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"In War Without Allies: The EUs New Role in Global Security"

Semper Ardens: Accelerate


With the recent dramatic end to the American-led war in Afghanistan, pressure on the EU to engage autonomously in crisis management in its extended neighbourhood has ramped up further. Situated in Europe's own 'backyard', West Africa's Sahel region's security threats of terrorism, migration and organised crime have been a top EU security policy priority since 2011. As a laboratory for the EU comprehensive security approach, the study of EU security interventions in the Sahel region offers a powerful case of how the EU is redefining its role in international security in a shifting and less US-dominated global order.


Although the EU is one of the most studied international organisations, the academic literature tells us little about the ground level effects of EU security interventions let alone their broader implications. To fill this void, the project provides a comprehensive theoretical and empirical appraisal of how the EU conceptualises and governs security and, in turn, how the EU constructs its role as a security actor.


The data collection is multifaceted and include: 1) analysis of policy documents and mission mandates to reveal how ideas of security translate into new EU policy interventions and instruments; 2) global ethnographic methods to study how EU policymakers, programme officers and soldiers produce security in their everyday organisational practices; 3) interviews with policymakers and state actors, experts and local associations in Mali and Niger to understand the views of project beneficiaries; and 4) analysis of large, quantitative data sets to map the outcomes of EU interventions. The project also draws on the PI's long-term data collected across nearly two decades of ethnographic research.


The Sahel is an intervention space of limited strategic interest for the US, which has prompted a comprehensive and increasingly militarised European presence. Accordingly, this project, 'In War Without Allies' (WWA), contributes to a better understanding of how the effects of the EU's security interventions in the Sahel will shape the EU's future role as a global security actor. The project emphasies how the effects of EU security interventions are not limited to specific contexts like the Sahel. Indeed, they may come to define and transform the EU's future role in, and understanding of, global security.