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Leadership roles and institutional change in EU foreign policy

Conference contribution
Authors Lisbeth Aggestam
Markus Johansson
Published in Paper prepared for the 24th International Conference of Europeanists, Council for European Studies (CES). University of Glasgow: 12-14 July
Publication year 2017
Published at Centre for European Research (CERGU)
Department of Political Science
Language en
Keywords leadership, role, manager, foreign policy, EEAS, High Representative, EU, international executives
Subject categories Political Science


Can you have a strategy without leadership? The question is an urgent one for the European Union (EU) that is currently experiencing one of its severest crisis. Leadership is often seen as a necessary condition for establishing a shared vision and common action that the EU Global Strategy calls for. But who can provide leadership in EU foreign and security policy and how? This question relates to the broader literature that study when and how executives of international organizations possess agency to exercise leadership and to what affect. In this paper, we focus on the double-hatted position that the EU High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy (HR) has alongside her role as Vice-President of the European Commission. The latest treaty reforms of the EU brought about significant institutional changes that strengthened the formal position of the HR. These developments in EU foreign policy-making have confounded scholars of European integration who disagree on their significance. One strand of research points to the symbolic challenge that these formal shifts in the leadership function represents to state-centric ideas about foreign policy and diplomacy. Others have argued that these changes do not represent such a substantive shift in the principal-agent relationship as the intergovernmental nature of decision-making has been essentially preserved. Whereas the former view would imply possibilities for new political leadership in EU foreign policy, the latter strand would rather see these institutional developments as providing for a more managerial role. This paper examines these two distinct trajectories of European integration that entails different types of leadership roles taken by the EU High Representative. We are particularly interested in exploring the horizontal dimension of the double-hatted position that the HR finds herself in as Head of the hybrid institution of the EEAS and that of Vice-President of the supranational European Commission. While the first post-Lisbon HR, Catherine Ashton, had her headquarter in the EEAS, the second HR Federica Moghereni, appointed in 2014, has moved her office to the Commission. We ask in this paper what is the effect of this institutional change for the role of the HR, and the expectations on her leadership. The paper is based on an empirical survey that includes 125 respondents from EU member states and EU institutions in order to explore the extent to which the HR and EEAS is perceived to take on a political leadership role or a more managerial role.

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