The EU's approach to fragile states: conflicting norms, practices, and lessons learnt

Bergmann, Julian / Mark Furness
External Publications (2023)

in: David Carment / Yiagadeesen Samy (eds.), Handbook of Fragile States, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 369-384

ISBN: 978-1-80088-346-8

This chapter analyses the EU’s strategic approach to state fragility, the evolution of which has been shaped indelibly by contestation over norms, actors and practices in EU foreign and development policy in recent decades. Building on the literature of norm contestation in multi-level and EU decision-making, we posit that the EU’s approach towards fragile and conflict-affected countries has been driven mostly by the ‘liberal’ peacebuilding tradition and its associated norms of solidarity and humanitarian impartiality, as well as by related norms promoted in the aid and development effectiveness agenda such as policy coherence and local ownership. At the same time, powerful normative drivers such as risk-averseness and the aim for the ‘protection’ of European interests have securitised certain aspects of the EU’s fragile states approach, especially those related to refugees and migration and other perceived security threats. This norm contestation has been visible both at the EU level and in the interactions between EU institutions and member states over deployments in support of fragile and conflict-affected countries. Our analysis shows that norm contestation both at the level of instruments and interventions has impacted deeply on the EU’s ability to practice what it preaches, and accordingly on its contributions to successful peacebuilding in fragile and conflict-affected countries.

About the authors

Furness, Mark

Political Science


Bergmann, Julian

Political Science


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