Exploring the influence of small member states on EU external policies: the influence of the Latvian and Lithuanian Council Presidencies on the Eastern Partnership initiative
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This thesis aims to challenge the assumption that small member state influence on the European Union’s (EU) common foreign policy has been negligible. Its purpose is to study the influence of two small member states, Latvia and Lithuania, have had on the Eastern Partnership initiative during their respective Presidency of the Council of the EU periods. A third case, Poland’s Presidency, will also be examined and compared with the other two cases. This will allow for a more nuanced understanding of the impact the other two small member states have had in the development of the EaP compared to a bigger member state. Overall, this thesis adds to the existing discussion of small member state influence in three ways: first, it provides an overview of classical and contemporary small member state literature and critically assesses the realist interpretation of small state behavior in the international system; second, it reviews the different methodologies used by various authors and synthesizes a new influence measuring framework; and third, it applies the analytical framework to the selected cases and tests three sets of hypothesis. I argue that three factors can most adequately explain small member state influence: first, small member states must be committed to an issue - it must be of general importance to them; second, they must possess immaterial resources, such as general expertise or they be recognized as leaders in the issue area; and third, small member states are more influential when they use the EU’s institutional setting (such as the Council Presidency seat) to their advantage. The actual extent of influence is measured using three indicators: goal achievement, the ascription of agenda setting, and the ascription of final outcomes. This exercise revealed three conclusions: first, that small states have more influence on the multilateral Eastern Partnership platforms than on bilateral relationships; second, that small member states have more influence on the final outcomes than on the agendas; and third, that the overall goal achievement level is higher when the level of ascription is higher. Based on the results this thesis produced, I conclude that small member states are able to exert a limited amount of influence on the EU’s foreign policy when they use their strengths and resources to leverage their positions vis-à-vis bigger and more powerful member states, but without the support of other actors, the probability of failing to deliver results would be higher.