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Strengthening the EU’s capacity to prevent, manage and solve conflicts and crises

Cohesive, sustainable EU foreign and security policy governance structures will help to address challenges concerning competition, regional politics and domestic debates. To achieve this, the EU-funded JOINT project is analysing the interplay of these challenges for a more effective foreign and security policy.

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JOINT has created an innovative conceptual and analytical framework to assess the effectiveness of EU foreign and security policy (EUFSP). “It explored the ways in which three contextual factors – intra-EU contestation, regional fragmentation and multipolar competition – impact the EU’s ability to carry out an effective policy in conflict and crisis settings,” explains Riccardo Alcaro of project coordinator Istituto Affari Internazionali, a private, independent non-profit think tank based in Italy. JOINT also identified the measures the EU and its 27 Member States have adopted to mitigate these negative effects.

How the constraining factors play out in single crises and conflicts

So far, the research has resulted in 22 papers dealing with the above-mentioned concepts. These were applied to nine case studies clustered by the contextual factor that, in combination with the other two, most affects EUFSP. More specifically, they involved Venezuela, Israel-Palestine and Kosovo-Serbia for intra-EU divisions, Ethiopia, Syria and Libya for regional fragmentation, and Ukraine, the South China Sea and Iran for multipolar competition. Building on the case study findings, a tool was developed to assess EUFSP’s effectiveness. The JOINT Effectiveness Checklist is a grid of evaluation criteria structured by three governance levels (Member State, EU, global) for the three constituent elements of JOINT’s definition of effectiveness: consistency, impact and sustainability. A comparative paper extracted broad generalisations from the case studies. It identified four origins for intra-EU contestation that adversely affect EUFSP. With respect to regional fragmentation, the proliferation of actors leads to a lack of clear legitimate interlocutors for the EU and multiplies the targets of its policies. “In parallel, fragmented territories draw in external actors that interact with local and regional dynamics, further complicating the setting,” states Alcaro. The EU’s ability to mitigate the effects of multipolar competition depends on the degree to which great power competition is zero-sum. “More zero-sum implies a more significant constraint, but can also spur the EU into action as in the case of Ukraine,” he elaborates further. “It also depends on the EU’s ability to find a benign partner with which to cooperate, most notably the United States.”

The power of perception and mutual learning

To maximise the project’s reach among the epistemic and policymaking communities, the researchers have published 27 policy briefs, engaged in extensive dissemination activities, including four podcasts and nine videos, and organised eight public events and nine advocacy meetings with European diplomats. Lastly, JOINT is combining academic research on case studies and conceptual frameworks with social research through focus groups and a mass online survey to assess the political acceptability of a more integrated EUFSP. JOINT (Understanding and Strengthening EU Foreign and Security Policy in a Complex and Contested World) ends in February 2024. If you are interested in having your project featured as a ‘Project of the Month’ in an upcoming issue, please send us an email to and tell us why!


JOINT, policy, conflict, crisis, intra-EU contestation, regional fragmentation, multipolar competition, foreign and security policy