European Studies SMLC HKU School of Modern Languages and Cultures HKU
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Reserch Projects

Political Leadership and Summit Diplomacy in Europe
European Studies / Diplomatic History

Dr. C. Roland Vogt

This research project addresses a gap in the literature about leadership in European integration. It posits leadership as a central explanatory factor and answers the following research question: How did the leadership and European conceptions of British, French, and German decision-makers influence key developments in European integration?

It challenges structural and institutionalist explanations (which overlook leadership) and their assumption that decision-makers are rational utility-maximisers whose behaviour is determined by material structures. Instead, conventional constructivism is applied to elucidate the constitutive role of agency and ideas.

The comparative analysis of three key developments in European integration reveals leadership as a necessary – yet not sufficient – condition for the foundation of the Common Market (1955-57), its first enlargement (1969-73), and the creation of the European Union (1990-97). These developments hinged upon the willingness of specific British, French, and German leaders to intervene in negotiations, overcome opposition, invest personal prestige, and establish close personal relations with each other.

Drawing on extensive archival research and documentary analysis, its is found that the negotiation tactics of Paul-Henri Spaak, the summits between Konrad Adenauer and Guy Mollet, and Anthony Eden’s disinterest in integration enabled the formation of the Common Market; that the ability of Georges Pompidou and Edward Heath to redefine their countries’ roles in Europe transformed the prospects for British membership in it; and that the pro-integrationist policies of Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand were influenced by a shared historical conception of Europe. The research points to the fact that the behaviour and choices of these leaders were framed by their personal predispositions towards Europe, as well as their willingness to invest political capital for creating elite-agreements on European initiatives.


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