Acting for Europe: Reassessing the European Union’s role in international relations

Christopher Hill, Michael Smith, Sophie Vanhoonacker - Kormoss

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


This chapter presents the major common findings of the volume, while also stressing the different approaches and specialist areas covered by the contributors. It re-examines the usefulness of the major schools of International Relations (IR) theory as applied to the EU’s external relations, seeing all as applicable in varying ways even if liberalism and its variants tend, in our view, to generate most insights. It then moves on to the EU’s substantive impact (or lack of it) on world politics, which has grown steadily in broad terms albeit with obvious gaps and setbacks. The three lenses introduced in Part 1, whereby the EU is analysed as a system of international relations, as a participant in wider international processes, and finally as a power, are then revisited to make possible the overall conclusions: 1) that while the EU has its distinctive attributes it is now largely integrated into the academic subject of International Relations , rather than being confined to European Studies; 2) that the EU has significant powers as well as a wide-ranging presence in the international system, even if it may not yet be termed ‘a power’; 3) that the accelerating processes of change underway in the international arena continue to pose new challenges both for the EU and for analysis; 4) that the series of challenges which the Union has faced since the financial crisis of 2008 have produced some proactive responses but have also exposed its weaknesses as a collective actor on the world stage. The latest of the challenges, the war in Ukraine, has provoked the EU into an unusually rapid, forceful and united response. Only time will tell if that can be maintained.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Relations and the European Union
EditorsC. Hill, M. Smith, S. Vanhoonacker
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9780192897343
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2023

Publication series

SeriesThe New European Union Series


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