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The EU as a Promoter of 'Good Governance': Explaining the EU's Policy towards its Southern Neighbourhood through the Articulation of Discourse Theory

Vicky Reynaert

This paper argues that the academic literature on the relations of the EU with the Mediterranean region should focus more on the examination of the 'politics' of the EU: what social order does the EU promote in its southern neighbourhood and how does it promote this social order? The poststructuralist discourse theory of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe provides the necessary theoretical concepts to answer these research questions. Following this broad definition of politics, the paper first identifies struggling discourses on the organization of the global social order within the European member states. Once each discourse is delimitated, the results of this analysis are used to identify the discourse of the European Commission in the European Neighbourhood Policy. The paper finds that the discourse of the European Commission presents a specific social order through the construction of the nodal point 'good governance' in which the market is presented as more important than the individual and the state. The discourse delimitates the public sphere to the management of the market and the freedom of individuals instead of the place where fundamental political decisions on the organization of society are taken, and thus applies a very narrow definition of the concept 'democracy'. Moreover, it links the different identities of the member states in one common project and opposes this identity to another identity, those of the neighbours, which are presented as 'not well governed'

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