Sonja Grimm | 2014

The European Union’s Ambiguous Concept of ‘State Fragility’

in: Third World Quarterly 35: 3, 252-267.

Although scholars and practitioners alike perceive ‘state fragility’ to be a key challenge for security and development, there are significant variations in the definition of this phenomenon. This article analyses the European Union’s notion of ‘state fragility’. Based on a document analysis covering the years 2001–12 and expert interviews conducted in November 2012, the article reveals that the EU has not (yet) decided on a clear-cut definition of ‘state fragility’. Three factors explain this lack of decisiveness: the EU’s complex institutional framework, which impedes policy coherence; developments at the international level that require the EU’s compliance; and the organisation’s diplomatic efforts to maintain cooperative relationships with aid-recipient countries that have been labelled ‘fragile’. The result is conceptual ambiguity that potentially reduces the EU’s capacity to respond to fragile situations.

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