Researching EU Foreign Policy | NORTIA Fellow Irina Petrova

The UACES Network |

Irina Petrova is a PhD fellow at the Leuven International and European Studies (LINES) Institute at the University of Leuven. Her dissertation (under the supervision of Professor Stephan Keukeleire) focuses on the comparison of different types of power exercised by the EU and Russia in their shared neighbourhood.



Synergies between NORTIA and projects in partner institutions

This summer I was very lucky to be one of the first NORTIA residency fellows (KU Leuven/University of Kent, Canterbury). Beside working on my thesis and book proposal, getting to know the wonderful Kent team and having discussions with my supervisors Elena Korosteleva and Richard Whitman, I was also inspired by Elena to start working on the new research agenda, which I hope to develop in the next few years. Thanks to tremendous Elena’s support, I was hired as the University of Kent research assistant to develop a project proposal aiming at studying the concept of local ownership in the EU foreign policy towards the Eastern Partnership states. Thus, just a few months after the research stay, NORTIA residency has already demonstrated synergy with other projects conducted in partner institutions (in particular, UPTAKE and COMPASS)!

For some time already I have been fascinated by the concept of “the local” in foreign policy and how the EU’s foreign policy is affected by the domestic structures, institutions and practices of the third states. Explicit acknowledgment of “the local” and local ownership in the EU foreign policy documents goes back to the 1990s, when the concept of local ownership gained prominence in international development aid and peace-building practices and studies. Launching the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2004, the EU included the principle of joint ownership as one of the cornerstone principles of this multilateral policy. Over the 1.5 decades of the ENP  implementation, the principle has travelled from one policy revision to another stressing the need for stronger local ownership. For me, this trend looks like an indication of a problem in the genuine application of the principle.

Indeed, the literature on international development aid and state-building demonstrated that the principle of local ownership has always been a challenging one. Empirical studies of international donors and peace-builders proved that it is “abundant in policy but absent in practice” (Krogstad 2014:106). In this regard, the EU faces a challenge common for all international donors.

Yet, it remains essential to facilitate genuine mutual ownership (which is indeed a better term), as it is an important factor of foreign policy effectiveness. I also argue that external resilience-building in the ENP region, which is pointed out as one of the five priorities in the EU Global Strategy, is impossible without strong perception of mutual policy ownership by the EU partners.

Given the recent revision of the European Union foreign policy and greater willingness of the EU to learn and embrace change, it is high time to substantially rethink and re-conceptualize local/mutual ownership. I started discussing some ideas on how to do so with my supervisor at Kent during my NORTIA Residency. The very first draft was presented at the workshop ‘The EU and resilience: interrogating theory, policies and practice’ (Rome, 9 November 2018), organized by Elena Korosteleva in cooperation Nathalie Tocci, Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in the framework of the UPTAKE and COMPASS projects.

I will further contribute my insights in the Roundtable ‘Quo vadis EU diplomacy in the Eastern Partnership (EaP)?’ organized by another NORTIA fellow Dr. Dorina Baltag at Kent University Brussels on 5 December 2018. Everyone is very welcome to join and once again – many thanks to NORTIA for these amazing opportunities!

Applications are now open for the 2019 NORTIA bursaries. To learn more, visit the UACES website: