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Too Small to Make an Impact?

The Czech Republic’s Influence on the European Union’s Foreign Policy

Marek Neuman

Do small EU member states exert influence over the EU’s foreign policy-making process? Ten years after the Czech Republic joined the European Union, Marek Neuman attempts to answer this question by looking into whether Prague succeeded in translating its foreign policy preferences vis-à-vis Russia and the larger post-Soviet space into the EU’s foreign policy making. Looking at three policy portfolios – the EU’s Eastern neighborhood, energy security, and external democratization – he argues that the Czech influence varies across issue areas and time. In studying the role of member states in EU foreign policy formation, he concludes that three master variables – quality of the national preference, ability to position oneself as a norm entrepreneur, and the character of interstate negotiations together with one’s negotiation skills – determine a state’s ability to make a difference in Brussels.
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Chapter Five: Emphasizing Democracy Promotion: The Czech Republic’s Niche in the European Union’s Foreign Policy


“Naturally, all of us continue to pay lip service to democracy, human rights, the order of nature and responsibility for the world, but apparently only insofar as it does not require any sacrifice. By that, I do not mean, of course, merely sacrifice in the form of fallen soldiers. […] I have in mind, rather, sacrifice in a less conspicuous but infinitely broader sense, that is, a willingness to sacrifice for the common interest something of one’s own particular interests.”435Václav Havel

Scholars have taken up the concept of Europe as a normative power,436 with the EU being, particularly in the domain of human rights and democratization, well positioned to promote these both at home and abroad.437 Yet, such daring claims ← 201 | 202 → are surprising when taking a closer look at the historical evolution of the EU’s human rights and democratization policy, as the Union was anything but a human rights actor in its early stages. What has prompted some to call the EU’s foundation on human rights nothing short of a “myth”438 is in fact a manifestation of an underlying human rights paradox that has been ever present within the European integration project. EU integration was constructed on the premise that the individual member states would be well-functioning democracies, exhibiting good governance, observing the rule of law, and protecting human rights. However, little reference to these concepts that allegedly inform Europe and constitute its identity can be found in the original founding treaties.439...

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