The European Union has provided various democracy aid programs to Egypt since 2013, yet the country’s democracy index has gone down since then[1]. Despite the stagnation in the trajectory of democratization, the EU expanded its democracy promotion aid programs in 2016 to encompass the independent cultural scene in Egypt. This thesis critically examines the reasons for the stagnation of democratization processes in Egypt, a MENA country that continues to be a recipient of the EU’s democracy promotion programs. It argues that there is a discrepancy between the EU’s stated democracy promotion rhetoric and its actions, a factor that necessitates a more transparent approach. More importantly, this dissertation uses the independent cultural sector as a mediator of democracy promotion. It does so by specifically studying the EU’s cultural diplomacy, exploring how the interactions between the EU cultural institutions and the independent cultural scene in Egypt contribute to democracy promotion. The study’s data relies on semi-structured interviews with 32 participants representing EU diplomats and Egyptian cultural artists to assess the European-Egyptian Cultural Programme from 2019 to 2023 as a case study. The findings reveal that EU cultural institutions, in their words, seem to be promoting democracy, while in their actions, they do not. On the receiving end, the Egyptian cultural actors and artists, while not openly opposing the Egyptian regime, are actively promoting democratic norms. They strategically accept EU funding while taking a critical stance towards the EU agenda and the Egyptian regime, showcasing their agency.

[1] See world data democracy index here: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/democracy-index-eiu?tab=chart&country=~EGY last checked on 28 May 2024


School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Political Science Department

Degree Name

MA in Political Science

Graduation Date

Spring 5-28-2024

Submission Date


First Advisor

Dr. Nadine Sika

Committee Member 1

Dr. Sean Lee

Committee Member 2

Dr. Mostafa Hefny



Document Type

Master's Thesis

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Approval has been obtained for this item

Available for download on Wednesday, May 28, 2025