Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access | Ahead of Print | Last Modified: 21 May 2024

Populist Challenge? Negotiating the EU’s Accession to the Istanbul Convention in the Council

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Abstract:  According to recent scholarship, populist governments engage in “unpolitics,” a repudiation of politics as the process of resolving conflict, including on the level of the EU. We propose that the conditions provided by the Council preparatory bodies, namely constructive negotiation culture, focus on technical details and containment of a negotiation outside of mediatised venues, might hamper the emergence of unpolitics. We test this argument by tracing the process of the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence, concluded in June 2023. This case study serves as a hard case for our theory because gender equality as a policy area is susceptible to tactics of unpolitics and right-wing populists have employed populist critique of the Istanbul Convention in their domestic contexts. Having analysed multiple data sources, including interviews with negotiators in the Council of the EU, official EU documents, and media coverage, we find little evidence of unpolitics in the case of the Council’s negotiation of the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention. We suggest that decision-making venues such as Council preparatory bodies can mitigate phenomena associated with populism, such as the use of unpolitics tactics in EU decision-making.

Keywords:  Council of the European Union; Council preparatory bodies; Istanbul Convention; populism; unpolitics; violence against women

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© Monika de Silva, Mariia Tepliakova. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.