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The European Union's Foreign Policy In Comparative Perspective: Evaluating And Generating Hypotheses On ‘Actorness And Power'


The E.ON-Ruhrgas Programme for Political Science & Research (jointly managed under the auspices of the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft and The Research Council of Norway), hosted and co-sponsored by the Research College ‘Transformative Power Europe’, FUB

01.01.2012 — 31.12.2014

In view of the evolution of the EU, in terms of institutionalization and policy-making, the EU might still be a sui generis actor in international affairs. However, at the same time – in view of the many faces of globalization – nation states might no longer be ‘nation states’ and (at least some) international organizations no longer ‘international organizations’ in terms of the ideal types mostly used for comparison with the EU. Against the backdrop of the apparently never-ending debate on the EU’s ‘actorness’ and ‘power’ in the realm of foreign policy, this project does not aim at another conceptual contribution. Instead it focuses on two intertwined research questions, directly relate to the diffusion of the EU’s policy norms and interests, which will be guiding actual empirical research, thus providing for a more sustainable base for qualifying the EU’s foreign policy in comparison to states or international organizations:

1. What is the EU’s foreign policy quality in terms of ‘actorness’ and ‘power’ compared to other types of actors in international relations and global politics, first and foremost states and intergovernmental organization?

2. What factors influence the EU’s foreign policy performance in comparison to states and international organizations?

 The premise of this project is that even though there might be some truth to the argument of the EU being a special case requiring special concepts and designs for well-founded analyses, this special quality might be overstated. As a consequence, the large body of literature on this topic might still be missing conceptual opportunities offered by foreign policy analysis and comparative studies to put the claims and the practice of a European Foreign Policy into perspective. Notwithstanding the inherent interconnectedness of identity and actual policy-making, Karen Smith (2005, 81) in this sense is right that it may be more important to know what the EU actually does than what it is. At the same time this study takes up Helene Sjursen’s (2006,  170) pertinent argument for “systematic empirical investigation”. Thus, this study tries to take up just the aforementioned missed opportunities by designing a comparative research project, combining evaluative with causal analysis in terms of a comparative design applying basic features of a ‘grounded theory’ or ‘heuristic case study’ approach.