Rethinking European Union Foreign Policy

By Ben Tonra; Thomas Christiansen | Go to book overview

LISBETH AGGESTAM


6
Role identity and the Europeanisation of foreign
policy: a political-cultural approach

The foreign policy process has become Europeanised, in the sense that in every
international issue, there is an exchange of information and an attempt to arrive at
a common understanding and a common approach - compared to how things were
in the past, where most issues were looked at in isolation without addressing the
attitudes of other member states or a European dimension.

These words of a senior British foreign policy-maker reflect the experience of foreign policy cooperation between member states of the European Union for more than a quarter of a century.1 Over the years, the level of ambition to speak with 'one voice' in foreign affairs has steadily increased to include even security and defence questions. The Maastricht Treaty clearly stipulated that the Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy should aim to assert the EU's identity on the international stage. This progressive deepening and widening of European integration in foreign policy raises a number of interesting questions, particularly regarding the significance and future role of the state in foreign policy: Are states no longer the most important organisational actors in foreign policy? Is the realist idea that states ultimately seek to preserve their national independence in foreign policy still relevant to international relations in Europe?

The precise implication that the CFSP has for national foreign policy is a matter of contention in the academic literature. Yet, few analysts would probably disagree with the observation that it has 'moved the conduct of foreign policy away from the old nation-state national sovereignty model towards a collective endeavour, a form of high-level networking with transformationalist effects' (Hill and Wallace 1996: 6). How we conceptualise these changes in foreign policy is a major challenge and provokes us to look anew at the theories and categories with which we go about our research on foreign policy in contemporary Europe. A central research problem is to explore the relevance of the state and investigate whether the agency of foreign policy is now increasingly conceived on the European level by policy-makers.

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