These concluding reflections deal with three arguments that could be put forward against the research agenda of this special issue: that substance is either trivial or non-existent or not consequential. The article argues that, whereas substance has clearly been shown to be non-trivial, the 'substance of substance' and its effects are open issues. It also suggests areas for further research: subtypes of liberal democracy and alternative templates such as democratic governance, the inputs and processes that generate the substance of democracy promotion, and the link between substance and instruments.
The contributions to this special issue tackle an important dimension of EU democracy promotion. As Anne Wetzel and Jan Orbie rightly point out in their introductory article, research on EU democracy promotion has focused predominantly on strategies and instruments, on the one hand, and effects and results, on the other. Substance has mainly played a role with regard to the consistency, or rather inconsistency, of EU democracy promotion but has not been an important research area in its own right. This special issue goes a long way in filling this gap. By disentangling the broad notion of democracy according to several partial regimes and by studying the content of EU democracy promotion at the level of regions and even individual countries, the contributors provide a nuanced and differentiated picture of what the EU promotes.European Foreign Affairs Review