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United we stand? Member states on the world stage

Organisations such as the EU are of enormous benefit to the member states, but the inhabitants of the member states are often unaware of this. Leiden researchers investigate whether international organisations such as the EU or ASEAN are able to influence global politics.

International agreements focus on, for instance, on maritime security.

In a globalised world, it is more important - and more difficult - for individual states to influence international agreements and legislation. Joris Larik, an expert on European and International Law, and his fellow researchers have seen that countries are able to make their mark on international policy through partnerships such as the EU, which puts its members in a strong position in international trade negotiations.

EU as strong negotiator

‘The EU finds out what its member states can demand within the international legal framework, which, although it limits their room for manoeuvre on the international stage, does save them a lot of time and effort,’ says Larik. ‘What is more, the EU conducts strategic, and if necessary aggressive, negotiations with other countries, improving the position of the member states. In these times of EU scepticism, it is surprising that the EU does not appear to have attempted to make it clear to the European public how successful it is in this.’ ASEAN, an association of ten Southeast Asian countries (founded in 1967), has also been successful in international negotiations on security and political collaboration.

The experts at the Institute of Public Administration shed light on this kind of information by analysing international legislation and practice. They also look at the effectiveness of international organisations by analysing their aims and organisational structures. They then make their knowledge available to recipients such as policymakers. Ann example from recent practice: staff from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called in the help of Leiden researchers to draw up an input document on the EU’s joint foreign and security policy. Their knowledge of the European legal framework enabled the Leiden researchers to indicate the main areas on which the Netherlands should focus. ‘Cyber security and governance is an important topic, for instance,’ says Larik. ‘You could enact national or European regulations to increase digital security, but these regulations would be at odds with ts the individual’s right to privacy, for instance, which includes the right to be “forgotten”. This right is very important to many people in the EU.’

International trade is another area in which legal agreements must be reached at trans-Atlantic level. The EU and the United States want to create an investor court to arbitrate in disputes between businesses and countries. The question is how this court should take existing European legislation into account, particularly as regards the environment and economic and social rights?

The TTIP agreement is the proposed free-trade agreement between Europe and the United States.

World seas

Leiden researchers are currently also working with various Dutch ministries and international partner organisations on possible legislation and policy that would make the world’s seas safer and cleaner. They are seeking to answer questions such as: how can we combat piracy? (Who should be responsible for this? How can you bring state and non-state actors together at the negotiating table?) How should we deal with climate change and its effect on the sea? Students regularly participate in their research and gain practical experience.

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