ and ‘civilised’.
Keywords: democracy promotion; postcolonialism; European Union; Algeria; Arab Uprisings; Democratic Republic of Congo