European Foreign Affairs Review

Volume 22 (2017)

Volume 22 (2017) / Issue 2

Jan Melissen, Wouter Zweers, 'High Stakes of the Small EU Partnership Instrument on the Eve of the 2017 Mid-Term Review' (2017) 22 European Foreign Affairs Review, Issue 2, pp. 147–158


The European Union (EU)’s so-called Partnership Instrument (PI) captures the changing psychology of EU relations with rising powers, and has been designed to give more room for manoeuvre for EU external action. Two years of practice leading up to the 2017 Mid-Term Review have shown that the PI is instrument-driven rather than objective-driven, and that its strategic potential is undermined by lengthy committee-based procedures and sector-based programming. In an arena of vested interests, the PI’s significance is tied up with what EU stakeholders want to make of the European External Action Service (EEAS). National foreign ministries struggle to connect national objectives with EU interests, apart from the wider debate not addressed here as to where European interests come from when they are not based on national objectives. This article argues that national foreign ministries should consider the potentially positive effect on EU external action of this relatively small initiative, notably as the instrument to connect one European entity to other global powerhouses. EU Member States have so far been unable to link fully with the PI, and – like the EEAS and the European Parliament – they have too little clout to exert influence on the European Commission. The EU Global Strategy offers a window of opportunity for making the PI more political, expedient and flexible.

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ISSN: 1384-6299
ID: EERR2017009