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  • Author: Sven Biscop
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: EGMONT - The Royal Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: European foreign policy: the words do not conjure up any grand images. In the absence of any real ambition, there are neither triumphs to celebrate nor disasters to mourn. There is only gentle irrelevance to contemplate. Such is the image of Europe as an international player today in the minds of those who make and study foreign policy and strategy, in our own as well as in foreign capitals. Gentle irrelevance, for Europe proclaims to wish the world well and is generous enough with its money to prove it. And it presents no cause for fear, only for irritation, in some corners, with its inconvenient insistence on universal values. But irrelevance nonetheless, for Europe lacks the unity and sense of purpose for resolute and sustained action to uphold these values, and continues to liberally spend its money quite regardless of values or effect. Increasingly irrelevant even, for in the wake of the financial crisis Europe struggles to maintain its own social model, which undermines the legitimacy of its value-based narrative and erodes the will as well as the me ans for external action.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Power Politics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Sven Biscop
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: EGMONT - The Royal Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: The Arab Spring is a revolutionary event on the EU's doorstep, of importance comparable to the end ofthe communist regimes in Eastern Europe some two decades ago. First it has ended the Arab exception to the proposition of democracy and human rights as universal values. Second it has demonstrated to all remaining authoritarian and/or grossly corrupted regimes around the world the power of the new technologies of social networking in undermining such regimes. Third it renews the challenge for both political scientists and practitioners to work out feasible political reform strategies for bridging the transition between authoritarianism and sound democratic governance.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Islam, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Europe, Arabia
  • Author: John Brante, Chiara De Franco, Christoph Meyer, Florian Otto
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: EGMONT - The Royal Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: The number and lethality of conflicts has been declining significantly since the end of the Cold War, but five new armed conflicts still break out each year. While costly peace-making, stabilisation and reconstruction efforts have helped to end conflicts, no comparative efforts have gone into preventing them from occurring in the first place. The international community appears stuck in the never-ending travails of managing crises, finding it difficult to act early to prevent new conflicts from escalating. Encouraging signs that this is changing include the United Nations (UN) promotion of the preventive arm of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and the United States' efforts to improve its capacity to prevent conflicts and mass atrocities emerging from the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. Similarly, since the launch of the Gothenburg programme in 2001, the European Union (EU) has embraced the case for conflict prevention in policy documents as well as in the Lisbon Treaty itself, making it a hallmark of its approach to international security and conflict in contrast to conventional foreign policy. Yet, it has fallen significantly short in translating these aspirations into institutional practice and success on the ground. It suffers from the 'missing middle' syndrome between long-term structural prevention through instruments such as conditionality for EU accession and development policy, and short-term responses to erupting crisis through military and civilian missions.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, Peace Studies, War, Armed Struggle, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Europe, United Nations
  • Author: James Rogers
  • Publication Date: 01-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: EGMONT - The Royal Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: The naval historian and geostrategist, Alfred Thayer Mahan, understood the utility of military power perhaps better than anyone before or since. In an article called The Place of Force in International Relations – penned two years before his death in 1914 – he claimed: 'Force is never more operative then when it is known to exist but is not brandished' (1912). If Mahan's point was valid then, it is perhaps even more pertinent now. The rise of new powers around the world has contributed to the emergence of an increasingly unpredictable and multipolar international system. Making the use of force progressively more dangerous and politically challenging, this phenomenon is merging with a new phase in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, many European governments are increasingly reluctant – perhaps even unable – to intervene militarily in foreign lands. The operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown that when armed force is used actively in support of foreign policy, it can go awry; far from re-affirming strength and determination on the part of its beholder, it can actually reveal weakness and a lack of resolve. Half-hearted military operations – of the kind frequently undertaken by democratic European states – tend not to go particularly well, especially when there is little by way of a political strategy or the financial resources needed to support them. A political community's accumulation of a military reputation, which can take decades, if not centuries, can then be rapidly squandered through a series of unsuccessful combat operations, which dent its confidence and give encouragement to its opponents or enemies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Political Violence, Arms Control and Proliferation, War, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Jelle Puelings
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: EGMONT - The Royal Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: During the last five years, and more specifically since the US invasion of Irak, different Sunni policy makers and religious actors have ventilated their concern for what they see as the rise of Shiite Islam. Although the condemnation of Shiism by more rigorous currents such as Wahhabism is hardly new, recently different governments in the Middle East have taken concrete measures against Shiite actors. The same 'Cold War scenario' the region witnessed immediately after the Iranian Revolution seems to appear again, making Arab Sunni voices reverberate up to Western policy makers, who start to worry themselves about the role of Iran and its allies. In this paper we will try to give an evaluation of this alleged shift in the Sunni-Shi`a power balance, and point out the possible consequences for Belgium and the EU emanating from this controversy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, Bilateral Relations, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Arabia, Belgium