RECON Online Working Paper 2009/17

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EU Foreign Policy Elites and Fundamental Norms

Implications for Governance


Uwe Puetter (Central European University) and Antje Wiener (University of Hamburg)



Starting from the assumption that the European Union’s (EU) common foreign and security policy (CFSP) will rely on a pre-dominantly intergovernmental governance setting for the foreseeable future, this paper focuses on alternative institutional options for conducting policy dialogue in such a context. It reviews the current coordination practice in the key forums for policy dialogue between the member states, such as the General Affairs and External Relations Council, the Political and Security Committee, as well as the Policy Unit and the role of the High Representative for the CFSP within these forums. To this end the paper proposes a two-fold theoretical framework combining insights from the analysis of other intergovernmental policy coordination contexts within the EU, on the one hand, and research on norm contestation on the other hand. Rather than assuming that key norms, principles and rules in the field of the CFSP can be agreed upon in a one-off fashion, we hold that even once these norms have acquired quasi-constitutional status, say, in the form of Treaty provisions or through repeated European Council resolutions, they remain inherently contested and therefore leave room for policy-makers to derive different policy approaches when enacting their meaning-in-use. The question is therefore whether the CFSP coordination context allows for the identification of diverging interpretations of fundamental norms and organising principles in foreign and security policy debates and thus can establish common understandings through practice rather than through initial acclamation. This can best be achieved through forward looking policy debates including the increased use of scenario-based policy review procedures. The overall reliance of the CFSP process on intergovernmental policy dialogue implies a central role for foreign policy elites both at the national and EU level. This poses key questions about the notion of legitimate decision-making within such a context.


Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) – European Council – Legitimacy – Policy Coordination  

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