Constructing a common EU policy vis-à-vis the East : managing identity, normativity, morality and interests in talk
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In order to appreciate the wider implication of EU foreign policy and the role of the EU as a global actor, it is essential to consider how constructions of EU foreign policy are accounted for, by practitioners, within EU institutions. To examine such constructions is the focus of this thesis. In the remit of European foreign policy, the Common Security and Foreign Policy (CSFP) and the European Neighbourhood Policy’s (ENP) strategic engagement is linked with the continuous quest to define a European identity, purpose and borders, especially most recently on its eastern European boundaries. Although there are studies conceptualising identity, by examining European foreign policy, these accounts either focus on EU’s capability of developing policy instruments that demonstrate her global actorness (or lack of it), or on the social norms that constitute EU identity, or on evaluating the moral obligations EU policy prescribes. However, there has been little attention in the academic literature on their interdependency. Neither has much attention been paid to consider the eastern European region as a collective. This present study addresses several gaps in the existing research literature. It treats the eastern European region as a collective and focuses on EU practitioners, who formulate the policy vis-à-vis these eastern neighbours. More importantly, it focuses on how identity, normativity, morality and interest formations are actually managed in talk, and their interdependency. Semi-structured research interviews with 62 participants from the Council of the European Union DG Eastern Europe and Central Asia (COEST) policy unit and the presidency secretariat, the Commission’s External Relations DG (DG Relex) and the Commissioner’s secretariat, and the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee were recorded and transcribed. For the analysis, I applied a form of discursive psychology informed by category membership analysis. This analytical approach, novel to IR and to EU studies, examines the social function of talk in interactions, the personal accountability of the speaker, as well as the categories that practitioners build up. The findings have significant theoretical, methodological and practical implications for IR and for foreign policy practice and research. First, the application of discursive psychology led to new understandings of how EU practitioners construct EU policy vis-à-vis the East, the distinct interest in the region with respect to the cultural and historical ties, border security and energy security, and how these practitioners manage identity, normative, moral and interest concerns. Thus this thesis contributes to the theoretical developments in IR on identity formation through talk. The analysis reveals the relevance of how participants build on various discursive accounts such as: the way they construct the ‘European’ (1); they account for the normative role/power the EU plays in the eastern region (2); the way they attend to the vocational or moral aspect of EU policy vis-à-vis the East (3); and justify the EU’s collective interests of energy security (4). Furthermore, the analysis reveals a competing construction according to which the closer ties with eastern European countries is not merely a moral concern or is clarifying issues of identity for the EU, but very much a normative one, as it serves the EU’s own interest, especially concerning energy security. In short, these notions are connected and exist in parallel to each other, when practitioners consider EU foreign policy, rather than favouring one notion over the other. The findings also demonstrate that in understanding European foreign policy in the East, participants draw upon dichotomised categories combined with various discursive devices that effectively work to fragment ‘European’ identity. This will have implications for practices of EU foreign policy as well as perceptions of a ‘European’ identity in general. Second, this thesis forms an important contribution to discursive studies in IR and EU studies, by applying a specific analytical approach. I discuss the methodological issues that the application of discursive psychology raises, such as the use of interview data and the ethics of obtaining such data for analysing foreign policy. The introduction of this method to IR also challenges those cognition focused models that have been previously widely accepted. The final set of implications is more of a practical nature. Some of the findings contribute to potential policy recommendations on EU policy vis-à-vis the East, as well as the way EU practitioners manage issues of personal accountability. The findings also allow for the development of specific teaching material to assist with training EU practitioners.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Electronic copy restricted until 20th June 2021, (pending formal approval)
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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