SUMMER 20: Diplomatic Practice and Coalition Building in the European Union (EU)

Course content

Coalitions have always formed an integral part of European Union (EU) Council politics. States often rely on other states to formulate positions, to team-up against a bigger state or to make sure that their voices are being heard. Due to the Brexit and other recent challenges, coalition landscapes are rapidly changing, forcing various states to look for new ‘friends’, whereas the relative power of some, such as Germany and France, increases.


The first part of this course positions the phenomenon of coalitions in broader debates in International Relations related to cooperation and multilateral institutions. We engage with various theoretical approaches, to then narrow down and focus on coalitions. We discuss the ways coalitions have been studied in relation to the EU in particular, aiming to answer questions such as why states form coalitions, which coalition patterns we can observe within the EU and how and when they tend to change shape.


The second part of this course focuses on the less studied ‘building’ part of coalitions. We zoom in on the EU Council of Ministers and its diplomatic practice, focusing on questions such as how diplomats deal with coalitions on a day to day basis and which practices contribute to the shaping, forming and breaking up of coalitions. Theoretically, we draw on insights from International Practice Theory and negotiation theory, while we empirically focus on the changing landscape(s) of coalitions within the EU. Classes will be interactive, and guest lectures from practitioners will help us engage with the material and grasp the diplomatic reality of coalition building in the EU.



Bachelor student (2012 programme curriculum): 10 ECTS

Bachelor student (2017 programme curriculum): 7.5 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS



Learning outcome


  • Describe and explain the main approaches to the study of coalitions and coalition building in International Relations and European Union studies; 
  • Understand and explain main differences between these various approaches;
  • Evaluate the strengths, weaknesses and blind spots of arguments belonging to these approaches.



  • Present and analyze the ways in which the approaches envision coalitions to play a role in the EU;
  • Combine and synthesize key trends, tensions and contradictions in the study of coalitions and coalition in the EU;
  • Apply the approaches to relevant present or past empirical cases.



  • Critical thinking; constructing and defending a coherent argument.
  • Writing and presenting in a convincing and clear manner.
  • Developing negotiation skills during simulations.


This is an intensive and interactive summer course. We will take the time to discuss and debate the assigned literature in class. A part from a theoretical discussion, we will dive in the ‘practice’ of diplomacy itself, via negotiation simulations and guest lectures from practitioners. These practical experiences and theoretical reflections will feed into each other continuously.

This list is subject to change. A detailed list of required readings will be provided well ahead of the start of the course.


Adler-Nissen, Rebecca (2014) Opting Out of the European Union

Diplomacy, Sovereignty and European Integration. Cambridge

Cambridge University Press.


Adler-Nissen, Rebecca (2016). “Towards a Practice Turn in EU Studies: The

Everyday of European  Integration,” Journal of Common Market Studies

 54(1): 87-103.


Berridge, G. R. (2015, 5th edition). Diplomacy. Theory and Practice.

 Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Beyers, Jan (2005). “Multiple Embeddedness and Socialization in Europe: The Case of Council Officials,” International Organization 59: 899-936.


Bicchi, Federica & Niklas Bremberg (2016). “European diplomatic practices: contemporary challenges and innovative approaches,” European Security 25(4): 391-406.


Checkel, Jeffrey T. (2005). "International Institutions and Socialization in Europe", International Organization 59(4): 801-826.


Dupont, Christophe (1996). “Negotiation as Coalition Building,” International Negotiation 1: 47-64.


Häge, Frank M. (2012). "Coalition Building and Consensus in the Council of the European Union", British Journal of Political Science 43(3): 481-504.


Hayes-Renshaw, Fiona & Helen Wallace (2005, second edition). The Council of Ministers. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.


Juncos, Ana E., & Katarina Pomorska (2011) "Invisible and unaccountable? National Representatives and Council Officials in EU foreign policy", Journal of European Public Policy 18(8): 1096–1114.


Keohane, Robert O. (1986) “Reciprocity in International Relations,” International Organization 40(1): 1-27.


Mattila, Mikko (2004). “Contested decisions: Empirical analysis of voting in the European Union Council of Minister”, European Journal of Political Research 43: 29-50.


Mearsheimer, John J. (1995). “The False Promise of International Institutions,” International Security 19(3): 5-49.


Naurin, Daniel & Helen Wallace eds. (2008) Unveiling the Council of the European Union. Games Governments Play in Brussels. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Pouliot, Vincent & Jérémie Cornut (2015). “Practice theory and the study of diplomacy: A research agenda,” Cooperation and Conflict 50(3): 297-315.


Zimmer, Christina, Gerald Schneider & Michael Dobbins (2005). "The Contested Council: Conflict Dimensions of an Intergovernmental EU Institution", Political Studies 53: 403-422.

A study background in International Relations is not required, but preferred.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28