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Understanding the European Union as a global political actor: Theory, practice, and impact

Ginsberg, Roy H., and Smith, Michael E. (2007) Understanding the European Union as a global political actor: Theory, practice, and impact. In: UNSPECIFIED, Montreal, Canada. (Unpublished)

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    [From the introduction]. The EU today is one of the most unusual and widest-ranging political actors in the international system. Since the 1950s, this capacity has gradually expanded to encompass foreign policy initiatives towards nearly every corner of the globe, using a range of foreign policy tools: diplomatic, economic, and now limited military operations. This capacity, however, was neither included in the original Treaty of Rome, nor was it expected by many knowledgeable observers of European integration. On both sides of the functional-intergovernmental spectrum we find skepticism about the EU’s prospects as a global actor: Ernst Haas (1961) explicitly excluded foreign and security policy from his neo-functional logic of regional integration, which stresses spillover processes in socio-economic affairs, while Stanley Hoffmann (2000) argued that political cooperation in the EU would remain very difficult owing to concerns over national sovereignty. Even after the Cold War, when the EU continued to expand its foreign policy cooperation, many observers (particularly those influenced by realism) made somewhat outlandish predictions that Germany would attempt to acquire nuclear weapons, that the EU (and even NATO) would deteriorate, and that the EU would never be able to organize its own security/defense cooperation (Mearsheimer 1991; Waltz 1993; Art 1996; Gordon 1997-98). Others with little or no experience with European integration studies, such as Robert Kagan (2003), argued that the EU has secured its own corner of the world through economic integration and it can now simply enjoy the fruits of its efforts while the U.S. continues to play the tough role of world policeman. Whether ignoring or belittling the EU as a global actor, these predictions turned out to be incorrect. While the EU certainly has had its share of difficulties, setbacks, and failures in the area of foreign policy, the same holds true of any other global actor, including the U.S. And in the face of such skepticism the EU has engaged in a continual process of institutional growth in this domain, produced regular foreign policy "outputs," and positively influenced various global problems. The EU’s shift in terminology from "external relations" to "foreign/security policy" since the 1990s also speaks volumes about the change in the EU members’ own understanding of, and preference for, the EU’s role in the world. Usage of the term "European foreign policy" (EFP), which is now becoming commonplace, denotes all of the global behaviors of the EU: the foreign economic policy and diplomacy of pillar one (the European Community or EC); the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) of pillar two, and the police cooperation and anti-crime/anti-terror work of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) in pillar three. This chapter analyzes EFP to better understand why the EU defied the predictions of many skeptics and grew into a true global political actor rather than remaining a regional economic power. Specifically, it examines two related strands of research into this topic: first, the gradual emergence of the EU’s institutional capacities in this realm despite their conspicuous absence in the Treaty of Rome; and second, the extent to which the EU actually influences non-member states and other actors, thus helping to narrow the so-called "capability-expectations gap" in EFP posited by Christopher Hill (1993). We are particularly interested in how historical institutionalist theory sheds light on the growth of EFP as a process of increasingly coherent and centralized – though not necessarily supranational – international cooperation, involving both EU member states and EU institutional actors (chiefly the Commission). Institutional theory is also helpful in illuminating why and how EU member states have exploited economics and politics of scale in the conduct of their foreign/security policies under conditions of regional interdependence, globalization, and transatlantic competition.

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    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Uncontrolled Keywords: EU in the world; European foreign policy (EFP).
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > External relations > common foreign & security policy 1993--European Global Strategy
    EU policies and themes > External relations > foreign/security policy 1950s-1992 (includes EPC)
    EU policies and themes > EU institutions & developments > institutional development/policy > historical development of EC (pre-1986)
    Other > integration theory (see also researching and writing the EU in this section)
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Conference: European Union Studies Association (EUSA) > Biennial Conference > 2007 (10th), May 17-19, 2007
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2008
    Page Range: p. 27
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 17:50

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