The Challenge of Relationships: The EU’s Strategic Partnerships

May 10, 2011

A few weeks ago Egmont: The Royal Institute for International Relations in Belgium put out a paper by Thomas Renard on the EU’s strategic partnerships. The EU says that it has 10 ‘strategic partnerships’ with Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United States.  Renard argues that the only one of these that is worthy of the name is the one with the US – this is not based on ideological Atlanticism but on his view that the point of a ‘partnership’ is the pursuit of common projects. The argument is that the strategic partnership label is largely rhetorical and that the EU has no procedure for identifying ‘partners’, no means of managing them, and no strategy for them.  Renard quotes Herman Van Rompuy ‘we have strategic partnerships, now we need a strategy’

This goes to the point that I’ve made before that seeing public diplomacy as an exercise in relationship building still requires a strategic approach.  Relationships aren’t free; by elevating relationships to strategic partnership status the EU is making a commitment of resources even if only in time and attention that detract from other priorities.  We might expect that a relationship will have a synergistic effect but Renard is arguing this isn’t the case.

Renard, T. (2011) The Treachery of Strategies: A Call for True EU Strategic Partnerships. Brussels: Egmont – The Royal Institute for International Relations.

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