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FRP Working Paper 01/2010 Conceptualizing the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy: Collective Foreign

FRP Working Paper 01/2010

Conceptualizing the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy:

Collective Foreign Policy Making as Strug- gle for Discursive Hegemony

by Georg Simmerl

Januar 2010

Simmerl, Georg:

Conceptualizing the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy: Collective Foreign Policy Making as Struggle for Discursive Hegemony Regensburg: 2010 (Working Papers des Forums Regensburger Politikwissenschaftler – FRP Working Paper 01/2010)

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Herausgeber: Henrik Gast, Oliver Hidalgo, Herbert Maier Redaktion: Alexandra Bürger, Henrik Gast, Oliver Hidalgo, Herbert Maier

FRP Working Paper 01/2010

1) Reaching out or giving in? Searching for a remedy to the theoretical poverty in the study of the CFSP Ever since European foreign policy cooperation was launched in the 1970s, political scientists had difficulties to craft coherent theoretical accounts for this elusive political process. Twelve years after the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) was established, Øhrgaard found that “the study of the European foreign policy cooperation remain[ed] at a pretheoretical stage” (2004, 42). A closer look at current studies of European foreign policy reveals that most re- searchers either omit International Relations (IR) theory almost altogether (Keu- keleire/MacNaughtan 2008, Smith 2008) or use multiple theories in parallel to account for indi- vidual aspects of this complex subject (Kaim 2007, Wagner 2001). The practise of using different IR theories in parallel to get a hold on the CFSP points to a general deficiency in current IR de- bates. Many scholars tend to present the discipline as divided into incommensurable paradigms thus preventing serious dialogue between the different camps. Starting from the conviction that this ossified state of IR theory debate is itself the reason for the discipline’s incapacity to deal with the CFSP, this working paper proposes an approach to the CFSP cutting across existing di- vides within IR and thereby opening up new channels for debate. The approach adopts the meta- theoretical lens of Constructivism and analyses the construction of international relations by fo- cusing on foreign policy discourses. Unlike the liberal versions of IR Constructivism, however, this approach asks how power affects the linguistic construction of social reality and treats states as central “discursive actors” in this dialectic. 1 This paper conceives of the member state as central actor within the CFSP and explicitly analyses state action as articulatory practise, a dimension widely ignored by most CFSP approaches. From this perspective, all statements articulated by member state officials or EU representatives with regard to European foreign policy constitute a discourse (cf. Larsen 2004). The CFSP is concep- tualized in this paper as an intergovernmental forum in which the member states struggle for dis- cursive hegemony by trying to cement certain interpretations within this fluid discourse. 2 Those patterns of the discourse rearticulated regularly, so-called discursive formations 3 , temporally stabi- lize certain meanings and direct every policy decision, as policy articulations 4 can only become dominant among the member states if they make reference to the discursive formations (cf. Diez 2001, 6). In their struggle for discursive hegemony, the member states try to establish and rede-

1 This paper is part of larger project which aims to employ this “Realist-Constructivism” (Barkin 2003, Jackson 2004) as a foundation for CFSP theorizing. Although I will not address the meta-theoretical dimension directly in this paper, it shall become clear how an interplay between Constructivism/Post-structuralism and classical Realism could open up new points of departure for IR theorizing. Following Larsen, I subsume post-structuralist discour- se analysis under constructivist IR approaches (2004). It shall not be argued that it is unproblematic to combine post-structuralist thinking with the static concepts of classical Realism, such as the state as main actor. However, if these perspectives are combined in a coherent way, it is possible to resurrect classical Realism as a critical ap- proach in IR (cf. Barkin 2003, Cox 1992, 168 - 169).

2 My understanding of articulation and hegemony is heavily influenced by the work of Laclau and Mouffe (2001, 93 –


3 Discursive formations structure and discipline discourses and become therefore filters in the process of knowledge production (Foucault 1969, 34 - 43).

4 What I refer to as „interpretation“ or „policy articulation“ is often termed „ (national) interest“ by various rational- ist IR theories. In conceiving of “interest” as a generalizable and measurable concept, these theories buy into rhe- toric and reify stalemate and nationalism in international relations. The approach presented in this paper empha- sizes the discursive character of politics and assumes that every political expression is in fact a linguistic universal- ization of particular views. If a politician invokes the “national interest”, then he or she articulates his or her nar- row and partisan views in a generalizing manner. Thus, there are no “(national) interests” but only attempts to as- sert specific interpretations.


Georg Simmerl

Conceptualizing the European Union’s CFSP

fine discursive formations. Because unanimity is normally the prerequisite for collective decisions in the CFSP, discursive hegemony is founded on discursive formations which ensure the consent of all states. These (hegemonic) discursive formations blur dissent, construct political cohesion through reference to universalism, redefine differences in political relations and establish new demarcations. 5 In the rest of this working paper, I will explicate that the civilian power concept (Duchêne 1972) is one discursive formation in the European foreign policy discourse and that the most powerful EU member states, namely France, Germany and Great Britain (EU-3), exert discursive hegemony within the CFSP. In the next two sections, I will flesh out the conceptuali- zation of the CFSP as discursive forum and the concept of discursive hegemony. In the third sec- tion, I will use the example of the establishment of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) to illuminate the EU-3’s discursive hegemony within the CFSP. The EU-3 directed this process by a discursive redefinition of the civilian power concept, even against preceding opposi- tion of smaller member states. In the conclusion, I will reflect on how the perspective presented in this paper could function as a foundation for a theory of actual decision making within the CFSP.

2) Understanding the CFSP as discursive forum While many sceptics who accuse the CFSP of being mere declaratory policy miss the point, it might nevertheless be promising to focus on what the CFSP produces most: words constituting systems of meaning. Therefore, this approach starts from the assumption that foreign policy dis- courses structure the production of actual foreign policy decisions and deliver insights in how foreign policy actors construct social reality, what political beliefs they hold and how they legiti- mize their actions. From this point of view, the CFSP constitutes an intergovernmental forum in which the communicative interaction of the EU member states produces the European foreign policy discourse. As perceptions of international events, threats and conceptions for appropriate behaviour are contested in any foreign policy situation, the CFSP turns into a “discursive battle- ground” (Diez 2001) were member states try to attain the prerogative of interpretation by assert- ing their policy articulations. The final policy output in the form of common strategies, positions and policies includes those world views and interpretations of appropriate foreign policy behav- iour which have become dominant among the member states. These documents constitute the normative basis, which shall ensure cooperation in the subsequent implementation process. The discourse is dominated by politicians of the member states, who tend to uphold interpreta- tions previously developed in the partly closed discursive arenas of the domestic political debate (Puetter/Wiener 2007). Thus, the existence of nation states, which implies the precedence of na- tional(istic) discourses over and above the European discourse, is one reason why the production of dominant interpretations within the CFSP conforms more to the realist conception of self- assertion and subsequent bargaining than to the liberal constructivist conception of communica- tive action and arguing. Thus, the CFSP should not (yet) be understood as a Habermasian com- mon public sphere. As Council meetings are closed to the public and politicians of the powerful

5 Although I employ a state-centered perspective instead of focusing on social forces, my understanding of hegem- ony is founded on neo-gramscian IR theorizing (Cox 1983, 1992) and the discursive approach to hegemony of Laclau and Mouffe (2001).


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member states and the Presidency 6 receive most media coverage in the aftermath, the discursive interaction in the forum of the CFSP is far from founded on ideal speech situations. Therefore, power relations play a significant role in the CFSP with the persuasive power of key coalitions, such as the EU-3, underpinning and substituting deliberation and collective reasoning. 7 However, if we understand the implementation of collective foreign policies as norm-based co- operation and keep in mind that each member state has a veto in most decisions, then collective action depends on dominant interpretations being intersubjectively shared (or at least tolerated) by all member states. Enduring cooperation will only be possible if the “ideational integration” exerted by these interpretations is strong enough to prevent all national governments from break- ing out of their normative commitments. The questions are: How do interpretations become dominant and why do they exert such a strong “normative glue”?

3) From discursive formations to discursive hegemony Any policy articulation can only become dominant if it conforms to the discursive formations of the European foreign policy discourse. These relatively stable systems of meaning exert a disci- plining and directing effect on the articulations within the CFSP. Thus, as discursive formations are a source of power and frame the CFSP policy output over long time horizons, they are con- tested constantly and are the key to understand the struggle for discursive hegemony within the CFSP. One discursive formation, which is constantly contested, is the conception of the EU as a collective actor in international relations. The conception which is traditionally consensual among the member states, the civilian power concept (Duchêne 1972), is derived from the most impor- tant narrative of European integration. Initially developing out of the changed Franco-German relationship and gradually internalized by other member states, this narrative of European inte- gration causally connects the pacification of internal EU relations with the character of the EU as domesticating “civilian power” in international relations (cf. European Security Strategy 2003, 1). After the European states stopped to perceive each other as a threat, the EU became a security actor which could not only pacify and stabilize its own internal relations but which exerts also a disciplining power on its neighbouring regions (Wæver 2000, 260). In the form of the civilian power concept, the member states have translated the normative amalgam of peaceful conflict resolution, liberal democracy, capitalism and human rights promotion uniting themselves into a working programme for their collective foreign policy. However, till the European great powers could develop a new common understanding, the self-conception of the EU as a civilian power excluded the use of military means. The civilian power concept is a discursive formation because it fulfils unifying functions and pro- duces the aforementioned “normative glue” for the CFSP. First, the civilian power concept is a narrative that constructs a common past as well as a common fate, thus constituting a unifying

6 So far, the rotating Presidency and the High Representative could be interpreted as enforcers, stabilizers and repre- sentatives of the Council’s dominant interpretations within the EU and vis-à-vis third parties. It remains to be seen if the institutional reorganisation of the Lisbon Treaty will lead to more freedom for creative agency so that these two players can become more autonomous shapers of the foreign policy discourse. However, as the power- ful member states have only allowed cautious personalities to get appointed, it is very unlikely that van Rompuy and Ashton are capable of redressing the balance of power.

7 In a survey Tallberg has shown that national power capabilities are considered by member state top officials to be the primary source for bargaining power within the Council (2008). This reflects that states like France, Germany or Great Britain occupy a leadership position accepted by other member states, which necessarily undermines communicative action and devalues a possible “better argument” by smaller member states.


Georg Simmerl

Conceptualizing the European Union’s CFSP

foreign policy identity for all EU member states and filling the empty conception of the EU as a genuine actor in international relations. By constructing the EU’s actorness and substituting the image of a coordination mechanism for 27 single states, the civilian power concept also blurs the importance of the European great powers for the implementation of common policies. Further- more, it is similarly instrumental in uniting the different camps among the EU member states, namely Europeanists, Atlanticists and post-Neutrals, as it does not contradict any of these na- tional foreign policy identities (Stahl et al. 2004, 440-441). Finally, the hegemonic character of the civilian power concept becomes especially evident in its function of constructing a demarcation between the EU member states and the surrounding world: inside resides pacified Europe, while outside, the rest of the world awaits domestication. Identifying this concept as a discursive for- mation does not necessitate assuming that the CFSP policies always live up to these normative standards. It only means that the civilian power narrative is an enduring structure in the formula- tion of CFSP positions, and thus, it is assumed that this conception exhibits an important part of the self-understanding of the European states. The effect of a discursive formation is decisive, as it constrains the range of interpretations which can possibly become consensual and dominant in the formulation of European foreign policy. Consider the example of the Iraq crisis: because the civilian power concept embedded in the no- tion of effective multilateralism was the established discursive formation, it was simply unimagin- able for the CFSP to produce common positions supporting non-UN mandated regime change. However, discourses are never fixed and discursive formations are themselves subject to change as they partly derive from power relations. Within the CFSP, discursive hegemony is exerted by redefining discursive formations. In the next section, it will be demonstrated that the develop- ment of the ESDP was an example for such a dynamic.

4) From civilian to military power Europe? The establishment of the ESDP as a product of discursive hegemony Until the mid of the 1990s the concept of a civilian power abstaining from the use of military means remained the discursive formation in EU documents (Larsen 2004, 71). Consistently, the foreign policy practises applied by the CFSP remained solely political and economical. In critical situations like the crises in the Balkans, the Europeans had to rely on the help of NATO. The remarkable stability of the civilian power concept in these troubled times can be derived from the European great powers inability to develop a new conception due to smouldering conflict be- tween France and Great Britain. Britain, as staunch Atlanticist, blocked every attempt by France to establish the EU as an autonomous (military) actor in the world, even if France was able to push through an article into the Maastricht Treaty stating the possibility for such a development in the future. As unified Germany tried to remain a conciliator between the Atlanticist and Euro- peanist camps, the French discourse of Europe pussaince remained largely suppressed at the European level. The picture changed, however, in the mid-90s. Confronted with their common dependence on US military capabilities during the different Balkan conflicts, Great Britain, France and Germany redressed key features of their foreign policy approaches, thus opening up the possibility of a re- definition of the EU’s role in international relations. Under Blair, Britain learned that it could only remain a valuable partner for the USA if it would begin to overcome its scepticism and be- come a real leading nation within a militarily endowed CFSP (Hoffmann 2000, 193). Similarly,


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France came to embrace the civilian power concept more fully (Kempin 2008) and started a slow rapprochement towards the Atlanticist camp by scaling down its pleas for Europe to become an autonomous power and by engaging more heavily in NATO missions (Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet 2006, 34-36). Germany underwent also a partial re-design of its foreign policy approach. With the decision to participate in the Kosovo war, a slow process during the 90s of reluctant adaption to the constantly re-articulated expectations of its NATO allies was brought to an end (Zehfuss 2001, 321-326). Germany gave up its refusal to use military means, which also opened up the possibility for the extension of the CFSP’s agenda. 8

This tripartite redefinition of the EU-3’s foreign policy approaches redirected also the discourse on the European level. During the 90s, the EU-3 began to develop a common conception for the EU as a civilian power, which remains committed to its traditional values but should nevertheless have military force at its disposal in order to be able to live up to its normative commitments (Aggestam 2004, 241). As a consequence of the European great powers developing a new con- sensus on the need for a civilian power endowed with military means, beginning in 1998, official EU documents started to stress exactly this concept (Larsen 2004, 72). Interestingly, this estab- lishment of a new discursive formation in the CFSP discourse preceded the actual policy steps towards the establishment of the ESDP as military arm of the CFSP. Initiated by a joint declara- tion of France and Britain in St. Malo in 1998, the ESDP was implemented by the German Presi- dency in 1999 and finally integrated into the legal framework of the EU with the Nice Treaty in


Even if the EU-3 was able to alter the consensual conception of the EU’s international actorness, it was not a complete break with the past. The new conception promoted by the great powers was only an extension of the original civilian power concept. This extension is best expressed in the notion of a “civilian power with teeth” coined by former German foreign minister Steinmeier (2007). The consensual core of the discursive formation had to be maintained in order to uphold its hegemonic function. This is also reflected in the subsequent policy practise. The redressed CFSP has not developed into a second NATO conducting large-scale military operations all around the globe; instead, the main areas of activity for the ESDP are civil-military crisis man- agement and police missions, conducted in close cooperation with the UN and only with limited use of force. From a discursive perspective, this development shows that, like post-structuralist emphasise, systems of meaning within a discourse are not fixed, but fluid and open to change. The EU-3 was able to exert discursive hegemony and redress the meaning of the tasks of a civil- ian power. At the same time, however, discursive formations ensure discursive hegemony only if they exert a cohesive effect. Thus, they are not completely free floating and cannot be altered drastically in short time frames. What has not yet been ascertained completely is why this discursive turn should be a product of power relations. This can be best shown in scrutinizing the behaviour of the post-neutral mem- ber states, like Sweden, Finland and Austria. According to their traditional foreign policy ap- proaches, they were opposed most strongly to a militarised CFSP (Howorth 2007, 150). How- ever, they gave in to the pressure of the European great powers, gradually adjusted their histori- cally cemented foreign policy approaches and began to participate actively in efforts to build an autonomous ESDP, a body subsequently undertaking missions beyond the scope of traditional

8 Germany moved closer towards the Europeanist camp’s position of promoting an autonomous European foreign and defence policy, climaxing in Schröder’s explicit adoption of the French concept Europe puissance in a speech to the French national assembly in 1999.


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Conceptualizing the European Union’s CFSP

peacekeeping. With regard to Sweden and Finland, Rieker has shown that the effects of the St. Malo summit accelerated defence sector modernisation in Sweden and Finland and even led to a change in their domestic discourses on security issues (2004, 377 – 384). 9 This emphasises that the new discursive formation promoted on the EU level seems to have penetrated the national foreign policy discourses of small member states. Thus, while the overall stability of the civilian power concept allowed the post-neutral member states to adjust smoothly, it seems nevertheless appropriate to rethink the constructivist concept of Europeanization. This paper suggests that this process is not just an adaption to consensual European norms, but an infusion of ideational concepts, which originate from the big member states, via discursive hegemony, into the social practises of smaller member states. When considering the practical consequence of the small states’ support for the ESDP, it becomes clear that discursive formations are not only a product, but also a source, of power. Combined with the changing demands of security policy after 9/11 and the introduction of the “constructive abstention”, the establishment of the ESDP has caused a further strengthening of the EU-3’s role as informal directorate in the CFSP. Thus, “it has be- come more difficult for small states to stop the actions of the great powers and, therefore, the in- stitutional changes increase the probability that small states will be marginalized in the decision- making process” (Wivel 2005, 402). Moreover, the increasing dominance of the EU-3 has also improved the opportunities for them to exploit the civilian power concept. For example, in the “ESDP mission” Operation Artemis, France deployed 1.785 of 2.200 EU troops in order to be able to operate in the region of some of its former African colonies. “There is a strong impres- sion that the EU’s more militarily active members are deliberately casting the ESDP in the role of the ‘nice cop’: as the shopfront where they advertise themselves as friendly and ‘save’ interveners, with bloodied hands discreetly held behind backs” (Bailes 2008, 120). This shows that while tak- ing discourses seriously as objects of study, it is nevertheless necessary for a critical perspective to question whether or not the political practise matches the discourse.

5) The way ahead: Towards a theory of CFSP decision making The aim of this short study was to outline a theoretical approach to the CFSP cutting across ma- jor dividing lines in IR theory. It has become evident that thinking beyond boundaries of seem- ingly incommensurable paradigms yields a reasonable “value added”. Especially in the face of Europe experiencing a backlash of nationalistic policies during the financial crisis and negotia- tions of the Lisbon treaty, it seems all the more necessary to bring the behaviour of the member state back to the centre of academic attention. A new strand of theorizing that combines post- structuralist and realist thinking could make a valuable contribution to the critical examination of these phenomena. In this paper, only a very broad perspective on the CFSP has been delivered. The alteration of discursive formations as a result of discursive hegemony affects CFSP policies only on the macro level. What has not been theorized is how the dominant interpretations articu- lated in every single CFSP position actually develop. How do the member states arrive at shared threat assessments or policy proposals? What strategies do the small or big member states employ to assert their interpretations? How do discursive formations of the European discourse trans-

9 There is empirical evidence that the Nordic post-neutrals adjusted also their voting behaviour in the UN general as- sembly to the majority positions of the EU members after their accession in many cases (Laatikainen 2003).


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form previously articulated “national interests”? How does material power exactly translate into communicative power? All these questions necessitate clarifying the mutual constitution of discursive formations and policy articulations in the process of decision making. Building on structuration theory (Giddens 1984), the development of discursive formations should be treated as macro-sociological proc- esses on the structural level, and therefore analytically distinguished from policy articulations aim- ing at the production of dominant interpretations in actual CFSP decision making, located in theory on the agency level. Finally, the feedback effects of those two levels on each other should be analysed to explore the struggle for discursive hegemony more fully. In this line of reasoning, the structural context of the discursive formations shapes the decision making process while the policy articulations within the decision making process itself have effects on the discursive forma- tions. To examine the level of agency, it will be necessary to develop a model for decision making within the CFSP identifying different member state strategies to establish dominant interpreta- tions.

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Paper 01/2010 www.rege Georg Simmerl, B.A. ist Stipendiat der Friedrich-

Georg Simmerl, B.A. ist Stipendiat der Friedrich- Ebert-Stiftung und ehemaliger studentischer Mitar- beiter an der Professur für Internationale Politik der Universität Regensburg.

Forschungsschwerpunkte: Theorien der Internationa- len Beziehungen, Europäische Außenpolitik



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