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European performance revisited : EU external policy ‘making’ in Singapore, Malaysia and Laos


Author: Derous, Marjolein
Under the direction of: Jan Orbie and Olga Burtyuk
Université de Ghent
English Language English text

Keywords : Political science, Southeast Asia, EU, external relations, performance, South East Asia.


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This PhD dissertation gives impetus to wider interpretation of performance in relation to the European Union (EU) as an international actor. Towards this end, I present a conceptual framework for the analysis of EU policy ‘making’ in three Southeast Asian countries : Singapore, Malaysia and Laos. The overarching research question of how the EU performs in these countries is not one of success in reaching certain objectives, but rather one of how these objectives take shape and to what end. From a post-structural, critical perspective I study the meaning for ‘the problem’ and ‘the other’ in policy as they are (re)produced through discursive practices. This dissertation contains 5 articles. Articles 1 & 2 have allowed me to build the research questions, whereas Articles 3, 4 & 5 provide answers. The Introduction sets the stage in terms of providing a map of the field and introducing the conceptual building blocks for analysis. It also introduces the settings of the policies under study, methodological considerations and questions of data gathering and analytical strategy. The articles I present in two parts. Part one consists of Articles 1 & 2. Article 1 highlights the silence in the literature regarding the political role of the EU in global forest governance, whereas Article 2 introduces governmentality as being of added-value to the study of the EU in the world. Together, these insights helped build the research questions. Part two holds Articles 3, 4 & 5 in which I analyze EU external policy ‘making’. They encompass the contemporary EU-Singapore relationship from a macro-level in order to come to conclusions about ‘the other’ and ‘the EU’ ; analyze the meso-level of policy ‘making’ through problem ‘making’ and the resistance it met regarding the EU-Malaysia Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) ; and the micro-level of the ‘enactment’ of the EU in the day-to-day work of the EU Delegation in Laos. In the Conclusions, I apply the concept of performativity to link the ‘making’ of external policy to the ‘making’ of the EU. I conclude that EU external policy ‘making’, in particular the (re)production of the ‘EU=solution’ and strategic silences, serves the coherent constitution of the EU as a legitimate international actor.