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EU Policy on Iraq: The Collapse and Reconstruction of Consensus-based Foreign Policy
International Politics
  • Jeffrey Lewis, Cleveland State University
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At first glance, Europe's discord over the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a foreign policy debacle. And when a majority of Member States publicly broke ranks with a tenuously reached common position, skeptics argued that the EU's consultative and consensus-based process of foreign policy making was either fictitious or irrevocably broken. But in fact, the Iraq crisis triggered a normative reframing of security and defense policy and renewed a commitment to consensus decision making. Rather than a lowest common denominator outcome, a compromise position was reached in the form of EU-coordinated economic and humanitarian assistance to rebuilding Iraq that has exceeded 200 million euros per year since 2004. This was possible because normative commitments to develop the EU as a global actor and to promote democracy and the rule of law worldwide legitimated EU action and constrained Member States with ‘do nothing’ and/or ‘let the UN do it’ preferences. The foreign ministers’ ability to reach agreement on coordinated recon aid to Iraq also displays the Union's principled commitment to make decisions in a norm-governed and consensus-based institutional environment of cooperative bargaining.

Citation Information
Jeffrey Lewis. (2009). EU Policy on Iraq: The collapse and reconstruction of consensus-based foreign policy. International Politics, 46, 4, 432-450.