Over the last decade the European Union (EU) has decided to upgrade its relationship with a series of third states ranging from big powers, such as Russia, to small countries, like Cape Verde. This resulted ultimately in the institutionalisation of a number of new partnerships with global actors, regional leaders and countries with particular geopolitical and geostrategic significance, which intended to add increased weight to the EU’s presence in world politics. It can be said that most of the European partnerships have exhibited at least two common features. Firstly, there was their underlying goal of providing a new incentive to outsiders that were endeavouring to follow the ‘right track’, according to the EU’s perspective, or have showed genuine inclination to do it with Brussels’ political and financial back up. Secondly, those partnerships sealed the commencement of a regular political dialogue at the highest level which also included security and normative issues. In practice, nevertheless, EU partnerships took different shapes and formats, ranging from Common Strategies and the participation in the European Neighbourhood Policy with the possibility of further differentiation (through special agreements and Action Plans) to Special and Strategic Partnerships. Furthermore, in some instances they took a unique form, with the four Common Spaces with Russia being a case in point. This can be seen as an attempt on the part of the EU to match the idiosyncratic features of each partner while offering it a differentiated and somewhat exclusive status vis-à-vis other third states.
Given such a variety of formulae which have been employed by the UE to forge partnerships with states beyond its boundaries, this project looks at the various examples of partnerships involving five different countries: Brazil, Cape Verde, Israel, Russia and Ukraine. The major goal of this research is to explain how and why partnerships with such diverse countries were created in a rapidly changing global and regional context. This requires further research on the reasons leading and shaping each partnership with a particular country, and this is expected to reveal the rationale underlying the EU’s choice of a given format (e.g. special partnership) to the detriment of another one (e.g. strategic partnership). The study conducted in this project assesses the implications of the selected partnerships on the basis of three analytical levels. Firstly, the consequences of partnership dynamics upon the UE aspiration to become an independent political and strategic actor will be appraised. Secondly, the implications of the institutionalisation of an EU partnership upon the existing regional integration schemes will be examined. Thirdly, the extent to which these partnerships affect the management of globalisation and ultimately the evolving nature of world politics will be weighted up, while taking into consideration an unprecedented EU capacity to influence and shape globalisation trends, something that requires strategic allies or partners in different regions of the world.
This project is rated as excellent and as the evaluation panel stated "it will contribute towards promoting and disseminating science and technology. Being a truly comparative work, its findings can be of significant to several, including EU specialists, comparativists and IR specialists". As consequence, it is funded by the Portuguese Foudation for Science and Technology with the reference number PTDC/CPJ-CPO/113251/2009, being one of the best funded projects in the field.