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Constructing the “common� in Common Foreign and Security Policy: The need for a European public space through the Europeanization of foreign policy discourses

Xhensila Gaba

Course: European Integration Instructor: Ilir Kalemaj Summer 2012 1

Abstract The further integration of EU towards a final political shape is perceived to be a hostage of the Member states’ reluctance to pool off their sovereignty when dealing with salient policy domains such as the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Being one of the three core institutional pillars of European Union, together with European Community and Justice and Home Affairs, CFSP is aligned mostly towards the intergovernmental side of the wide theoretical spectrum dealing with EU integration studies. However, even though lacking the degree of centralization that EC enjoys, it would be theoretically and empirically unfair to neglect the incremental institutionalization that has occurred within CFSP as broadly analyzes by the new institutionalism approaches, specifically the historical and sociological institutionalism. Then what is impeding CFSP to supranationalize? Most authors argue that the main factors behind the missing centralization of CFSP are the weak institutionalization, power and prevalence of national interests upon the European ones. The aim of this paper is to discuss upon an additional factor that affects the CFSP such as the missing of a European public space and moreover the lack of a common identity, which on the other hand supports the” democratic deficit” problem in EU. What does “common” mean to Europeans? Why is it of higher importance to have common interests when it comes to foreign policy issues? Indeed, the European citizen is distant from any process taking place within the CFSP. If some degree of socialization has occurred among the elites who engage into everyday policy-making within the CFSP, then according to constructivists, the phenomena of “going native” might be possible even among the common citizens, and in this way a common foreign interest would be pursuit instead of national interests.


The European public space would help to make foreign policy issues more visible to the citizens, and thus facilitating their direct engagement into CFSP through public claims. According to Habermas, a “community of communication” would strengthen the European public space, and therefore the word “common” would make sense. Moreover, I provide and analyze one of the mechanisms through which the emergence of a European public space might occur even in the foreign policy domain, which is the Europeanization of national public discourses. I will pursue a constructivist approach combined with post-modernist approaches such as the discursive approaches in order to support my thesis. Moreover, I will engage shortly on the literature of Europeanization in general and the Europeanization of public discourses in specific.


Introduction The integration struggle of European Union has been conceptualized through different theoretical lenses, which vary from being skeptical to optimistic for the future of EU given the particular empirical events that have happened till the creation of ECSC up to now. Indeed, there have been steps forward as well as backward during the path of integration. However, the destiny of EU has been kept a hostage of the classical dichotomous debate between intergovernmentalists and supranationalists. Still, this debate limits and constraints the understanding of the peculiar “nature of the beast” and thus it only fosters for an “undefined” Union. EU is a complex sui generis entity and therefore it deserves the pursuit of a complex and multi-level theoretical analysis of its current political shape as well as its struggle towards embracing a finalite politique. Particularly, the evolution of Common Foreign and Security Policy, the second institutional pillar in EU, has been perceived as a repetition of failures of member states to act collectively on foreign policy crises, which on the other hand feeds the arguments of the Euro skeptics. This pillar is perceived to be as the least likely one able to supranationalize and the facts identified as the main causes for impeding centralization are the weak institutional framework, the prevalence of the national interests over the European ones and a mistrust among member states in delegating of their sovereignty into a higher authority. Foreign policy analysis has always suffered from the comparison with economic integration, which is unfair in a way since they constitute two completely different contextual domains with regard to interests involved and policy-making. Because they embed different interests, the costs of a lost sovereignty in political issues remain higher compared to other economic issues. Foreign policy represents a highly sensitive domain for Member states because in high politics sovereignty matters. Most authors argue that there is a Euro-paralysis in decision-taking within 4

the CFSP, but they have limitations in their methodology in how they measure the effectiveness of common foreign policy. Most of the them refer to common action only the respond of the member states in times of particular crises. However, foreign policy is much more than an ad hoc decision. It is more of a system which gets its inputs from different sources, be them subnational, national or supranational inputs operating vertically or horizontally, and then the inputs are processed with or within the institutional framework in order for policy outcomes to be made. If perceived as such, it could be argued that the foreign policy system is in need of further input in order for its outcomes to be more supranationalized. This exactly makes of foreign policy a dynamic rather than a frozen process. As far as we get add more inputs, different outputs are expected. The aim of this paper is to focus on one particular input needed within the CFSP which has been neglected from the classical IR theories: the emergence of a European public space together with a common European identity. Indeed, while concerning on issues such as sovereignty, national interest, power and unanimity, of course it looks hard and challenging to perceive how the Member States would one day centralize under a common foreign policy institution. While attempts are being made to supranationalize the common foreign policy, most scholars missed to ask what do European mean by “common”. Thus, before calling the need for a common foreign policy, we should ask whether the word “common” makes sense in the case of European Union. The nature of foreign policy is a reflection of the integration phase of the EU as a whole. Therefore the lack of a European identity is transmitted and reflected in a weak institutional framework of the foreign policy as well. The problem starts with the definition of the word “common”. Especially in the case of foreign policy domain, the Members have to shape and define their role vis-à-vis the “others”. Therefore, it is necessary to know what 5

constitutes a common interest and what would be the normative role of EU in the international affairs. Research questions Why is Europe failing in supranationalizing its high politics the same way they are succeeding in low politics? Particularly, what are some of the additional causes, different from those discussed so far in the literature, that are impeding the creation of a common foreign policy? Is there a way to move Europe beyond the Euro-paralysis in CFSP and what would be one of the mechanisms that would facilitate and lead towards the aspired final outcome? How can the common citizen of EU engage into the process of decision-making within CFSP? Thesis statement In this paper, I argue that the main cause of a failed supranational foreign policy is the lack of a common identity and moreover the lack of a European public space which increases the “democratic deficit� problem on the other hand. Furthermore, I argue that one of the mechanisms to increase the European public space in foreign policy domain is through the Europeanization of national public discourses, which later would provide a bottom-up impact on the CFSP, rather than a classical top-down Europeanization model. Methodology The research method used in this paper is mostly a bibliographical review of articles. First, I research whether there is a relation/correlation between European public space (independent variable 1) and the supranationalization of the foreign policy in EU (dependent variable 1). Theoretical approaches would be pursuit in explaining the relationship with little


empirical support given the difficulty in measuring a qualitative variable such as the European public space. Second, I research on how the Europeanization of discourses (independent variable 2) affects the creation of a European public space (dependent variable 2, in this case) and therefore serves as an indirect mechanism for providing the “democratic input� in legitimating an effective CFSP. The method used to measure the Europeanization of discourses is through the mass media (selection of cases, language used, frequency of transmitting a certain issue, public debates) as being the visible public actor in promoting and impacting the public interests. Literature review CFSP has been perceived as a failure of the neo-functionalists approach since the assumed spillover effect did not take place. The integration of the economic issues did not impact the foreign policy processes in EU as expected. Up to the 20th century and the emergence of new post-modernist approaches, the analysis of CFSP was merely confined between the classical debate intergovernmentalists vs. supranationalists. Attempts have been made in analyzing the impact of the norms and ideas in the economic institutions which are more supranational in nature, but few attempts have been made to analyze how social constructivism and other new approaches might work in the case of CFSP. According to intergovernmentalists, states remain at the core of the decision-making process in foreign policy through the unanimity procedure and the veto power. The intergovernmentalist analysis assumes the rationality of states, relative power and bargaining, unitary actors and information asymmetries. According to intergovernmentalists, states decide to participate in the institutionalization of foreign policy primarily to make sure that decisions will not be taken against their interests. Another approach slightly different from the intergovernmentalist one is


the liberal intergovernmentalism. According to Moravscik, state interests are formed domestically through political pressures, which constitute the liberal part of his approach, and then the state is the only one that can channel those interests into the international level in which the bargaining process would decide on the fulfillment of interests. On the other hand, supranationalists go beyond the national state as the only actor since member states delegate more power to the center or the higher authority. The supranational approach ranks as more important the interests of the Union, whereas the intergovernmental approach emphasizes upon the individual interests of the member states. However since some incremental institutionalization of foreign policy was happening, the “Brusselization” of foreign policy could not anymore be explained by either intergovernmentalist or liberal intergovernmentalist approaches (Meyer, nd). This theoretical debate was neglecting most of the events taking place in CFSP such as increased cooperation and the socialization of elites, thus another debate emerged: rationalists vs. constructivists. Rationalists assert that decisions are taken under a cost-benefit analysis in which the member states try to maximize their utility through bargaining. Their preferences are fixed and exogenous to the process of decision-making. On the other hand, constructivists emphasize more on the power of ideas rather than the power of material incentives. Norms, ideas, culture matters because they alter the preferences of the member states. The preferences therefore are endogenized to the process of decision-making. Socialization of elites and persuasion are mechanisms how norms diffuse and emerge among Europeans who have “gone native”. Still, even social constructivists were lacking in theorizing the materialization of ideas into processes, institutions, specific policies. Post-structuralist approaches, as for example the discursive approaches have offered a view on how the formation of a common European identity 8

would enhance the strengthening of the European public space, which on the other hand would lead to facilitating the supranationalization of salient policy domains such as CFSP or JHA. According to Thomas Risse, foreign policy constitutes a good domain to observe identity formation, since it is in a continuous search for defining its role in world politics. EU has to revisit its fundamental values thereby contributing to European identity formation (Risse&Grabowsky, 2008). The concept of public sphere has been elaborated by Jurgen Habermas (2003), who argues that a community of communication is essential in providing the policy input from the common citizens who engage and interact with each other in communicative spaces. Since EU is becoming a democratic polity, the issue of European public sphere is raised quite naturally. Habermas maintains that a “communicative deficit” only worsens the problem of “democratic deficit”, especially in the case of EU. Obviously, the European public sphere is a social construction, thus various social mechanisms should be activated in order for emerging a European public space regarding the foreign policy domain (Risse&Grabowsky, 2008). One of those mechanisms is the Europeanization of public discourses. The literature on Europeanization as a process of how “Europe hits home” is becoming richer recently, which shows for an increasing interest in issues beyond the simplistic debate. Europeanization deals with how European policies are affecting the national level. The divergences of implementation are due to the adaptional pressures, the “goodness of fit” or “misfit” (depending on the domestic barriers both in structure and agency) and the intermediating actors which facilitate the Europeanization (Risse&Caporoso, 1997). The specificities of the national context cause a divergence in Europeanization. Europeanization studies have been focused more on the domain that are highly supranationalized, whereas in 9

domain such as CFSP has been difficult to think of Europeanization. Since this paper deals with the Europeanization of public discourses, it is appropriate to discuss the types of their Europeanization. There are various paths in Europeanization of public discourses (Porta&Caiani, 2006). The first one is through self-Europeanization in which European actors lobby through European channels, as for example making use of ARTE, one of the few European media channels. Second, Europeanization through transnational pressure through intervention of EU level in national media by promoted European integration A third path is through domestication in which the debate starts in the national context but they aim at making claims in European level. EU policies are the source or the indirect target of claims by domestic actors, but where the direct target remains the nation-state. Last path is externalization through which the communication of claims is directed towards the EU as the main target, not the state. The foreign policy discourses are more likely to pursue a Europeanization mostly according to the path of externalization, meaning a shadowing of the national level Given the peculiar nature of foreign policy, the Europeanization processes from a classical top-down approach or as it is called downloading, has not worked. What is needed is the embracing a new model of Europeanization, the bottom-up approach or the “uploading�. Once a common interest is formed in the social environment of the European public space through Europeanization discourses, then the common interest would be brought to the supranational level. The missing of the European public sphere: lack of legitimacy and effectiveness in CFSP CFSP seems to be a domain of not much interest among the common citizens. Even though it is a core pillar, the common citizen has remained detached and uninformed about the political processes happening in CFSP. It seems as there is a gap between European foreign goals and the European citizens. The non-engagement into public discourses is deepening this gap. The 10

process of decision-making in EU is in the hands of the elites mostly, but still the decisions do affect the citizens and their future perspectives as the decisions taken provide an insight on what the Europeans constitute in the international arena. But the truth is that the Europeans are largely dis-informed and disinterested on their foreign policy. The European integration has failed in providing a European public space during its path, which would serve as a common sphere in which public debates take place and citizens engage in making their claims about any issue. The European public space would help to construct a common identity since shared ideas and shared interests would be discussed. Most scholars call this a “communicative deficit” which on the other hand is part of the “democratic deficit” problem in EU. The empirical studies have shown that although the European public space is not fully emerged within the integration process, still it would incorrect to argue that the European public space is non-existent at all. In the fields that are already supranationalized such as monetary union for example, there is a large amount of public debates broadcasted in the media. However in areas that are controversial such as the CFSP, the public space is missing. This implies for a weak and segmented European public space, however it is present and it needs further development (Eriksen, 2004). It is hard to have a common foreign policy when still the defining of the “common” is missing. The literature is still young in analyzing the relevance and potentials of the European public sphere in enhancing the legitimacy and effectiveness of the European foreign policy, and on the other hand analyzing how public discourses on foreign policy issues have evolved as a result of European integration.


But why is it necessary to have a common public space for discussing foreign policy issues? The emergence of a common public sphere is considered to be as a prerequisite for increasing the legitimacy and effectiveness of CFSP in acting collectively. First, foreign policy decisions affect and intervene in the lives of the citizens, thus it is important for them to have a voice or a political claim regarding the processes. Second, citizens through engaging in public debates for economic issues, they unwillingly provide some input even for the CFSP, since I said at the beginning that foreign policy is a system with a variety of inputs. For example, Europe being a civilian power relies more on the economic instruments to shape the foreign relations, therefore inputs are provided even from the other pillars. Habermas takes as empirical evidence the massive demonstrations happening in almost all the capitals of the most important member states of EU against to Spain’s decision to support the war Iraq in 2003. He asserts that the reaction of the common people toward such a decision on foreign policy issues shows for the birth of a European public space. Although it is not structured and rational as in the case of public debates, still the demonstrations showed they the common European citizens did care about their role in the world affairs (Habermas&Derrida, 2003).

The Europeanization of public discourse as the mechanism to strengthen a European public space regarding foreign policy How Europe can be framed in public discourses? Europeanization studies provide us with the basic framework how to Europeanize the public discourses which consequentially will lead to Europeanization of foreign policy through a bottom-up model. There are few cases of EU 12

foreign policy analyzed through the prism of Europeanization due to its highly perceived intergovernmental character and weak institutions. However this is a very narrow understanding of foreign policy in EU since CFSP has gone through significant institutional changes transforming from EPC as an arena to a process of constitutionalization. Why are public debates important? Public debates serve as an input to the elite-led policy processes by providing of information on the demands of the citizens, and thus increase the accountability and legitimacy of institutions (Risse &Grabovsky, 2008). The public sphere, the domain in which public discourses take place, is basic to the concept of democratic legitimacy, as it maintains that all the actors that are affected by a specific policy, should be part of the political debate. Therefore, democratic deficit is fueled further by the “communicative deficit”, meaning a lack of a public space of communication in the foreign policy domain, which impedes the long-term effectiveness of CFSP. Guehenno says “Without a Europe-wide public debate on how Europeans want to define their relations with the rest of the world, the support of the Europeans for “European interests” will remark as weak as the European polity itself (Meyer, nd). The question is how to make people participate in public debates about the construction of Europe as a political entity? The role of the media is critical. Mass media is the visible public actor that can affect the public informational system by making issues more visible and more debated among the people. . Measuring the Europeanization of public discourse with regard to foreign policy is particularly based in the media content analysis, frequency of different actors and issues mentioned in the media (Meyer, 2005). Authors have designed empirical researches that measure how often words such as Europe, European institutions and European affairs are mentioned in the media. Thus they put emphasis on the frequency the supranational nature of EU 13

is mentioned and particularly which issues are emphasized more. The greater the power of EU, the more public debate about the particular issue would be Europeanized. The level of centralization is in convergence with the emergence of a public space.

Conclusion The peculiar nature of foreign policy in EU requires the pursuit of more complex approaches which offer new factors in explaining the lack of centralization in CFSP. Time is ripe to move beyond the intergovernmtalist/supranationalists debate of EU since it does not explain the nature of foreign policy in EU. Reasons behind the perceived coordination failure among member states to act in a common voice are not merely because of weak institutionalization, or power or the national interest, but mostly they rest upon the missing of a European public space in which a common identity is shaped and transformed, and therefore contributing in the ineffectiveness of CFSP. The communicative deficit, which means keeping citizens distant from the policy-making, provides more difficulty in understanding what do we mean by the word �common� and then move to the second hierarchical step-- understanding the common foreign policy. Institutions do matter of course, but in the lack of a common identity, a foreign minister would be short in power and decisions would be taken merely in terms of national interests. Social constructivists emphasize on the importance of norms and ideas in shaping the preferences and then the policy outcomes. The ideas affect the elites who are in charge of the daily processes within CFSP, and through the process of socialization they can get used to the European common interest even in salient domain as foreign policy. As for the common citizen, he is distant from the process, and this disinformation creates the communicative deficit. It is


easier to perceive common economic policies because they compose an issue of high interest to the everyday lives of common people. Citizens should get more engaged into public discourses in their national media in order to share ideas, to understand what their common interest vis-a-vis the� others�, what their role in international arena is, and what do they represent as a foreign actor. The Europeanization of discourses is an important mechanism through which the European public space would be strengthened. The role of the media would be essential in increasing the frequency of foreign policy issues discussed in public. Empirics have shown that the European public space is segmented and weak in EU by being more present in supranational domains and less visible in the more salient policy-making contexts, however the European public space should be extended further on the foreign policy domain in order for increasing the legitimacy and effectiveness of CFSP. Citizen’s political claims are an indispensable input in created common foreign interests.



Eriksen, E. (2004). Conceptualizing European public spheres: General, segmented and strong publics. ARENA-Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo

Habermas, J.,& Derrida, J. (2003). February 15, or what binds Europeans together: A plea for a common foreign policy, beginning in the core of Europe. Constellations, 10(3),

Meyer, M. (nd). The Europeanization of public discourses and political action in Europe’s foreign policy. University of Cambridge

Meyer, C. (2005). The Europeanization of media discourse: A study of quality press coverage of economic policy co-ordination since Amsterdam. JCMS, 43(1), 119-46

Porta, D., & Caiani, M. (2006). The Europeanization of Public discourse in Italy: A top-down process? European Union Politics, 7(1), 77-112

Risse, T,.& Caporoso, J. (1997). Europeanization and domestic change: Introduction.

Risse, T., & Grabowsky, J. (2008). European identity formation in the public sphere and in the foreign policy. RECON Online Working Papers


European public space and the Europeanization of discourses: The CFSP case study  

CFSP has been perceived as highly intergovernmentalist policy domain, due to weak institutionalization, national interests and power. Howeve...

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