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The politicisation of the EU´s international relations: a paradigm shift in tone, not in substance?

European Politics
European Union
Foreign Policy
Heidi Maurer
University for Continuous Education Krems (Danube University Krems)
Heidi Maurer
University for Continuous Education Krems (Danube University Krems)

Abstract

Foreign policy has traditionally been a policy apart: executive-driven, with little public deliberation and with implementation focused on political communication, diplomatic interaction and few economic instruments. This peculiarity of foreign policy has also been institutionalised at European level, where the Common Foreign and Security Policy is firmly grounded in transnational cooperation and outside of the EU legislative framework. Despite this insistence of EU member states on keeping foreign policy procedurally and institutionally apart from external relations, though, the incoherence between the mighty European tools of external relations (trade, external assistance, sanctions) and the weakly-enforced political ambitions is a reoccurring theme among EU practitioners and scholars throughout the past 30 years. This “nexus” between foreign policy and external relation policies is the starting point of this paper, which examines the politics of politicisation of the EU´s international relations. It assesses the mechanisms and implications of two parallel, interdependent but still distinct European processes currently at play: the politicisation of European external relations on the one, and the politicisation of EU foreign policy cooperation on the other hand. The paper contends that these politicisation processes need to be analysed separately, because different mechanisms are at play. However, these politicisation processes also need to be analysed in unison, as their interplay indicates less of a paradigm shift in positioning the EU as an international actor than the analysis of these two processes separately might suggest.