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Assessing the High Representative's Role in Egypt during the Arab Spring


The 2009 Lisbon Treaty institutionalised an intergovernmental constitution for managing policies traditionally a matter of national sovereignty, such as foreign and defence policies. However, important innovations were introduced in the foreign policymaking structure to limit its intergovernmental logic, in particular, with regard to the role of the High Representative (HR). It was generally assumed that those innovations would have made development of a coherent EU foreign policy possible. Yet, in one of the most significant tests for the EU’s foreign and defence policies in the post-Lisbon era, namely the Egyptian crisis (2011-14), those reforms did not work as expected. Notwithstanding the innovations, the HR’s role was diminished by the European Council’s strict control over foreign policy toward Egypt. The lack of clear policy guidelines towards the issue of democratisation in the Arab world in the 2003 European Security Strategy, although partially mitigated by the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Barcelona Process/Union for the Mediterranean, made it even more difficult for the HR to bring a European perspective into the largely intergovernmental setting.
Keywords: EU foreign policy, Lisbon Treaty, Arab Spring, Egyptian crisis, High Representative, intergovernmentalism, global strategy