With increased plurality of the European Union membership, the incentive of member states to form alliances with other states has increased. Such incentives are evenstronger in the case of small states that due to limited administrative resources tend to be less able to manage the policy and strategic complexities of ever enlargingand deepening European integration. The choice to cooperate is thus prompted by the small states' need to improve their capacity to defend particular national interestswithin EU decision-making as well as, more broadly, influence the process of European integration. The proposed paper investigates what forms of strategicrelationships are mostly used by small states in the European Union and how these strategic relationships serve as 'capacity building' for these states. The paper willfocus on the empirical examples of the Benelux, Visegrad Four, the Nordic and Baltic States and the Regional Partnership (Austria plus CEEs), each of which hasadopted a distinct form of structured relationship. The argument goes that while small states are compelled to build strategic relationships to which they can turn in EUnegotiations, these relationships increasingly take the form of informal platforms for information exchange rather than formal bloc-like alliances. The explanation for suchchoices lies in the administrative characteristics of these states as well as in the present dynamics in relations among EU member states after the 2004 enlargement.
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