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Panel 910: EU’s Engagement with Civil Society and Other Stakeholders in its External Relations: Strategies and Conceptualization
Wednesday, 04/Sep/2019:
11:30am - 1:00pm

Session Chair: Fabienne Bossuyt, Ghent University
Location: Room 12.08

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EU’s Engagement with Civil Society and Other Stakeholders in Its External Relations: Strategies and Conceptualization

Chair(s): Fabienne Bossuyt (Ghent University)

Discussant(s): Maryna Rabinovych (University of Hamburg)

This panel deals with the EU’s engagement with stakeholders in its external relations, with stakeholders broadly defined as civil society, businesses, higher education institutions, as well as international organisations and governments in third states.

Literature on multistakeholderism in the EU’s external action is still developing, and over the past 15 years, the diverse writings on this topic leave room for debate. Patterns of interaction, driving factors, and stakeholders’ impact on a policy, for example, have been discussed but are open to further conceptualization and empirical inquiry. One particular promising area for research is an “outside-in” perspective, analyzing how the EU’s engagement with stakeholders in third countries (mis)fits the local norms and contexts.

The papers included in this panel problematize diverse facets of the EU’s engagement with stakeholders in its external relations, namely, discursive framing, formulation of the EU’s strategies, dynamics of consultation, support practices, and the ways in which the EU’s actions are perceived in third countries. All of them ask how engagement with civil society and other stakeholders impacts legitimacy and effectiveness of the EU’s external action. Papers provide empirical insights from four policy areas (human rights promotion, conflict prevention and peace-building, trade and education). In addition, they offer a range of critical theoretical frameworks and conceptualizations for EU’s engagement with stakeholders.


Presentations of the Symposium


(In)compatible Partners? The EU’s and Human Rights Organisations' Framing of Human Rights Promotion in the South Caucasus

Laura Luciani
Ghent University

Within the policy framework of the Eastern Partnership, the EU has increasingly been engaging with civil society actors in the South Caucasus region – considering them as important partners in the promotion of human rights. The EU’s success in improving the human rights record of these countries by supporting the local civil society has nevertheless been limited. While the existing literature has mostly been concerned with policy effectiveness, this paper suggests to take a step back and look at how these policies are discursively constructed in the first place. In fact, despite the emphasis on a EU-civil society partnership in the realm of human rights, there are elements suggesting that these actors have diverging interpretations of the actual “substance” of human rights promotion via civil society – in both its content and modalities. By exploring how human rights promotion policies are framed by the EU and by selected human rights organisations from the three South Caucasus countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia), this paper wants to provide a discourse-centred, bottom-up perspective on the EU’s human rights promotion in the region. With the goal of unpacking, mapping out and comparing actors’ discursive framings, the paper answers the following questions: how is human rights promotion framed by the EU and civil society from the South Caucasus, and to what extent are their framings (in)compatible? The paper adopts an interpretivist approach to framing analysis, building on key communications and constitutive documents issued by the EU and human rights organisations (since 2011), as well as on interviews.


The European Union’s Support to Civil Society Organisations in Conflict Prevention and Peace-building: Towards a Global Peace Orchestrator?

Julian Bergmann
German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

The bulk of research on EU foreign and security policy has focused on CSDP military operations, civilian missions, sanctions, or peace mediation. Significantly less attention has been paid to the EU’s indirect support to conflict prevention and resolution efforts of other third parties, including civil society actors (CSOs). The main argument of the paper is that in order to fully grasp the EU’s actorness in international security, we need to further conceptualize and analyse empirically the EU’s support to the conflict prevention and resolution work of other third parties. Building on the literature on indirect governance and the practice approach, the paper proposes a conceptualization of the EU as a global peace orchestrator that seeks to achieve many of its own governance objectives through intermediaries rather than through direct action. Exploring the different normative underpinnings of the EU’s governance approaches, the paper then theorizes different support practices, their potential effects on the relationship between the EU and intermediaries, and their implications for the EU’s legitimacy as an international security actor. Based on the conceptual framework, the paper then illustrates empirically how the understanding of the EU as an orchestrator of conflict prevention and resolution helps to explain the EU’s support activities to civil society organisations, illustrating the example of projects funded under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP). Finally, the empirical findings are utilized to propose a research agenda for studying the EU’s support practices in EU external policies such as development and migration policies.


The (Not So) Subtle Unilateral Power? EU’s Engagement with Civil Society in the Framework of EU-Georgia DCFTA

Diana Potjomkina
Institute for European Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel; United Nations University – CRIS

The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with Georgia is a “new generation” EU’s trade agreement, which creates civil society mechanisms (CSMs) and engages them in monitoring and implementation. Nominally, both EU and Georgian stakeholders are in equal position to exchange views and provide recommendations to the Parties. Previous research has highlighted several problems in functioning of the mechanisms, but hardly has critically analysed the perspectives of third country “recipients” of EU policies and their opportunities to make themselves heard. In contrast, this paper asks: What power dynamics affect participation of Georgian representatives in the EU’s CSMs?

As field research shows, the functioning of the mechanisms is plagued by the EU’s de facto unilateral approach to the dialogue with Georgian civil society. The EU sets unrealistic expectations, while ignoring its lack of capacity and influence. Suggestions of Georgian stakeholders are often not conveyed to EU policy-makers. The shortcomings of the EU’s policies are not discussed, and EU stakeholders sometimes act dismissive of their Georgian counterparts’ concerns. Thus, (not so) subtle power relations exist within the seemingly equalizing CSMs.

This study advocates for a more critical, power-sensitive framework to analyse the EU’s engagement with civil society in its external relations and its consequences. In practice “empowerment” may be “managed” and “inclusion” – “selective,” creating a number of constraints. Instead of increasing the legitimacy and effectiveness of the EU’s policies abroad, the Union may harm them by being perceived as ignoring local concerns, perhaps even intentionally.


The European Union as an Actor in Global Education Diplomacy: A Multi-Level Analysis of External Engagement

Joachim A. Koops1, Silviu Piros2
1University of Leiden, 2Institute for European Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Research on the European Union’s (EU) has neglected for a long time the EU’s influence on and interaction with a variety of key stakeholders in the field of education, academic capacity-building and scientific cooperation. Whilst an overemphasis exists in the literature on exploring the EU’s external relations with respect to major fields, such as security and defense policies, global economic governance, environmental policy as well as development, democratization, human rights, an important and growing aspect of the EU’s foreign policy reach consists of the emerging role in its approach to global education policies. Ever since the 1990s, various institutions within the EU foreign policy system have stepped up their policy focus on how policies in the domain of education (such as capacity-building, exchange diplomacy or academic diplomacy to advance core societal values and innovations) could enhance the EU’s influence in international and global affairs. This paper will examine the EU’s external engagement with major international organisations, states and (academic) civil society in the field of education and will assess the EU’s ‘diplomatic strategies’ in this realm from a multi-level perspective. We will outline the evolution of the EU as a major actor in education diplomacy and analyse the various ways in which EU actors utilize their relations with, inter alia, the OECD, the Council of Europe, UNESCO as well as major powers and civil society (in particular higher education institutions) in order to increase legitimacy, influence and effectiveness of EU’s external role.

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