Ongoing projects

Cooperation within the European Think Tank Network. 01/02/2021 - 30/04/2021

Abstract

The goal of this project is to describe the nuclear disarmament debate in Southern Europe ('Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta), since the conclusion of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (2017)

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Competition and cooperation in European defence: private versus public governance and EU policy outcomes. 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2024

Abstract

European governments have agreed to source European defence equipment in the form of ad-hoc procurement programmes as well as EU-level initiatives. However, the European defence market is also characterised by inter-state competition. Hence, it is riddling that we end with a curious mix of cooperation and inter-state competition: sometimes we get ad hoc inter-state military programmes, and in other instances we get EU-level policies. Why? To solve this riddle in this research project, we plan to focus on state-level variation between public versus private governance of industrial suppliers. Indeed, EU countries can be characterised by a public or private governance system of their defence industries. Countries where the state governs defence firms are likely to take part in EU-level projects bringing narrow benefits for their own industries. By contrast, we hypothesize that countries with a private governance system are more likely to participate in inter-state collaboration, because they can realize larger macro-economic and military benefits. To explain the curious mix of European defence cooperation and competition, we will for the first time conduct a network analysis of the interpenetration of political and industrial actors in four major European countries, and combine this with a comparative case-study of European collaborative initiatives in this field.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

European Fiscal Policy, Banking Union and Collective Goods Theory. 01/05/2020 - 30/04/2021

Abstract

This SEP grant constitutes the fourth year of a PhD-trajectory, subsequent to a three year EU grant in the framework of the Innovative Training Network PLATO on the Post-crisis Legitimacy of the European Union. This 4th year extension grant has several significant benefits for the research already conducted, the further career plans of the PhD researcher Philipp Lausberg in question, and for follow-up research project applications to the benefit of the University of Antwerp. The timetable of a three-year ITN scholarship which finishes in December 2020 is extremely tight, to the point that it is hardly possible to go into as much depth in research as would be desirable. The prolongation thus serves to produce an even better-researched and more extensive thesis, improving career prospects in the academic world and beyond, as well as improving publication output in the interest of the university. The additional year will serve to plan next career steps more thoroughly, namely write an FWO junior postdoctoral grant proposal, as well as apply for other such opportunities. Within the current, tight timeframe, it is nearly impossible to produce a comprehensive application realizing the potential at hand, since all-time needs to be invested in finishing the PhD thesis in time. Strategically planning this kind of application also includes publishing journal articles. Currently, we are awaiting the acceptance of a co-authored article submitted to the highly ranked Journal of Common Market Studies and for the publication of a single authored book chapter in an edited volume (edited by Chris Lord, Dirk De Bièvre, Ramses Wessels and Peter Bursens) destined for the prestigious ECPR Press. The SEP grant will allow to prepare a postdoc application with these two pieces already published. Moreover, it will provide time to produce a further article for publication in a top journal. The novel approach of analyzing several post-crisis institutions of economic and financial governance in the EU using a collective goods perspective lends itself very well to such a publication strategy. Finally, the additional year of funding will also be used to submit grant and research project proposals together with other faculty at the University of Antwerp. Recently, the Politics and Public Governance research group became part of one the Centers of Excellence with a focus on 'Trust and Distrust in Multi-level Governance'. GOVTRUST will perform cutting-edge and cross-disciplinary research at international frontier domains. Research expertise on institutional reforms in EU governance and their legitimacy fits well within the scope of the Centre. Hence, a cooperation could be highly stimulating and beneficial for both sides. Grant proposal writing in cooperation with this Centre of Excellence will therefore constitute the third activity to be developed in this 4th year of PhD funding by the University of Antwerp Special Research Fund, not least because GOVTRUST could provide the context to apply for larger-scale collaborative European research programs.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Exploring Conditions for Politicization: A Comparative Analysis of European Union Trade Agreement Negotiations. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2023

Abstract

In times of Brexit and Trump, trade policy has become the subject of public attention. Moreover, trade negotiations of the world's largest trading entity, the European Union, have become subject to unprecedented polarisation and contestation by civil society actors, as was the case with negotiations with Canada (CETA) and the United States (TTIP). Surpisingly though, such politicization did not occur across the board. Negotiations with Japan or Vietnam for instance did not cause any public stir and sailed through largely uncontested. This research project proposal outlines (1) how the politicization of EU trade agreement negotiations varies considerably across different negotiations (and across EU member states); (2) why some seemingly obvious explanations for this observed variation are logically and/or empirically problematic; and (3) outlines a new research strategy to parse out necessary and sufficient conditions for politicization in a mixed method research design, combining so-called Crisp Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis with in-depth, controlled case comparisons. By shedding light on structural conditions under which civil society actors are able to engage in politicization, this project aims to bring together the literature on EU trade politics with the literature on interest groups, civil society, and public opinion formation, and sets out a course for training-through-PhD-research.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

To Discriminate or Not to Discriminate? The Politics of Selective Trade Protection in the 21st Century. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2021

Abstract

The principle of non-discrimination – the central pillar of the post-World War II trading system – has recently come under threat due to the increasing use of country-specific trade restrictions by members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). These measures significantly distort global trade flows and lead to an unequal distribution of the benefits of trade. It is, therefore, surprising that we know so little about what is driving the choice between discriminatory and non-discriminatory trade barriers. This research project aims to answer this eminently political question by investigating how contemporary trends in international trade (e.g. globalisation of production) affect the position of domestic firms and/or industries vis-à-vis (non)discrimination, and how these preferences translate into trade policies pursued by governments. Starting from an innovative conceptual framework, I derive several testable hypotheses that challenge the conventional wisdom in the literature on trade policy. Moreover, I propose a sequential mixed-methods explanatory design that comprises two stages. First, I will perform a regression analysis of data from seven key members of the WTO (1995-2015). Second, I will conduct eight in-depth case studies, involving document analysis and interviews with political and societal stakeholders.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The Politicization of European Union Trade Agreement Negotiations. 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2023

Abstract

In times of Brexit and Trump, trade policy in general and the external trade policy of the European Union (EU) in particular has increasingly become the subject of public attention. Moreover, some trade negotiations conducted by the EU, the world's largest trading entity, have recently become subject to unprecedented politicization. Not only has attention for them increased, opinions about their desirability and content have also become more polarized, and more actors have participated in that political process than in the past. Strikingly however, negotiations with Canada (CETA) and the United States (TTIP) were far more controversial than similar trade agreement negotiations with Japan or Vietnam. In fact, while some particular trade deals have been marked by a high degree of polarized public input from a broad range of actors, many similar and even more comprehensive trade deals seem have to escaped detection. A scholarly consensus is emerging in terms of how to define and measure politicization but no systematic undertaking has thus far been applied to the various trade deals pursued by the EU since it lifted its moratorium on bilateral trade negotiations ion 2005. The purpose of this project is to fill this research gap by mapping the extent to which these trade deals have become politicized – geographically as well as temporally. Combining state-of-the-art social listening algorithms with traditional media analysis, this project will contribute to the study of politicization by presenting an empirical comparison of all cases in this particular field with regard to their salience, the degree of polarisation of opinions about issues in them, and the (amount of) actors involved in that process. The project thus seeks to do the empirical groundwork and pave the way for further future research on how different structural factors could be said to contribute to this phenomenon. Furthermore, the geographic and temporal aspects will give valuable original insights into how the dynamic process of politicization occurs and is autoreferentially amplified through new-media cycles.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Inside threats. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

The general objective of this research project is to analyze the insider threat in sensitive sectors in our country and to provide some recommendations to deal more adequately with this threat. Thousands of employees are yearly screened on trustworthiness. Due to the terrorist attacks in our country, the numbers of employees to be screened will increase substantially. One of the problems is that radicalization can happen rather quickly, also after a security clearance has been given. As a result, there is need for a better "after care".

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Inside Threats. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

The general objective of this research project is to analyze the insider threat in sensitive sectors in our country and to provide some recommendations to deal more adequately with this threat. Thousands of employees are yearly screened on trustworthiness. Due to the terrorist attacks in our country, the numbers of employees to be screened will increase substantially. One of the problems is that radicalization can happen rather quickly, also after a security clearance has been given. As a result, there is need for a better "after care".

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Maintaining Multilateralism: The Politics of Dispute Initiation at the World Trade Organization. 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

The multilateral trade regime of the World Trade Organization represents one of the most 'judicialized' or 'legalized' international institutions. Multilateralism in trade matters has recently come under threat from several sides: states' increasing reliance on preferential trade agreements, the contestation of trade policy by NGOs, and the increasingly widespread protectionist rhetoric in political debates within key international trading players. The rule-based WTO system of liberalization commitments and their enforcement is generally seen as contributing to a level playing field, where stakeholders have equal opportunities to get their rights enforced through legal means. Whereas existing analyses have largely focused on actual disputes, they have largely overlooked that these are only the tip of the iceberg of potential disputes. This research project aims to bring to the surface and analyse the origins of potential cases out of which governments select topics that lead to the filing of WTO disputes, by investigating how five key members of the WTO - the EU, the US, South Korea, Japan, and Brazil - select their targets in WTO litigation. To that end, we propose to (1) construct an original dataset of potential WTO disputes (1995-2016), and (2) assess the explanatory power of several hypotheses regarding governments' decisions to initiate WTO disputes by adopting a mixed-method approach based on a combination of statistical analyses and in-depth case studies.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Beyond Contractualism: A Comparative-Historical Analysis of the Sources of International Authority. 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

Beyond Contractualism tackles the problem of how to sustain an international order when power is redistributing itself and when a normative consensus among states can no longer simply be assumed. Recourse to violence cannot solve the problem of order durably and neither can recourse to reasoned persuasion or contractual pacts. Between violence and reason lies the concept of authority and deference to authority has indeed often been presented as the solution to the problem of order, including of international order. But if authority is the solution, it nonetheless begs the question: how does international authority become established and how is it maintained. This project addresses these questions through a comparison of how the Achaemenid Empire, Medieval Christendom, and today's Global International Society have each grappled with their 'problem of international authority.'

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Past projects

Internship within the European Think Tank Network. 01/10/2020 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

The goal of this project is to find out to what extent the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (2017) that will enter into force in January 2021 has already impact in NATO member states like Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and France.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

EU Non-proliferation and Disarmament Internship. 30/07/2018 - 26/10/2018

Abstract

The objective of this research project is threefold: 1) to analyse the threat of nuclear transports in Belgium; 2) to describe how this threat is communicated towards the general public; 3) to do further suggestions to improve the communication in this regard.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Politically motivated crime in the light of current migration flows (PoMigra). 01/10/2017 - 28/02/2018

Abstract

This report is drafted in the framework of the ISF-funded project 'PoMigra' (= Politically motivated crime in the light of current migration flows). It provides a systematic literature review of the research published between 2012 and 2017 on different types of politically biased crime in Belgium, and what research stated about the data collection methodologies on these crimes by law enforcement agencies in Belgium. To be precise, we have collected and analysed research publications related to (a) Salafist/jihadist crimes, (b) xenophobic crimes, (c) extremist crimes and (d) inter-migrant crimes. This report thereby enables a better understanding about contemporary research on these topics in Belgium, which is essential in better understanding its challenges, threats, and links to the issue of migration. It first became clear that the theme Salafist/jihadist crime accounts for the bulk of research on politically motivated crimes in Belgium. Different forms of politically biased crime – such as xenophobic crime and extremism – receive substantially less attention by researchers in Belgium. Moreover, it became clear that there is hardly any work published on left-wing extremism, and inter-migrant crimes with an political bias. These are substantial knowledge gaps in the literature on this theme. Second, the available research tends to focus on describing the nature and causes of these phenomena. It did, however, became clear that neither of these two issues is an easy task. The conceptual and practical ambiguity of different forms of politically biased crime complicate this endeavor. This impacts assessments on the size and causes of this phenomenon (especially with respect to xenophobic and extremist crimes). There are few objective datasets available. Some of the overarching lessons that are often drawn by research on this topic, however, focus on the importance of a locally embedded, comprehensive and inclusive approach in preventing these types of politically motivated crimes. Finally, with respect to the data collection methodologies by law enforcement authorities, it comes as no surprise that we did not found a lot of research on the data collection methodologies with respect to these themes. In general, it became clear that it is hard to define and grasp the phenomenon of politically biased crime empirically. Both law enforcement authorities and research grapple with this problem.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The European network of independant non-proliferation think tanks. 13/03/2017 - 09/06/2017

Abstract

The project wants to approach the Humanitarian Initiative with respect to nuclear elimination from the theoretical perspective of framing. More in particular it wants to find out how and why the effectiveness of the rhetorical frame of the Humanitarian Initiative around nuclear disarmament on public opinion differs between the UK and the US.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Politically motivated crime in the light of current migration flows (PoMigra). 31/01/2017 - 31/07/2017

Abstract

The project wants to find out to what extent current migration flows influence the communication about crime and terrorism: 1) in the Belgian media (journals in the 2012-2016 timeframe); 2) in political party programs; 3) and on websites of some specific extremist organisations. Case-study: Belgium. The project (on demand of OCAD-OCAM) is part of the European project Pomigra.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Implementing the EU non-proliferation and disarmament internship. 03/10/2016 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

This project wants to find out how stigmatization can help in delegitimizing nuclear weapons and the role they play in the current defense policies of the nuclear weapon states. Assuming that norms play a significant role in international politics, the project will focus first of all on how stigma (in general) can play a role in changing policy. Different reactions by those who are stigmatized can be listed. In its last part, the project implements the notion of stigmatization to the current Humanitarian Initiative that aims to delegitimize the role of nuclear weapons, including in the form of a Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. The hope is that by stigmatizing nuclear weapons and their possessor states, a societal and political debate inside the Nuclear Weapons States will be started up that may end up in changing their defense policy fundamentally.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The cultural practice of democratic peace 01/04/2016 - 31/03/2017

Abstract

That democracies do not fight large scale wars among each other has largely become established as an empirical fact. It would also appear that their shared democratic nature is at least part of the reason why democracies do not engage in mutual war. Much less is known about just how a shared democratic nature leads to war avoidance and, more particularly, about just how democracies actively maintain – imagine and perform – peace among each other. The little that is known about these processes suggests that the 'democratic peace' did not and does not result mechanistically from a favourable concatenation of factors, but that it is always a work-in-progress and the outcome of political efforts; that it must be imagined and maintained and will often become compromised indeed. The 'democratic peace' is at once more meaningful and more fragile than accounts which interpret it as a 'brute fact' can fathom. This research furthers our understanding of its meaning and fragility by means of a historicizing analysis of the 'democratic peace' as a particular way of doing peace.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Writing a concise visionary document about Flanders and the future of the European Union 15/02/2016 - 30/04/2016

Abstract

Assignment: writhing a visionary document about Flanders and the future of the European Union, based upon information and data provided by the Flemish ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cabinet of the Minister-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Geert Bourgeois.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research into the safety of radioactive materials. 01/12/2013 - 30/11/2016

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand FANC. UA provides FANC research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Subnational diplomatic activities as motor of reterritorialisation? The case study of the Mediterranean region. 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

Substate diplomacy questions our assumptions with the nature and the dynamics of the international system. Especially the territorial framework of the international system can be questioned. Some scholars speak of "the end of territory", but it can be assumed that the arrival of subnational entities on the international scene has, beside a process of deterritorialization, also started a dynamics of reterritorialization. Reterritorialization can be defined as "developments which occur when certain territorial entities loose their importance, in favor of other territorial configurations" . The central question entails the interaction between geopolitics and substate diplomacy. It will be examined in the case of the Mediterranean area. The central question is twofold; (1°) how and to what extent is the diplomacy of substate entities in this region "influenced" by environmental variables (e.g. physical-geography, human-geography, spatial setting), and (2°) how and to what extent do these actors re-shape their environment by means of their diplomacy? Or, to reformulate the latter dynamics: do the diplomatic activities of substate entities constitute motors of "reterritorialization"? These questions will be operationalized as follows: based on the research traditions and methods of traditional and cognitive geopolitics, the "influence" of geopolitical factors on the diplomacy of substate entities will be examined. A second (opposite) movement will start from the research tradition and methods of the critical geopolitics. The way in which substate entities try to redefine and restructure the space in which they operate by means of their diplomatic activities and foreign policy discourse, will be evaluated. The choice is made to apply this framework of substate diplomatic practices in a particular geographical area, namely the Mediterranean. During the last years, an increasing number of substate diplomatic initiatives have been taken in the Mediterranean, notably by the ambitious Catalan Generalitat.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Motivations, decision-making process and non-technical indicators of nuclear proliferation. 01/10/2008 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

The aim of this research project is to analyse the motivations of states that are interested in acquiring nuclear weapons (or not). In the past, most research focussed on the supply side (safeguards of IAEA). More research is needed with respect to the demand side. More in particular, the following research questions will be dealt with: 1. Why do states want to acquire nuclear weapons ? 2. Why do states decide to halt their nuclear weapons programs, or why do states not pursue nuclear weapons programs in the first place ? 3. Are there patterns of decision-making that can be detected inside those states that are relevant to the questions above ? 4. Which non-technical indicators can be detected that can be useful in predicting proliferation ? 5. What policy recommendations can be drawn from the outcome of this analysis ? After working out a theoretical framework based on the existing literature, the objective consists of building a model with non-technical indicators that can be used for predicting proliferation. Both the theoretical framework and the model will be tested and further adapted thanks to the detailed study of a few case-studies (Belgium, Sweden, Argentina, South-Africa).

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Peace and discipline. A study in political theory on peace education in international politics: the North-Atlantic region (1945-2007). 01/10/2008 - 30/09/2009

Abstract

This research project seeks to reflect on the meaning of peace, and on the role of peace education in bringing about international peace. We will suggest an understanding of peace as 'disciplined order' as opposed to its conventional definition (in IR theory) as the 'absence of war.' Inspiration is drawn from classical political theory, strands of which have highlighted the role of education in shaping virtuous citizens, and consequently in bringing about a peaceful society. The empirical validity of the model will be tested in the case of the reigning North-Atlantic peace.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Investigation peace: a political-theoretical study of the role of education and power in establishing peace. Case-study: Europe after 1945. 01/01/2008 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

This project seeks to elucidate the meaning of peace. It is hypothesised that education and power are central concepts and practices for understanding the establishment and consolidation of peace. Support for this claim will be sought at three levels: political theory, international relations theory, and history. European peace and security will be our case-study.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)