Field of Research

The EXACT research programme is designed to critically examine EU External Action and its respective institutional architecture from a global perspective. This policy domain is one of the most challenging and significant fields of theory-led and empirically based research for scholars engaged in research focusing on foreign policy, international relations and European integration. EXACT identifies five relevant research topics that will constitute the basis of the professional and academic training programme:  

Research Topic 1: Institutional Architecture of EU External Action

Research Topic 1 addresses the institutional architecture that underlies the diverse modes of governance in the different subfields of EU External Action in order to grasp the structural framework of EU external relations. This architecture comprises the institutions involved in the preparation, production, implementation and monitoring of decisions in external policy as well as procedural provisions that guide the interaction of the actors involved. The research topic focuses on an analysis of fundamental changes in the treaty texts, the so-called “legal architecture”, and the actual usage of opportunity structures by actors, referred to as the “living architecture”. These changes have a profound impact on the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and legitimacy of EU External Action.  

Research Topic 2: Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)

The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) constitutes an essential element of EU External Action. It serves as a significant point of reference for national foreign policies, despite suffering frequent setbacks due to the often disparate and mutually contradictory positions of the member states. The domain is fraught with a plethora of actors assuming a leading position in the formulation of foreign policy, a situation that even the recent Treaty of Lisbon might not address in a satisfactory manner despite investing considerable energy in recalibrating the institutional balance and creating certain new positions. The main challenge for this research topic lies in analysing and assessing the Union’s policy responses and adaptations to a changing environment in the international system. In particular, the EU’s treatment of emerging global powers such as Russia, China and India and its relations to immediate neighbours to the East and South will present central topics of research both in academia and think tanks.  

Research Topic 3: European/Common Security and Defence Policy (ESDP/CSDP)

Although the central domain of so called “high politics”, defence cooperation has seen increasing activity at the European level. The establishment of a European Defence Agency, the debate about the “Solidarity Clause” and robust missions in third countries have contributed to a pronounced military and defence dimension to EU External Action. The policy domain however suffers both from deeply entrenched differences in opinion between the member states about appropriate fora for the formulation of defence policy as well as immense differences in military capabilities among the member states. Analyses of EU defence policy are frequently framed in the context of International Relations theory, with structural realism as the dominant approach. EXACT, however, endeavours to apply a diverse set of theoretical approaches to the study of this area, including neo-institutionalist and constructivist approaches.  

Research Topic 4: Common Commercial Policy

The centrality of external trade as an element of EU External Action (as part of its Common Commercial Policy) is reflected in the division of competences between the EU and the member state level. External Trade is an “exclusive Union competence”, prohibiting the member states from pursuing mutually contradictory commercial policies. Community institutions, in particular the Commission as the Union’s executive organ, thus, take on a specific role in international negotiations in multilateral fora such the WTO and G7/G8. Trade policy reveals marked potential for interdisciplinary approaches to the study of policy formulation and policy outcomes. Particularly the involvement of lawyers and economists in the EXACT network will prove to be of great benefit to a sound and comprehensive approach to researching external policy.  

Research Topic 5: Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid

While seemingly a distinct policy field, Development Cooperation in fact touches upon a wide range of policy domains. Ranging from commercial policy (in particular with regard to tariffs on agricultural products from developing countries) to questions of internal security in relation to migration or transnational crime, this policy field should play a central role in analyses of EU External Action. The recent addition of a chapter on Humanitarian Aid to the treaty base by the Treaty of Lisbon – regardless of its entry into force – reflects a growing demand by member states to address this issue on the EU level. This effort should not least be seen in the context of police and military missions by European forces that stretch beyond the European continent.

EXACT - Marie Curie ITN on EU External Action
Technical contact:
Aline Bartenstein
Wulf Reiners
changed: 28. January 2011
created: 18. October 2009