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Speaking with a single voice: the assertion of the EC as a distinctive international actor, 1969-79

Ferrari, Lorenzo (2014) Speaking with a single voice: the assertion of the EC as a distinctive international actor, 1969-79. Advisor: Gilbert, Prof. Mark. Coadvisor: Orsina, Prof. Giovanni . pp. 277. [IMT PhD Thesis]

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The object of analysis of this dissertation is the process of the assertion of the European Community as a distinct and distinctive international actor during the 1970s. The main argument is that the EC's activity on the global stage underwent a major qualitative change in those years, increasing considerably in intensity and scope. The EC asserted itself not only as a major economic player, but also as a distinct political player. Moreover, its international activity was endowed with a distinctive character. The EC claimed that it was a «force for good», particularly attached to dialogue and cooperation, and aimed at promoting a more balanced and a more just international order, as well as an original and innovative approach to international relations. To be sure, the EC's international activity remained quite fragmentary, often declaratory, and sometimes ineffective. This was hardly surprising. To a large extent, disappointment with the EC's achievements was due to the excessively high expectations that had been held of its activity. Contrary to most existing historiography, I argue that the 1973–74 crisis was more a beginning than an ending point for the assertion of the EC as an international actor. In those years its traits and ambitions were defined. The European Council was established and the coherence of the EC's international activity was improved. The EC became a recognizable player at the UN and it gained recognition by basically all of the world's countries. The range of action available for the EC's international activity was defined and quite a clear division of labor with the member states and with the US was established, leading the EC to focus on “civilian” activities and to cultivate a distinctive profile. This is the first extensive and dedicated historical account of the EC's international activity as a whole during the 1970s. I consider all the main aspects of it, in order to reconstruct the overall process of assertion of the EC on the international stage and the general traits of the EC as an international actor. I consider how and why such an assertion was promoted, how it was connected to other contemporary developments, and who influenced the definition of the traits of the EC as a global player. I focus on instances where the assertion of the EC on the global stage was debated and its traits were defined. In most cases debates about it were not explicit, and debates on more specific and actual topics worked as proxies for them. As a consequence, I focus on the aspects of the EC's international activity where the fundamental conceptions underlying it were the most apparent. Actors involved in the making of the EC as an international actor often held different views and conceptions of it. The compromise and combination of these different conceptions led to the definition and assertion of the EC's specific traits as an international actor. The main actors involved were the governments of the EC member states – a particularly important role being played by France – but the EC Commission also took some significant initiatives. In order to reconstruct the views of the governments and of the Commission, I rely mainly on archival sources drawn from the archives of the EC institutions and from the archives of the foreign ministries of France, Britain and Germany. The first three chapters of the thesis focus on the process of establishment of the EC as a distinct international actor. Thus, they focus on the definition of the structures, procedures and means for its international activity. I show that the design of the institutional structure for it was quite difficult and it often required to reach fragile and ambiguous compromises. The reason for this was that the institutional design was strongly affected by the member states' views on the final form of European political integration, which were divergent. I look at the means created for the expression of the EC's voice on the international stage, and I argue that the main reason why the EC did not always manage to speak clearly was its member states' reticence about it. The structure for the EC's international activity was heavily affected not only by institutional constraints, but also by some political ones. These constraints led to the exclusion of entire fields of international affairs from it. I argue that this exclusion strongly affected the traits of the EC as an international actor, by inviting it to focus on specific “civilian” sectors of international affairs. The adoption of a distinctive approach to international affairs was useful for the EC's assertion, since it made it possible to highlight its original character with regard to its own member states and to the US. The EC sought to assert itself as a distinctive international actor by focusing on fields of international affairs such as development cooperation, dialogue with the developing countries, the promotion of human rights in third countries, and so on. It is towards these fields that I turn to in chapters 4 through 6. In each chapter, I analyze the conceptions underlying the EC's engagement in the field, as well as the image that the EC tried to project on the international stage. I show that the EC consistently tried to convey an image of itself as a «force for good.» However, there was a fundamental mismatch between the discourse and image of the EC as a force for good and its actual policies and initiatives: deeds often fell well short of words. I consider this mismatch, analyzing the reasons why the EC rhetoric set very ambitious goals and why the EC found it very difficult to meet them. Part of the reason for it was that rhetoric was meant to rationalize some of the limited capabilities available for the EC's international activity, and to make up for them. I argue that the EC established a sort of vicious circle: it resorted to rhetoric in order to make up for its limited capabilities, but this strategy raised very high expectations. The EC was unable to meet these expectations, and as a result the limits of its capabilities were exposed even more.

Item Type: IMT PhD Thesis
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
PhD Course: Political Science and Institutional Change
Identification Number: 10.6092/imtlucca/e-theses/156
NBN Number: urn:nbn:it:imtlucca-27187
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2015 12:37
URI: http://e-theses.imtlucca.it/id/eprint/156

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