The universality of the values that the EU stands for – democracy, human rights and the rule of law – is also increasingly being challenged by alternative models of interaction between the state and society. According to watchdog Freedom House’s 2016 report on freedom in the world, 40 % of the countries around the globe are described as ‘free’, while 36 %, primarily in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, are not. The struggle for freedom in the latter countries is very much alive, as illustrated by the democratic revolutions that have swept across the Arab world, yet the EU’s normative power in some of the countries is losing its appeal (see Figure 2). The EU’s international standing has suffered as a consequence of the EU’s financial and migration crises, the outcome of the UK referendum on EU membership, and the limited capacity of European governments to address these issues. There is also growing scepticism towards the Western models of democracy in general, which feeds into the alternative narratives and political models being developed. For instance, Russia’s evolving discourse on multipolarity and focus on sovereignty contest the imposition of liberal values and aim to contain the dominance of the West. The ‘Beijing consensus’ – a hybrid model of development in China combining capitalist ideas with government control but very limited political liberalisation – won admiration by generating economic growth of almost 9% in 2009 while the rest of the world struggled in the face of economic slowdown. State-backed proselytisation efforts by Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, have been instrumental in spreading a particularly rigid brand of Salafism and in turning it into a state doctrine that is highly critical of Western values
The EU’s financial support and public opinion worldwide
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