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The European Union as an external power


Admission requirements

This course is designed for the minor Global Affairs. It is not possible to follow single courses of this minor. You need to be enrolled in Usis for the minor to be accepted to this course. There are 300 places open for registration, on a first come first serve basis, where LDE students are given priority.
This course is also open for inbound exchange students if they wish to take the entire minor Global Affairs; it is not possible to take single courses from this minor. Exchange students must be admitted by the FGGA International Office prior to the start of the minor; priority will be given to direct exchange partners of FGGA. For more information about the application procedure for exchange students, please contact the FGGA International Office.


This course will introduce students to the European Union as an external apower and the various ways in which the EU makes an impact in the international arena. The EU has been described in the past as inadequate and weak in foreign policy, partly due to the great expectations ascribed to it given its size and economic power. Arguably, the ‘capability-expectations’ gap is still a problem, but meanwhile the EU has developed different ways to make an impact beyond its borders: from enlargement governance – exporting rules and norms to enlargement candidates, to external governance - engaging in regulatory networks and association agreements with third states. Therefore, next to the institutions and capabilities that constitute the EU’s still uneven foreign policy, the Union’s engagement with neighbours and candidates for accession will be analysed. In addition, the course will look at perspectives and perceptions of the EU beyond its borders and examine to what extent the EU’s own view of its soft power is shared by others. Bringing these different aspects together, the course will enable students to critically assess the EU’s impact in the world.

Course objectives

After successful completion of this course, students should:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the various ways in which the European Union interacts with third states and key developments in recent years that affect the Union’s power in the international arena

  • Be familiar with various theories and concepts used to assess the EU’s role and impact in the international arena

  • Understand the dynamics of the EU’s Common Security and Defense policy and the way its institutions and capabilities have developed over time

  • Be knowledgeable of the different modes of governance that the EU has developed in addition to foreign policy that contribute to its impact

  • Apply knowledge of developments in the EU’s external action to make arguments accessible to a broader public in the form of a blog or a policy briefing

  • Critically assess the EU’s impact in the world using different analytical perspectives.


On the right side of programme front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

7 lectures of 2 hours, complemented by online video materials where appropriate.

Total course load: 140 hours
Hours spent on:
7 lectures x2= 14

Preparation for each lecture: 2 readings, approximately 25 pages each, 7 hours before session, for 7 sessions: 49 hours
2 smaller assignments with video material and writing a blog or policy paper online: 32 hours
Writing the final paper, including research: 45 hours.

Assessment method

Assignment 1: a blog post for a general audience on an aspect of the EU’s external governance or foreign policy

  • 25% of total grade

  • Resit not possible

  • Grade must be compensated

Assignment 2: a policy briefing:

  • 25% of total grade

  • Resit not possible

  • Grade must be compensated

Final paper:

  • 50% of total grade

  • Grade must be 5.50 or higher to pass the course

  • Resit possible

  • Resit will take the same form

Reading list

Articles and papers available via the University electronic journals library or open access.


Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.
Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. Important information about the course is posted here.
After enrolment for the course in uSis you are also enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.


Global Affairs