The Europeanisation of National Foreign Policy through EU membership: The Case of Spain

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2011

16 Pages, Grade: 1.0

Ron Böhler (Author)


I. Introduction
`For the last thirty years, Spanish foreign policy has had a single (though double-barrelled) objective:
first, integration in Europe; secondly, integration of Europe.'
(Torreblanca 2010, p.10).
Not quite a decade after twelve European countries agreed on a Common Foreign and Security
Policy (CFSP), national foreign policies among the EU have `significantly been changed, if not
transformed, by participation over time in foreign policy making at the European level' (White
2001, p.6). This, indeed, says little about the nature and direction of the changes that occurred
and whether these conduced to general foreign policy convergence among EU member states or
perhaps even fostered greater divergence.
In recent years, Europeanisation processes of national foreign policies
have attracted more and
more scholarly attention. While some case studies focus on the European impact on Central and
Northern European states, for instance the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland (Tonra 2001),
others evaluate the distinctive features of the `Big Three' ­ France, the United Kingdom and
Germany ­ in EU foreign policy-making (Wong 2006; Gross 2009; Aggestam 2011
Forthcoming). In contrast, EU states in the Southern periphery have substantially been described
as adaptive laggards that `displayed remarkably resilient and distinctive features of state tradition
and political culture despite the pressures of the EU' (Featherstone and Kazamias 2001, p.2). One
of these countries, Spain, joined the European Union
at a time when joint efforts to encourage a
common foreign and security policy framework were still in the early stages of development. It
will be argued below that Spain, at first assumed to be an enfant terrible within the European
foreign policy framework, turned out to be an enfant sage with greater ambitions. From the
viewpoint of social constructivism, the changing behaviour as well as the active role that Spain
took very early in European foreign policy will be portrayed.
Foreign policy is a broad field of national politics that encompass
various sub-domains such as economic and trade
policy, contributions to global environmental governance, humanitarian aid, development policy and ­ probably
most important ­ security and defense considerations. The paper will particularly refer to developments in the
context of the CFSP.
For the sake of simplicity, the term European Union (EU) will be ordinarily used throughout the essay, even where
the European Communities (EC) are addressed.

On that account, the first section will outline the multi-faceted concept of Europeanisation and
further elaborate it with special reference to national foreign policies (Wong 2007). In the second
section, the case of Spain will illustrate an excellent example of consistent foreign policy
Europeanisation in both institutional settings and substance.
The paper concludes with a concise evaluation of the developments that Spain took on this issue.
II. The Europeanisation of National Foreign Policies: Theoretical
In recent years, three different strands of theorizing Europeanisation emerged that will be
explained below: a) Europeanisation as a policy cycle of ongoing, perpetual uploading and
downloading processes between the national and the European level; b) Europeanisation as
national impact on European political and institutional structures via a bottom-up process; and c)
Europeanisation as domestic change caused by an EU-generated influence via a top-down
process. While the question to be answered puts emphasis on the last approach, the other two will
be introduced shortly.
From the first perspective, Europeanisation has been comprehensively defined as "processes of
(a) construction, (b) diffusion, and (c) institutionalization of formal and informal rules,
procedures, policy paradigms, styles, `ways of doing things', and shared beliefs and norms which
are first defined and consolidated in the making of EU public policy and politics and then
incorporated in the logic of domestic discourse, identities, political structures, and public
policies" (Radaelli 2003, p. 30). This circular approach takes into account the mutual and
interactive processes between member states and the European Union instead of regarding
Europeanisation as a one-way street, in which direction whatsoever. This approach is build upon
the basic assumption that an EU impact on domestic policy structures cannot be understood
without consideration of prior delegation processes of national competencies, ideas and interests
leading subsequently to institution-building on the EU level (Börzel 2005, p.46; Radaelli 2003,
p.33). Once genuine European polities accrued from member states European policies, they will
vice versa feed back into the member country and reshape national policy processes ­ a spiral-

shaped procedure that is comparable with the `second image reversed' in international politics
(Gourevitch 1978). However, by defining Europeanisation as `a matter of reciprocity between
moving features' (Bulmer and Radaelli 2004, p.3), the concept moves methodologically beyond
academic control as the distinction between cause and effect blurs.
Instead, a conceptual fragmentation of the European policy-cycle could shed light on clear
boundaries between a Europeanisation process and its results. Accordingly, the second theoretical
strand relates Europeanisation to "the emergence and development at the European level of
distinct structures of governance, that is, of political, legal and social institutions associated with
political problem solving that formalize interactions among the actors, and of policy networks
specializing in the creation of authoritative European rules" (Risse et al. 2001, p.3). Risse takes
the transfer of national competencies to the European level as starting point of Europeanisation,
which results then in the strengthening of European institutions and their respective capacities.
This perception still remains suspect as it adds hardly any analytical value to what is elsewhere
better labelled European integration. On the other hand it is worth mentioning that this
framework proved to be useful for the analysis of social learning processes and European identity
formation among EU policy-makers, who gradually deviated from their national origins (Checkel
In clear contrast, the third strand of Europeanisation literature focuses on the exact opposite and
interprets Europeanisation as a top-down process of policy-taking by EU member states. Robert
Ladrech, among the first to develop a definition, labelled it "a process of reorienting the direction
and shape of politics to the degree that EC political and economic dynamics become part of the
organizational logic of national politics and policy-making" (Ladrech 1994, p.69). Member states
develop institutional and organisational settings that allow responding to EU pressures and, for
instance, to incorporate EU legislation into national law. The EU becomes part of the domestic
policy-making logic. Central to the study of the domestic impact of Europeanization is a certain
`misfit' of either institutional settings, policies or political processes between the European and
the national level that impose adaptational pressures on domestic policy-makers and institutions
(Börzel and Risse 2003, p.58-61). Such pressures are not a sufficient but a necessary condition
for political change on the domestic level. It may thus not necessarily eventuate in comprehensive
conformity with European objectives, but may result in static, token or reluctant member state

responses (Caporaso 2007, p.29; Börzel 2002).
Answering the question of how the European governance structure changes national political
systems, analysts of Europeanisation processes have broadly relied upon new institutionalism
theory. From this point of view, change of and within political institutions is not subject to
exogenous coercion or the mere self-interest of individuals, but to endogenous preferences
dependent on affective dispositions, values and beliefs (cf. March and Olsen 1989, p.40-46).
March and Olsen contrast two mechanisms, on the one side a logic of consequentiality and apart
from that a logic of appropriateness. In case of the former, `[b]ehaviour is willful, reflecting an
attempt to make outcomes fulfill subjective desires, to the extent possible. [...] In a logic of
appropriateness, on the other hand, behaviours (beliefs as well as actions) are intentional but not
willful. They involve fulfilling the obligations of a role in a situation, and so of trying to
determine the imperatives of holding a position' (ibid., pp.160-161). Political action can thus be
norm-based rather than cost-efficient with the aim of preserving a certain subjective identity.
Having said that, goal attainment is nonetheless dependent on the relative action capacity that
every political actor possesses. This power is determined and successively constrained by
European governance which redistributes `powers and resources between domestic actors, and
hence challenge existing equilibria' (Knill and Lehmkuhl 1999, p.4). Europe´s CFSP, for
instance, may change the policy formation process significantly due to new actors involved, new
structures intervening and new means available (cf. Kavakas 2001, p.104). The following
chapters on foreign policy Europeanisation will draw upon these findings.
The Europeanisation of National Foreign Policy: Against all odds?
In contrast to other policy areas ­ first and foremost first pillar policies under the Treaty of
Maastricht ­ national foreign policy analyses (FPA) remain outliers within Europeanisation
research. Whenever addressed, the focus has been on national approaches towards CFSP, but
seldomly vice versa (Larsen 2009, p.539). Two reasons are observable, one of institutional
character and one related to national identity formation and role-taking.

As it was already the case with the predecessor of the CFSP, the European Political Cooperation
(EPC), European foreign policy-making was always and still is subject to horizontal political
coordination instead of vertical policy obtrusion. Even with the institutionalisation of the CFSP
from 1993 onwards, which was introduced to strengthen the European role in global affairs,
member states continued to follow an intergovernmentalist approach outside of first pillar politics
with its legally-binding EU Community Law that member states have to comply with. Such EU
directives are completely missing in the case of the CFSP so that reliable and valid indicators to
measure either compliance with EU legislation or any kind of degree of `goodness of fit' is
plainly impossible in the area of foreign policy Europeanisation. Consequently, as Larsen
reminds us, `if there is no EU policy in a foreign policy area, national foreign policy cannot be
said to be affected by it' (2009, p.549). Thus, whenever the European impact is weak or legally
non-binding, domestic change is assumed to follow different mechanisms such as social learning
through diplomatic networks, information sharing within supranational bureaucracies or policy
diffusion among member states, and in turn, mimetic responses by domestic polities (Major 2005,
An FPA from the viewpoint of social constructivism is based on the two concepts of a identity,
defined as a common sense of belonging to a certain group, and role, which refers to norm-based
foreign policy orientations and an intrinsic behaviour pattern (Aggestam 2004, pp.82-83). Once
established, such self-conceptions remain comparatively stable over time, although they are
vulnerable to structural modifications that appear in foreign relations, such as the creation of a
CFSP. Changes in role conceptions are also caused by horizontal information sharing and
expertise networks. Such cross-loading mechanisms do neither necessarily lead to cohesion nor to
convergence of national foreign policies, but make other member states´ security identities and
role conceptions part of own national considerations and policy guidelines. Notwithstanding, the
actual cognitive processes of social learning among political elites ­ embracing the question to
what extent foreign policy-makers perceive themselves as national or rather European (or even
international) agents and act accordingly ­ remain unmeasurable with tools provided by social
sciences and are hence after all subject to somewhat vague and subjective interpretation (cf.
Checkel 2007). Thus, if there is any foreign policy Europeanisation visible, it will rest upon the
integration of European security and defence issues into own foreign policy considerations.
Changes in self-perception and a certain role taken will then become evident.
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The Europeanisation of National Foreign Policy through EU membership: The Case of Spain
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europeanisation, national, foreign, policy, case, spain
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Ron Böhler (Author), 2011, The Europeanisation of National Foreign Policy through EU membership: The Case of Spain, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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