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European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies

What is informal groups’ role in EU foreign policy? EUDIC research project

Maria Giulia Amadio Viceré has recently finished her two-year long project on the impact of ‘informal groups’ in EU foreign policy differentiation and integration.

05 September 2023 | Research - Video

Sometimes some EU member states steer an EU approach to conflicts and crises, without receiving formal mandates from other member states and the EU institutions; this is referred to as informal groups.

The project ‘EU Foreign Policy Differentiation and Integration: Informal Groups in EU Approach to Conflicts and Crises’ (EUDIC) explains why and to what effect informal groups persisted in the post-Lisbon era.

Thanks to the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, after decades of progressively increasing centralisation among member states, the EU should have finally obtained a coherent foreign policy and a more unified apparatus for supporting it. However, on several occasions a restricted number of member states, and at times also EU institutions, steered post-Lisbon EU foreign policy, often by cooperating with non-EU countries.

This phenomenon suggests a fragmentation of the EU institutional scene after decades of progressive European integration in the foreign policy domain. “It is unprecedented in polities that share similar features with the European Union, namely in federal regimes and in international organisations", said principal investigator Amadio Viceré.

"These informal groups do not only replace EU institutions, but also complement and support them in elaborating and endorsing EU policies“, she added. "Nonetheless, given the lack of central guidance and accountability mechanisms, these groups also risk decreasing the consistency and the democratic legitimacy of EU foreign policy."

During her Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship at the Robert Schuman Centre in the past two years, Maria Giulia examined the occurrence of informal groups of member states in EU foreign policy towards Kosovo, Libya, and Syria. In these case studies, informal groups of EU member states cooperated with non-EU actors in international contact groups. She adopted a mixed-method approach and conducted fieldwork consisting of research at the EU historical archives, a participant observation at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a series of interviews carried out with national and EU policy-makers.

An overview of EUDIC’s main findings so far can be found on the project website.

Last update: 20 September 2023

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