Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access | Ahead of Print | Last Modified: 18 June 2024

Populists in the Shadow of Unanimity: Contestation of EU Foreign and Security Policy

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Abstract:  The arrival of populist political parties to power in several member states and the increasing politicisation of EU foreign policy has made intra-European consensus more difficult to reach in the past decade. This article examines the impact of populist contestation on EU foreign policy negotiations in the Council, a policy area governed by unanimity. This decision-making mode makes the policy especially vulnerable to the impact of contestation and, at the same time, gives power to those willing to use their veto. Drawing on the idea of unpopulist politics, this study shows how Hungary and, to a lesser degree, Poland have contested the established formal and informal norms (such as consensus-building or reflex coordination) through discursive and behavioural non-compliance. The “domestication” of EU foreign policy has meant that, in general, populists show less willingness to compromise and resort to non-decisions to demonstrate the EU’s weakness. However, there are exceptions, and it is possible to see variations in populist strategies when faced with similar challenges, as exemplified by the EU’s response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. By testing the scope conditions under which unpolitics might be activated, we show that the same crisis situation did not lead to a uniform response amongst populist governments. This is because both the nature of the crisis and perceptions of risk/gain were understood differently (and actively constructed as such) by populists in power. This finding emphasises the social, relational, and multi-level nature of unpolitics as a phenomenon.

Keywords:  Common Foreign and Security Policy; EU; politicisation; populism; unpolitics

Published:   Ahead of Print


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.8099


© Ana E. Juncos, Karolina Pomorska. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.