Title: Normative Institutionalism and EU Foreign Policy in Comparative Perspective (PDF 3.6MB)

Author(s): Frank Schimmelfennig and Daniel C. Thomas

Paper number and date: WP 08-12, July 2008

Abstract: This project has challenged prevailing views on the European Union’s development of foreign policy and external relations – both the Intergovernmentalists’ claim that policymaking in this area is dominated (and often fatally undermined) by the Member States’ hard pursuit of national interests and their critics’ claim that agreement is facilitated by discursive exchanges that promote convergence in national preferences.

In particular, the project is organized around a Normative Institutionalist theory of EU policymaking that highlights two ways in which the Union’s substantive and procedural norms, as well as its pre-existing policy commitments, enable negotiated agreements among Member States with divergent policy preferences (Thomas 2008). Entrapment is the process by which Member States find it difficult to escape the dictates of substantive EU norms and thus accept (however reluctantly) norm-consistent policies that diverge from their actual preferences. Cooperative Bargaining is the process by which veto threats are sidelined by the EU’s procedural norms in favor of consultation and consensus, leading Member States to adopt common policies based on mutual compromise.

These conclusions serve three purposes. First, we give an overview of the case study findings with regard to the explanatory power of Normative Institutionalism. Second, we explore the conditions under which the normative institutionalist mechanisms of policy agreement are more or less likely to be effective. And finally, we consider the implications of our findings for the European Union’s ability to promote its values and interests in world affairs.

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