Patterns and Processes of EU Strategic Diplomacy: Dealing with the BRIC

This research activity focuses on an exploration of the processes through which the EU’s diplomatic system responds to new challenges, specifically in this case the challenges of dealing with the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). The investigation focuses on the following research questions:

  • What challenges are posed by the emergence of the BRIC countries to the EU’s diplomatic system?
  • How has the EU diplomatic system re-configured itself to deal with the BRIC? In particular, how has this process affected the nature of the EU diplomatic community?
  • What are the key contexts (both internal and external) within which the EU diplomatic system interacts with the BRIC?
  • How has the EU’s diplomatic system ‘learned’ to deal with the BRIC? In particular, how has the system responded to the politicisation of economic and other dealings with the BRIC countries?
  • What processes of negotiation have taken place with the BRIC countries, and how do they demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of the EU’s diplomatic system? In particular, how has the pursuit of ‘strategic partnerships’ with these countries been negotiated, and how has the EU system performed in this process?
  • What issues have arisen in the process of implementing agreements between the EU and the BRIC, and what do they tell us about the EU’s diplomatic system? In particular, how has the system responded to issues of coordination both within and across relations with individual BRIC countries? What role has been played by the interaction of public and private diplomacy? Is there a common EU strategic approach towards these countries?

The research is conducted through documentary methods, and interviews with key participants in Brussels and elsewhere. The approach is qualitative, focused on developing an understanding of the ways in which the EU’s diplomatic system receives and responds to new challenges and develops new strategies. The four key concepts to be applied are those of strategy, learning, negotiation and implementation. The focus is on both empirical and normative aspects of the processes under investigation.

The research, led by Professor Michael Smith, is based at Loughborough University. Contributions will be made by Professor David Allen and Professor Brian Hocking. There will also be interaction with the parallel projects being conducted at KU Leuven and Maastricht University, which focus on institutions and on the response of EU diplomacy to the challenges of Kosovo and DR Congo. In particular, the workshop to be held at KU Leuven will bring together the ‘strategic’ and ‘structural’ strands of the research to be undertaken.

The research will produce an innovative analysis of the relations between the EU and the BRIC countries, which will be of significant interest to the academic community in diplomatic studies and European integration studies. The research will also contribute to official understanding of the operation of the EU diplomatic system, and of the ways in which it adapts to new challenges; this understanding can be enhanced through the use of research materials in training and other contexts. It will produce papers to be posted on the project web site and also feed into policy papers.
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