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With or without the EU? Understanding EU member states’ motivations for dealing with Russia at the European or the national level

Schmidt-Felzmann, Anke Uta (2011) With or without the EU? Understanding EU member states’ motivations for dealing with Russia at the European or the national level. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis seeks to explain why European Union (EU) member states choose to pursue their foreign policy objectives regarding Russia at the EU level or bilaterally. It explores the idea in the literature that national governments engage in ‘venue shopping’ to achieve national foreign policy objectives. The thesis examines the question of how EU member states engage with Russia by examining different policy case studies (energy relations, democracy and human rights promotion, bilateral disputes). It analyses member governments’ choice of policy route from two contrasting, but complementary perspectives, exploring both rational choice arguments from a 'logic of expected consequences' perspective (focusing on the anticipated costs and benefits of national governments' choice of policy route) and social constructivist arguments from a 'logic of appropriateness' perspective (focusing on the effects of EU membership and the socialisation of national representatives into the rules and norms of behaviour in the EU on the political elites' choice of policy route). With a systematic analysis of national governments’ choices across different policy issues it helps clarify the motivations underpinning the decision to pursue national foreign policy objectives at the European or the national level. It thereby contributes to filling a lacuna in the existing literature on EU-Russia relations and the extant research on member states’ foreign policies in the EU context. The contributions to existing scholarship that the thesis makes are: first, it demonstrates that the decision to cooperate, or act at the bilateral level, is not as clear cut as it is often depicted. I show that in most cases it is not a question of either-or. Member states frequently pursue cooperation at the EU level to achieve foreign policy objectives that they also pursue at the bilateral level. Second, I show that member states’ choices are predominantly influenced by their assessment of the utility of the European and the national route. There is considerably less evidence to suggest that the European level is being privileged as a result of a socialisation in the EU, so the length of membership, and thus the duration of national decision-makers' exposure to EU policy-making processes does not determine a member government’s choice and influences it only to a limited extent. Third, I show that the size/capacity of the member state they represent is but one factor influencing national governments in their choice of foreign policy route. Whether a state is large or small gives indications of a national government's likely choice, but it does not offer definitive insights into which policy route will be chosen on a particular issue. Fourth, I concur with existing research that argues that a distinction between policy issues in terms of their hierarchy (‘first order’ or ‘second order’) provides insights into member states’ likely choice, but I argue that it is necessary to not just focus on the policy domain, but also to differentiate within a policy domain between the pursuit of broader framework objectives that deliver benefits to all member states and those objectives on which individual states accrue gains in the absence of a common EU agreement with Russia. Fifth, this thesis highlights the importance of how member states perceive Russia - as a threat or as an opportunity – and the importance they attribute to maintaining ‘friendly’, ‘pragmatic’ relations for whether they cooperate at the EU level or opt for the pursuit of their individual relations with Russia at the bilateral level. Finally, on the basis of the findings from the three analytically and empirically significant cases I argue that member states’ choices are highly contingent and can only be explained by considering the interplay between the different factors that enter into national governments’ calculus regarding the utility of the EU route versus the bilateral pursuit of national foreign policy objectives.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: EU-Russia relations, European Union foreign policy, EU external relations, EU Member States, national foreign policy, European Union, Russian Federation
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Supervisor's Name: Young, Prof. Alasdair R. and White, Prof. Stephen L.
Date of Award: 2011
Embargo Date: 24 May 2014
Depositing User: Anke U. Schmidt-Felzmann
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2571
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 May 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:57
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2571

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