Economic sanctions have proved to be the EU's policy instrument of choice for dealing with crisis situations in its neighbourhood, as illustrated by Iran's nuclear impasse, Syria's civil war and the Ukraine/Crimea crisis. Defining effectiveness in terms of the capacity to change the behaviour of targeted states, the paper finds that the EU's sanctioning efforts have so far not resulted in major successes, except perhaps in Iran where recently a significant breakthrough has been achieved in the international negotiations on the country's nuclear program. Building upon expert interviews and merging insights from the effectiveness and actorness literatures that have both flourished in recent years, this paper puts forward an original theoretical framework that explains why sanctions effectiveness has been disappointing in Syria and Ukraine/Russia, but more positive in relation to Iran. From a theoretical perspective, the paper connects actorness criteria to effectiveness criteria, thereby driving forward one of the most important research agendas in the actorness literature. By unravelling the dense interconnectedness between actorness and effectiveness, the paper shows that, at least in the field of sanctions, the actorness concept is highly relevant from a practical policy perspective. From an empirical point of view, the paper's contribution lies in its timely analysis of three recent, under-examined EU sanctions episodes, i.e. Iran, Syria and Ukraine.
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