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Discourse and CSDP Policy-Making: Conceptual and Methodological Concerns

Nikola Tomic

The concern that the EU's CSDP policies often have a significant impact on a great number of people, like in cases of military or civilian missions, imposes the equal significance of understanding the factors that shape these policy provisions. While the thesis does not disregard rational choice and 'national interests' of member states, the thesis relies on both constructivist and new institutionalist assumptions and focuses on discourse as an important factor that influences policy outcomes. Discursive approaches in EU studies, and especially in studies on EU foreign policy, are still not very prominent. One of the reasons for this may lie in some conceptual and methodological drawbacks and incompatibilities with the nature of foreign policy. First, the distinction between communicative and coordinative discourse (Schmidt, 2008, 2010) is of relevance here. As argued in my paper, EU's foreign policy provisions are more affected by the coordinative discourse created within Brussels institutions (at informal, lower levels of policy making, where policy provisions are drafted) than by the communicative discourse, since the public is generally, most often than not, excluded from the policy making process, especially in the case of joint actions (mission deployments). The exclusion of the public leads to the question of identifying the actors involved in the discursive process. As the paper argues, the discourse is not set by the member states (ministers, heads of state), but much earlier, at the lower, informal level. The difficulty of mapping the different actors across agencies, committees, working groups and other epistemic communities may be another difficulty that needs to be addressed when translating discursive approaches to EU foreign policy.

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