Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Political Science

Committee Chair

Ziegler, Charles E.


Belarus--Foreign relations--European Union countries; European Union countries--Foreign relations--Belarus; Democracy--Belarus


This thesis addresses the impact of an external actor’s democracy promotion policies on domestic democratic development. More specifically, it is a case study of the European Union as an external actor, using Belarus as the domestic polity of focus. My research questions are: (1) What have been the policies of the EU intended to encourage democracy in Belarus? and (2) What have been the impacts of these policies on Belarus’ level of democracy in comparison to the rest of Central and Eastern Europe? To respond to these questions, a definition and method of measuring democracy is proposed, and Belarus’ level of democracy as it relates to that of neighboring countries is evaluated. I theorize that external agents have a significant role in this process, largely through diffusion. The most important forms of diffusion highlighted in this thesis are linkage, leverage, neighbor, and that occurring via transnational advocacy networks. Conditionality, or the notion of an external actor offering a domestic polity a set of incentives and/or disincentives for modifying its standards, behaviors, practices, etc. is the method by which the EU most frequently attempts to affect democratization. For this reason, EU democracy promotion policies based on conditionality are the focus of this paper. I proceed by analyzing three specific, conditionality-based policy instruments the EU has utilized over the past decade to encourage democratization in Belarus. Each instrument’s purported objectives, incentives and conditionality requirements are considered before its impacts are assessed according to the corresponding political developments in Belarus at that time. This serves as a relevant indicator of whether or not the policy was successful in meeting its objectives, and may provide further insights into the types of policies which appear to be successful in effecting democratic progress. The results found that the policies the EU has implemented thus far have had varying degrees of success: the Eastern Neighborhood Policy, very strict in its conditionality requirements, had very little impact; the Eastern Partnership, a more multilateral, collaborative approach with more lenient requirements for participation produced slightly better results until 2010 when there was a violent political crackdown in Belarus; lastly, the Dialogue on Modernization, which places a greater emphasis on civil society, has made greater strides in supporting and legitimizing opposition groups in Belarus – motivating certain members of the Belarusian political elite to express their desire to participate, a positive sign. My findings also suggest that initial signs of progress do not necessarily signal substantive, long-lasting change will occur. Further research into the EU’s ability to influence democratic change in Belarus is necessary.