Curriculum Vitae
Research Projects

Democracy Promotion in EU Enlargement Negotiations

An Original Contribution to Democratization


Grimm, Sonja (2019): Democracy Promotion in EU Enlargement Negotiations: More Interaction, less Hierarchy. In: Democratization, Vol. 26, No. 5:  851-868.

In the integration literature, the relationship of the European Union (EU) as a donor and the (potential) candidates for EU membership as recipients of democracy promotion is described as asymmetrical. The donor is portrayed to have full whereas recipients have moderate or even no leverage over democratic reform what brings a hierarchical notion of active donors versus passive recipients into the analysis. Taking the local turn into consideration, however, this contribution argues that democracy promotion, is better conceptualized as a dynamic interplay between external and domestic actors. It reveals the toolbox of instruments that both sides dispose of, traces the dynamic use of these instruments, and systematizes the structural and behavioural factors that constrain the negotiation interplay. A case study of negotiations over public administration reform in Croatia in the context of EU enlargement shows that domestic actors dispose of leverage that counterweights external leverage and mitigates the implied hierarchy



Domestic Elites and External Actors in Post-conflict Democratization

A Conflict, Security and Development Special Issue, Vol. 18, No. 4 (July 2018)


Following the end of the Cold War, post-conflict democratisation has rarely occurred without significant international involvement. As a consequence, scholars have explained the outcomes of post-conflict democratisation foremost with an examination of external actors, their mission mandates, and their capabilities and deficiencies. A special issue for the journal Conflict, Security and Development edited by Sonja Grimm and Brigitte Weiffen innovatively sheds light on the domestic side of post-conflict democratization.

Two theoretical (Grimm/Weiffen; Zürcher) and three empirical (Groß; Bunk; Zimmermann) contributions to this issue focus on the domestic elites, their preferences and motivations, as well as their perceptions of and their reactions to external interference. They find that particularly the patterns of external-internal interactions may explain the trajectory of state-building and democracy promotion efforts. Empirical evidence is taken from the universe of cases of international peace building missions (Zürcher) and case studies from different world regions, namely Guatemala (Zimmermann), Mozambique (Bunk) and Kosovo (Groß).


With the following contributions:




Democratization via Aid?

An Original Contribution to European Union Politics


Sonja Grimm/Okka Lou Mathis (2018): Democratization via Aid? The European Union’s Democracy Promotion in the Western Balkans 1994-2010. In: European Union Politics, Vol. 19, No.1, pp. 163-184.    

In this article, we investigate the effect of European Commission democracy assistance on democratization in the countries of the Western Balkans. The analysis is based on a comprehensive dataset of the financial assistance given by the European Commission to the region from 1994 to 2010. Since this dataset is disaggregated into different sectors, it allows for the distinction between direct and indirect approaches to democracy promotion. The regression results do not confirm the expected positive association between direct democracy promotion and democratization in the Western Balkans. We contextualize our findings by considering the specific post-conflict context in the region and the European Commission’s conflicting policy objectives in play.    

Dataset, Online-Appendix, do- and log-files availabe on the EUP website and upon request from the authors.



Habilitation Examination Completed


At 14 February 2018, I have successfully completed my habilitation examination at the University of Konstanz. It is based upon my habilitation thesis "Studies of International Democracy Promotion in Post-conflict Societies and Fragile States" and a lecture about "Autocractic behaviour in interstate violent conflict". 




Blog Posts


Grimm Sonja/Weiffen Brigitte (2018): Domestic Elites and External Actors in Post-conflict Democratization. In: EDP Wire, posted 9 August 2018.


Steinert, Janina/Grimm, Sonja (2015): From the Battlefield to Ballot Boxes: How Effective is the United Nations’ Post-War Democracy Promotion? In: Political Violence at a Glance, posted 9 December 2015.


Grimm, Sonja (2015): Conflicting Objectives, Neglected Relationships, and Authoritarian Backlash: The Crisis of EU Democracy Promotion. In: Democratic Audit UK, posted 2 September 2015.




Fragile States: A Political Concept

A Third World Quarterly Special Issue, Vol. 35, No. 2 (April 2014)


This special issue investigates the emergence, the dissemination and the reception of the notion of ‘state fragility’. It analyses the process of conceptualisation, examining how the ‘fragile states’ concept was framed by policy makers to describe reality in accordance with their priorities in the fields of development and security. Contributors investigate the instrumental use of the ‘state fragility’ label in the legitimisation of Western policy interventions in countries facing violence and profound poverty. They also emphasise the agency of actors ‘on the receiving end’, describing how the elites and governments in so-called ‘fragile states’ have incorporated and reinterpreted the concept to fit their own political agendas. A first set of articles examines the role played by the World Bank, the OECD, the European Union and the g7+ in the transnational diffusion of the concept, which is understood as a critical element in the new discourse on international aid and security. A second set of papers employs three case studies (Sudan, Indonesia and Uganda) to explore the processes of appropriation, reinterpretation and the strategic use of the ‘fragile state’ concept.


With the following contributions: 




Do all Good Things Go Together? Conflicting Objectives in Democracy Promotion

Democratization Special Issue, Vol. 19, No. 3 (June 2012)

A Routledge Special Issue Book (2013)


Democracy promotion is often pursued under the umbrella of “All good things go together!”. Positively evaluated items like peace, stability, prosperity, freedom, good governance and rule of law are expected to be strengthened by the implementation of democratic institutions. However, various problems arise if such an instrumental understanding of democracy support is applied. Firstly, international actors tend to overload their democracy promotion agendas. In doing so, they also raise expectations that can be hard to fulfill. In addition to this, unintended risky conflicts of objectives may evolve during the process of democracy promotion. Finally, policies to support democratisation might conflict with other interests and policies of actors involved. These setbacks urgently need an in-depth theoretical and empirical investigation. Vast amounts of literature have emerged in different sub-disciplines. For example, whilst peace researchers are interested in the compatibility of democracy promotion and peace building, development studies asks whether democracy is best suited to promote socio-economic development. Although individually these research results might be of equal importance to the understanding and effectiveness of democracy promotion policy, no major efforts have hitherto been made to bring them together. To fill out these research gaps, we ask in our special issue: What are conflicting objectives in democracy promotion? Under which conditions do they emerge? How do internal and external actors deal with these conflicting objectives? What are the effects of conflicting objectives on democratisation?


With the following contributions:

For more information, please see also newsletter no. 9 (2011) of NCCR Democracy (p. 16-17).




Conference: “Domestic Elites and Public Opinion – The Neglected Dimension of Externally Induced Democratization”

5-7 September 2012, University of Konstanz, Germany


The purpose of the conference was to assess the role of internal elite behavior and the influence of public opinion on decision-making in externally induced democratization processes. It will bring together political science expertise on the internal dynamics of democratic transitions and external democracy promotion, historical knowledge on the impact of external influences and foreign occupation of political elites and societies in longue durée, and sociological approaches to the role of elites in societies in transition.

After the end of the Cold War, the international community has become more and more active in building peace and supporting the development of democratic institutions in conflict-ridden societies. Such post-conflict reconstruction activities equally gained the attention of researchers in political science, international relations, history, and sociology. The overwhelming majority of these post-conflict studies focus on the contribution of external actors to peace- and democracy-building in the frame of peace-building and peace-keeping missions or international trusteeship administrations. Scholars assess the internal structure of such missions, their mandates, and the implemented programs and strategies as well as the legitimacy of externally led democratization and state-building. They make strong arguments about internal organizational shortcomings of national governments such as the U.S. and international organizations such as the United Nations or the European Union and cite cooperation problems among the multiple external actors working in a post-conflict society as critical factors for successful peace missions. Some seek to discover the impact of such missions on peace-building processes and thereby tentatively conclude about potential negative consequences of democracy promotion for peace-building.

It comes as a surprise that all these studies neglect what scholars of transition studies, drawing on a broad range of historical examples of regime change, have highlighted as most important factors for successful transitions to democracy: a domestic elite consensus and the support of the electorate for the emerging democracy. A consensus between outgoing and incoming elites on decision-making procedures, basic values and the required reform program is necessary for successful democratization. In the long run, such a consensus allows for the nonviolent management of conflicts and facilitates cooperation, trust-building and the capacity for compromise which in turn guarantees the survival of democracy, or in other words, the elites’ durable compliance with new democratic rules of the game. It is claimed that, once the political elites follow the rules, the people will also accept democracy as a legitimate political system. Furthermore, the more inclusive the elite consensus, the more stable and the less vulnerable democracy becomes. Without such an internal elite consensus the country would risk falling back into authoritarianism or at best stabilize as a democracy with defects.

The literature on elites acknowledges that profound political crises, such as the attainment of national independence, defeat in warfare, a revolutionary outbreak or a civil war, are pivotal events that often produce changes in elites and regimes. Many crises, in turn, derive from elite confrontations between old regime elites and new oppositional. However, with their focus on domestic actors, elite-centered approaches stand in stark contrast to recent analyses in transition and post-conflict studies that advance the concept of successful democratization from the outside by external actors.

Apparently, there is a lack of dialogue between those different strands of research. Hardly any recent study in the field adopts the perspective of domestic elites or past developments in post-conflict countries whose transition process is externally monitored, supervised or even administered nor do they consider the relevance of public opinion in such a controlled democratization process.


This conference attempted to fill this research gap. Thus, conference invitees dealt with the following research questions:

1. Who are the domestic elites and which impact do they have on their societies?

2. How do internal elites perceive the external interference in peace- und democracy-building and subsequently interact with external actors in externally induced democratization processes?

3. In how far do internal elites benefit from and/or exploit the long-term presence of external actors for their political purposes?

4. How does public opinion influence decision-making in external democratization?

5. Might the current responses of political elites and the public to the presence of external actors be explicable by historical experiences of dependence and foreign domination?

6. Are there lessons to be learned from historical examples of foreign occupation and external attempts to build peace or exert an impact on the shape of the political regime?



Wiht contributions  by

Prof. Dr. John Higley, Professor of Government and Sociology, Jack S. Blanton Chair in Australian Studies, Departments of Government and Sociology, University of Texas

Prof. Dr. Susan Woodward, Professor, Ph.D. Program in Political Science, City University of New York

Manfred Öhm, Department for Global Policy & Development, Friedrich Ebert Foundation

Prof. Dr. Ursula Hoffmann-Lange, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Lecturer, University of Bamberg 

Dr. Solveig Richter, Senior Researcher, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik

Prof. Dr. David Chandler, Professor of International Relations, University of Westminster

Lisbeth Zimmermann, Research Associate, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt

Dr. Anja Osei, Lecturer in International Relations and Conflict Management, University of Konstanz

Bettina Bunk, PhD candidate in Political Science, University of Potsdam

Dr. Vedran Džihić, Lecturer in International Politics, University of Vienna

Prof. Dr. Christoph Zürcher, Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs of the University of Ottawa


A report of the conference is available at Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft/Comparative Politics and Governance, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 85-88.


The conference was organized by Dr. Sonja Grimm, Dr. Brigitte Weiffen, University of Konstanz, and Dr. Sabina Ferhadbegovic, University of Jena; it was funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG) and the Center of Excellence "Cultural Foundations of Social Integration" at the University of Konstanz. The conference publication will be edited by Dr. Sonja Grimm and Dr. Brigitte Weiffen.



(c) Sonja Grimm 2020. All rights reserved.