Conference Agenda

Panel 801: Foreign relations in and after COVID-19
Wednesday, 08/Sept/2021:
11:30am - 1:00pm

Session Chair: Delphine Deschaux-Dutard, Unversity Grenoble Alpes


Finding New Commonalities: Australia-EU relations in the era of COVID-19

Edward Yencken

The University of Melbourne, Australia

Before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic relations between Australia and the EU were already centred on substantial cooperation. Above all, a treaty level Framework Agreement was signed in 2017 with negotiations for a free trade agreement beginning in 2018. These events were of particular importance given past frictions in the relationship based on trade disputes largely related to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. In 2020, however, Australia and the EU witnessed a new opportunity for cooperation created by their coordinated push for an international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 via the World Health Organisation (WHO). This occurred in the context of strong disapproval from the Chinese government about the inquiry and the Trump Administration’s decision to leave the WHO. This paper will therefore focus on how events in 2020 may aid in further strengthening the nature of Australia and the EU’s comprehensive international partnership.

The (Post)-covid Normative Power Shifts in EU-China Relations

Jing Jing

University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom (PhD graduate)

The (Post)-covid Normative Power Shifts in EU-China relations

Keywords: EU-China relations; Normative Power Europe, Normative Power China, Power Shift, New Normality

Covid-19 has seen a series of shifts regarding international normality. Besides the “pause” of globalisation and the counter-globalisation as well as the deglobalisation trend in the world, the idea of what is normal has also been challenged when the world has been trapped in the state of being abnormal.

The Normative Power Europe (NPE) as a concept and theory has been supported by the popularity of its core values, the solidarity of its institutional framework as well as the support from its alliance. All these three areas have been challenged during the pandemic. Freedom and democracy have not been effective in serving peace and safety during the pandemic. Value-wise, the core belief of peace, freedom, democracy, and rule of law has been challenged by the loss of lives. Institution-wise, the major effective measure was done through individual sovereign states’ domestic actions and bilateral cooperation. External relationship-wise, the US has withdrawn from assisting the world in medical treatment mechanism.

Meanwhile, China has shown a quite different approach in handling the pandemic. Although transparency was criticised in the beginning, the effective control of the disease and the fast timeline of economic and social recovery has raised the question of whether China is providing the new normative power as alternatives and new norms for the post-covid world.

The paper argues that as some of the core aspects of the European normative power has been challenged during the pandemic, the declination of normative power in Europe is hard to reverse, but the post-covid era offers the EU a chance to revive its normative power in multilateral cooperation regarding global health and enforcing global trades including EU-UK trades. However, the effectiveness of the European normative power will be largely dependent upon the recovery of global economy and connectivity, the world’s confidence in globalization and multilateralism as well as the EU’s effectiveness in its internal and external actions.

Riding The Contestation Wave Or Losing It? EU-Brazil Cooperation And R2P

Francisca Costa Reis

KU Leuven, Belgium

Since its adoption at the United Nations (UN) in 2005, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norm has seen widespread contestation. On one side of the Atlantic, the European Union has actively supported R2P’s promotion and implementation through various statements as well as concrete action designed to allow for coherent responses to mass atrocities. Yet, despite its capacity to champion the R2P, the EU has not remained immune to the intense contestation surrounding the norm, manifesting its preference for preventive action and showing divisions regarding the use of force. On the other side, Brazil emerged as a key actor in the debates surrounding the R2P norm, particularly after the NATO-led intervention in Libya revealed the fragilities of military action in responding to mass atrocities. This contribution analyzes parallel processes of contestation and cooperation by looking into the EU-Brazil Strategic Partnership in the field of R2P. More specifically, it asks how Brazil’s contestation of R2P and its preference for atrocity prevention over military response have shaped its cooperation with the EU. In doing so, it assesses whether or not the two partners have been able to ride the wave of contestation, seizing opportunities for cooperation in the field of international security.

Discursive Struggles Over The EU´s Identity As A Foreign Policy Actor In Times Of Pandemic

Corina Filipescu, Michel Vincent Anderlini

Malmö University, Sweden

Discourse analysis scholars have widely examined the identity of the EU as a foreign policy actor, often revealing a “fragmented nature of agency at the European level’ (White 1999: 44). Studies show that the fragmented nature of the EU´s agency is a result of competing discursive positions emerging from different national and institutional actors who act and speak on behalf of the EU (Campbell, 1998; Diez, 2013; Parker and Rosamond, 2013). Engaged in discursive struggles to impose meaning, such actors aim both at influencing the content of EU policies in foreign policy, but also to limit the kind of external policies that can legitimately be produced (Diez, 1999, 2013). Empirical contributions have, for example, investigated the discursive articulations of the national ‘we’ at the EU level (Larsen, 2013), cooperation between EU Member States in the field of counter-terrorism (Isleyne, 2013), the way the EEAS interact with Member States´ national constituencies (Jørgensen, 2013) and the multiplicity of market liberalism discourses within the European Commission (De Ville and Orbie, 2013).

However, with the exception of Schmidt (2013), the existing literature using discourse analysis has neglected to examine the discursive struggles shaping the EU´s identity as a foreign policy actor in times of crises. This article argues therefore that crises, such as the Corona global pandemic, have the potential of delegitimizing discourses that were previously used to describe the identity of actors (Rosenthal,Charles, & ‘t Hart, 1989). Actors need then to fill the discursive vacuum with new discourses presented as something new and a solution to the crises (Henderson, 2014). Drawing upon a Foucauldian theoretical framework, this article will analyse the discursive struggles between the European Commission and the European Parliament when presenting and debating the “Team Europe package”, a pledge financial envelope of €15.6 billion aimed at helping third countries to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences.