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Article

The Common Commercial Policy  

Johan Adriaensen

In 1958, the European Economic Community was formed as a customs union with a common external tariff. From then on, the Common Commercial Policy—also known as the European Union’s (EU) trade policy—served as the interface between the increasingly integrated common market and its external trade partners. Like the creation of the single market, contemporary trade policy has long transcended discussions about tariffs and quotas at the border and has focused increasingly on the impediments to trade caused by regulatory divergences. Whether they concern agricultural subsidies or cultural protections, rules on public procurement or food standards, insofar as a regulation discriminates against exporters, it can potentially be part of a trade negotiation. The evolving nature of trade policy has triggered a redefinition of both the scope of the EU’s exclusive competencies as well as the procedures to govern this policy domain. The central actor in EU trade policy is the European Commission, which is the designated negotiator for external trade agreements. Whereas member states always played a crucial role in overseeing such negotiations in the Council, the European Parliament has only taken up a position of power since 2009. Beyond securing market access abroad and protecting domestic sectors at home, post-material values have come to feature more prominently in the balancing act of contemporary trade discussions. This has galvanized a far wider range of societal actors to lobby the EU institutions in order to tilt the balance in their favor. Complicating matters even further, the EU conducts a large part of its foreign policy through the Common Commercial Policy. Contrary to most other instruments of the EU’s external action, trade policy is an exclusive competency of the EU. Fostering development, promoting stability, providing humanitarian aid, and the promotion and enforcement of human rights and sustainable development commitments are but a few of the many objectives pursued via trade policy. However, there are clear limitations to the fungibility of the EU’s large market power for foreign policy objectives. It should therefore be clear that the literature on the Common Commercial Policy is extremely diverse. Situated at the nexus of international political economy, regulatory governance, and foreign policy, it has become a well-studied policy domain through a great variety of theoretical and disciplinary lenses. The prominence of trade scholarship in EU studies is unlikely to change soon as developments at the international level, where the Western liberal order is under increasing pressure, but also domestically, where the contestation of several trade negotiations and the position of trade policy within the EU’s broader external action, are set to animate future debates.

Article

Iran and European Union Politics  

Sebastian Harnisch

The Islamic Republic of Iran and the European Union (EU) have not yet established formal diplomatic relations, but since 1979 the Union and its member states have had various strong if often conflictual interactions. The relationship has been marked by distinct phases that reflect the emerging character of the partners, a theocratic republic on the one hand and a Union of interdependent democratic states on the other. While mutual economic interests have formed the basis for substantial interactions, relations with member states and the EU itself have been colored by a long and sometimes hurtful history of European states’ role in Iranian politics, including the Russian and British imperial influence over Persia in the late 19th and early 20th century, the British (and American) involvement in the coup against democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953, and the French hosting of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, an avowed critic of the Pahlavi dynasty, prior to the anti-authoritarian revolution in 1979. Over time, the relationship has substantially shaped the character and direction of the politics of the EU’s common foreign and security policy, resulting in more policy coherence between member states and the EU, more policy autonomy, particularly vis-á-vis the United States, and more proactive behavior, such as during the nuclear negotiations leading to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (in 2015). By engaging with a problematic member of the nonproliferation treaty, the EU not only specified and thus strengthened the treaty, but it also grew into an international nonproliferation actor to reckon with.

Article

Key Actors in the Management of Crises: International and Regional Organizations  

Eva-Karin Gardell and Bertjan Verbeek

In crisis-ridden times, when events like the COVID-19 pandemic, acts of terrorism, and climate change-induced crises are making constant headlines, states, businesses, and individuals alike look to international organizations (IOs) to help them weather the storm. How can the role of IOs be better understood in the context of crisis and crisis management? For a start, it requires a distinction between objective and subjective crisis perspectives in studying IOs. From an objective perspective, IOs are examined as unitary actors that have the aim of contributing to the stability of the international political system. On the other hand, in a subjectivistic approach, IOs’ actual crisis management is the focus. In this perspective, the emphasis is on an IO’s internal life, that is, its perceptions, bureau politics, and decision-making. In the exploration of these issues, IOs can no longer by studied as entities but have to be unwrapped into small groups and individuals, such as members of secretariats or member state’s top politicians. As borne out by theories developed by scholars of crisis management and foreign-policy analysis, centralization and cognitive bias are of special interest in the study of IOs. IOs’ crisis management has four crisis phases and tasks: sense-making, decision-making, meaning-making, and crisis termination. Finally, crises may prove a threat to, or an opportunity for, IOs. Transnational crises may usher in IOs’ foundation and flourishing, or they may contribute to IOs’ demise.

Article

Slovenia and the European Union  

Ana Bojinović Fenko and Marjan Svetličič

Despite having fought for their bare survival against hostile foreigners, after finally reaching their independence and international recognition in 1991–1992, paradoxically, even before fully assuming statehood Slovenians were eager to engage in yet another international integration—the European Union. This historical and societal wager, rather than merely political elites’ driven perspective, dominates as the prevailing reason for pursuing European Union (EU) membership; thus security assurance to a small geopolitically transit state, economic benefits of a larger common market in conditions of economic globalization, and cultural proximity of Slovenian to European society explain Slovenian general identity-related elements favoring membership in the EU. There is also a more immediate time-space related explanatory factor for this, namely, the collapsing of the socialist Yugoslavia starting by the end 1980s and a view of assuring the democratic political life and market-lead economy via integration with Western European countries rather than South Slavic nations or following other alternative scenarios like full liberalization with all partners’ strategy. Authors critically evaluate where and why during the effort of becoming an EU member state and performing excellently as one during the first four years, the state fell short of capability-building and/or seizing the opportunities of EU membership. As the latter has been most brutally exposed via the effects of the 2008–2014 economic and financial crisis, of key importance for Slovenians before the COVID-19 crisis stood a self-reflection of its development strategy and enhancing competitiveness. A novel problem introduced by the 2020–2022 government and revealed to the European and international public during the Slovenian 2021 Presidency to the Council of the EU was the country’s rapidly deteriorating performance in implementation of until-then unequivocal engagement toward EU values, particularly liberal democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, and observation of human rights.. After the April 2022 general election, in which liberal democratic and social parties won a large majority, the central challenge remains how to overcome the small state hindrances and more effectively formulate and project national interest to the EU level. Some of the main questions of national interest within the EU concern assurance of social security to citizens; upgrading economic union to face more effectively global challenges, especially digitalization, the green transition, and interstate solidarity; refreshing enlargement policy for the remaining Western Balkans non-member states; and re-establishing Slovenian participation in the group of core states leading the European integration.