“Rethinking EU Leadership in the “Neighbourhood”: Limits and Ambitions”, Bernardo Venturi and Silvia Colombo (IAI, Italy)

Definitions of “leadership” abound and attempts have been made to operationalise this concept when it comes to the European Union’s external role. In a nutshell, leadership can be defined as “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal”. As broad as this definition can be, it can still be applied to gauge the EU’s performance in exercising leadership in foreign policy, an ambition it clearly nurtures both when dealing with its partners and vis-à-vis its own member states. In this respect, calls for the EU to be more geopolitical, improving its ability to project its influence globally and lead member states towards a common foreign policy goal resonate well with this definition. Yet, a concrete assessment of EU leadership over the past years reveals many limits. No other terrain is more accurate to conduct this assessment than the European Neighbourhood, a geopolitical space – stretching from Morocco to Belarus – that represents a litmus test for EU leadership and has to a large extent become a thorn in the Union’s side.

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