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Testing the Boundaries of Order? Europe, the European Union and a Changing World Arena

Monday February 11, 2019, at 13:30
Room 24.120 (First floor). Mercè Rodoreda 24 building
Research seminar

Michael Smith (University of Warwick)

Over the past quarter of a century, since the end of the Cold War and the accompanying transformations of the 1990s and beyond, there has been a consistent strand of thinking about Europe, the European Union and the generation of international order. One aspect of this thinking has concerned the relationship between old states, new states and the European order: how far have the changes since the early 1990s revived or transformed the role of states in generating and maintaining order? A second aspect has related to the links between order and stability: how far have new mechanisms of order created stable boundaries and institutions both in Europe and beyond? A third aspect gives a central role to the place of negotiation and the establishment of negotiated order: how far have negotiations provided a robust foundation for the accommodation of change and challenges, and what role has diplomacy played in consolidating and developing order? A final aspect centres on the role(s) played by the European Union in generating, consolidating and developing order: to what extent has the EU become the centre of a stable European order, and how has this related to the challenge of change both inside and outside the continent?

There are many more such questions that might be asked about European order and the roles of the EU, but this paper focuses on the four set out above. Specifically, it starts from the emergence of an apparently new international and European order after the end of the Cold War, based on new forms of institutions, rules, negotiation and boundary-making and on new roles for key actors including states and the European Union. It goes on to examine the key mechanisms underpinning this order, including the interactions between power structures, market structures, institutional structures and normative structures and the impact of the EU as a ‘realist power’, a ‘market power’, an ‘institutional power’ and a ‘normative power’. The paper then explores the challenges to this conception of European and international order emerging from power shifts at the domestic and European levels, the impact of economic crisis, the contestability of existing institutions and norms and the resulting emergence of a multipolar or ‘interpolar’ world arena. Finally, it assesses the capacity of European actors, and specifically the EU, to absorb, divert or capitalise upon these challenges over the next decade, and explores the implications of two scenarios: on the one hand, the emergence of a pluralistic yet resilient European and international order in which a reformed EU would be a central component, and on the other hand the development of a fragmented order in which the EU might be paralyzed or marginalised.

Check all the forthcoming Research Seminars.

Mike Smith is Professor in European Politics in PAIS. He was previously Professor of European Politics at Loughborough 1994-2015, and was Head of Department from 1999-2002; previously he was a Professor and Dean at Coventry University. From 2005-2013 he was co-director of the Centre for the Study of International Governance at Loughborough, and a member of the University Research Performance Monitoring Committee; he was also the coordinator of the Department of Politics, History and International Relations submission to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. He has been the Chair of the University Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES) and the Standing Committee of Heads of European Studies, and in 2010 was honoured by UACES with their award for Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary European Studies. He was also Chair of the European Studies sub-panel in the UK national Research Assessment Exercise for 2008, and is involved widely in research assessment and research networks in Europe and beyond. He is or has been a member of the editorial boards of a number of leading international journals, including the Journal of Common Market Studies, the Journal of European Public Policy,Perspectives on European Politics and Society and the British Journal of Politics and International Relations; he is also on the advisory boards of two book series dealing with the European Union and its external action, published by Routledge and Palgrave Macmillan. He holds visiting Professorships at Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok) and the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), and has been a Visiting Scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC.