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In an international system marked by power shifts and deepening interdependence, the European Union’s relations with pivotal global and regional powers will play a critical role. Over the last decade, the EU has set up 10 strategic partnerships with a range of important countries: Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United States.
The European Strategic Partnerships Observatory (ESPO) provides information and analysis on the EU’s relations with its strategic partners and on the connection between bilateral partnerships and multilateral cooperation. The purpose is to monitor the evolution of the partnerships, collect data and provide a regular stream of timely, tailor-made analyses from experts in Europe and beyond.
ESPO is a joint project of FRIDE and Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations and is kindly supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany.

For further information, please visit the ESPO website: strategicpartnerships.eu



New donors, new partners? EU strategic partnerships and development

By Clare Castillejo (11/12/2014) Book
Travis Lupick/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Emerging powers play an increasingly central role in international development. Recognising this, the EU is seeking to strengthen discussion and collaboration on development with these powers through its strategic partnerships. However, the scope for such engagement varies widely, depending on each country’s goals and strategies in relation to both development cooperation and the multilateral development agenda. In this book, leading experts examine the approach to development adopted by Brazil, China, India, Korea and South Africa; the status of current EU engagement with these strategic partners on development; and opportunities to strengthen this engagement. The book is part of the broader FRIDE-Egmont Institute ESPO initiative that provides analysis on the EU’s relations with its strategic partners.

South Korea and the European Union: A promising partnership for development cooperation?

By Sung-Hoon Park (25/11/2014) Policy Brief

Since it joined the OECD-DAC, Korea has become an increasingly important development actor. Korea is keen to develop partnerships with traditional donors and has already done so with a number of European member states. Given the relevance of Korea’s remarkable development experience, not least with a view to bridging Northern and Southern agendas, as well as the synergies between Korean and European development priorities, greater EU-Korean cooperation on development could prove particularly fruitful.

Development and the India-EU Strategic Partnership: Missing incentives and divergent identities

By Emma Mawdsley (17/10/2014) Policy Brief
Ajay Tallam/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Although development has featured in the EU-India strategic partnership dialogue, India has little incentive or interest to collaborate with the EU in this area. India’s approach to development and its credibility with developing country partners is based on its ‘Southern’ identity. The EU must therefore be realistic about the limited possibilities for collaboration with India, while continuing to seek local opportunities for cooperation – such as in Afghanistan – and exploring the potential convergence of development approaches between some EU member states and India.

The EU and its partners on development: how strategic on the ground?

Bread for the world/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Most of the EU’s strategic partnerships include dialogues on development, and in some cases commitments to collaboration. This policy brief examines whether such dialogue and commitments are reflected in EU-strategic partner interaction on the ground in two developing countries – Nepal and Mozambique. In both countries, the space for EU engagement with strategic partners is highly limited and largely determined by strategic partners’ economic, security or political interests. The EU needs to enhance dialogue with its partners at capital level and EU delegations require support to adapt to the new context created by the presence of emerging powers and to use the strategic partnership framework to engage with them.

The China-EU strategic partnership on development: unfulfilled potential

By Sven Grimm (04/09/2014) Policy Brief
The European Council (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

China has become a major international development player, but EU-China engagement on development remains weak. Profound differences in their conception of development cooperation and China’s desire to avoid association with traditional donors leave little room for significant collaboration. However, some complementarities in specific issues could be further explored, for example regarding fragile states, capacity building or environment. A priority for the EU should be to build a long-term dialogue with China on development that seeks to understand and engage with rather than reform Chinese development policy. The EU-China strategic partnership could offer a framework to facilitate such dialogue and build trust between these two giant development actors.

Brazil’s strategic partnerships: origins, agendas and outcomes

GOVBA/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Over the last 40 years Brazil has pursued strategic partnerships with a wide range of countries. It has done so to gain access to capital and technology, foster regional and inter-regional cooperation, and advance its priorities on the international stage - in particular through multilateral bodies and coalitions. These partnerships will continue to be a valuable tool for Brasilia to manage the intersections of its bilateral and multilateral engagements, reform global governance and consolidate Brazil's profile as an increasingly important global actor.

The EU and South Africa: towards a new partnership for development

By Lesley Masters (15/07/2014) Policy Brief
The Council of the EU

The EU-South Africa strategic partnership reflects a shift away from their traditional donor-recipient relationship.  As South Africa emerges as a donor in its own right, there is potential for greater EU-South Africa collaboration to promote development in Africa and at global level. South Africa and the EU share a common focus on Africa’s development and security, as well on poverty reduction and normative issues of human rights and governance. Such convergence offers potential for trilateral development cooperation, which has yet to be explored. However, South Africa's concerns about the impact of broader EU policies on African development and about EU commitments to shift aid away from middle income countries could be barriers to deeper engagement. 

The EU-Brazil partnership on development: a lukewarm affair

By Lidia Cabral (02/07/2014) Policy Brief
ANSESGOB/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The EU-Brazil strategic partnership on international development has delivered little. Limited commitment and operational constraints have so far undermined high-level pledges to undertake trilateral cooperation. Brazil and the EU often hold different positions on the contested multilateral development agenda. However, there is scope for closer cooperation between the two partners on various issues including food security. In addition, their further engagement would greatly contribute to bridging the divide between traditional and emerging donors.

China’s strategic partnership diplomacy: engaging with a changing world

APEC 2013/Flilckr (CC BY 2.0)

China has been actively engaged in developing strategic partnerships with third countries, particularly since the early 2000s. These partnerships have proven a prominent instrument in China's diplomatic toolkit, in order to guarantee a benign environment for its rise. As China rises, and as part of the international community becomes increasingly suspicious of this ascent, Beijing’s strategic partnership diplomacy will face unprecedented challenges. China is thus likely to become more proactive and creative, differentiate more between different relationships and strive for a better connection between bilateral partnerships and other diplomatic tools.

The rise of cyber-diplomacy: the EU, its strategic partners and cyber-security

By Thomas Renard (18/06/2014) Working Paper
marsmett tallahassee/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Cyber-security and cyber-governance are increasingly shaping the international agenda, not least in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations and various cases of cyber-attacks from China and Russia. Governments worldwide have come to realise that their national security also depends on the security of their computers and technological devices. The European Union is no exception. In this context, international cooperation is becoming ever more important, while the regulation of the cyber-space becomes more contested. The EU is progressively raising its profile in this debate, for which strategic partnerships prove a useful instrument in its toolbox.

The American Way of Partnership

Barack Obama/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The United States has forged formal bilateral ‘strategic partnerships’ and developed strategic dialogues with scores of partners around the globe. This paper examines the purpose and content of US ‘strategic partnerships’ with other countries worldwide. It analyses the varying motivations driving such partnerships, evaluates their usefulness, and compares and classifies them in terms of substantive content and purpose. It offers a typology of US relationships, and explores the relative balance among different elements of ‘strategic partnership’, from political and military cooperation to economic coordination and ties with non-state actors.

Partners in crime? The EU, its strategic partners and international organised crime

By Thomas Renard (06/05/2014) Working Paper
Thomas Hawk/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Organised crime is a major global security challenge. The EU has become an important actor in justice and home affairs at the European level, facilitating cooperation between member states, but it still needs to develop further its international profile on countering organised crime.

Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism

By Thomas Renard (16/01/2014) Working Paper
Elentir/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The European Union (EU) has identified terrorism as one of the key threats it faces in both its external and internal security strategies. This paper focuses on the EU’s global role in counter-terrorism and, more specifically, on its cooperation with its strategic partners on related issues, such as countering terrorist financing or capacity building in third countries.

The EU, its strategic partners and nuclear non-proliferation

By Thomas Renard (10/10/2013) Working Paper
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons/Flickr

The European Union has identified the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as one of the greatest threats to its security. Amongst its main objectives in this area are the promotion of a nuclear-safe world and the resolution of proliferation crises.

Building a sustainable EU-India partnership

By Gauri Khandekar (11/09/2013) Policy Brief

The EU and India acknowledge each other as important global actors, but not as real strategic partners. A new, forward-looking EU-India partnership on urbanisation, infrastructure, development and sustainable growth is needed.

The Sixth EU-Brazil Summit: business beyond the usual?

By Elena Lazarou (05/03/2013) Policy Brief

After years of limited progress, the EU-Brazil partnership may be inching towards a new level of cooperation. Trade, investment and security are key areas.

EU Strategic Partnerships and Climate Change


The EU strategic partnerships with BASIC countries can prove critical to make progress at bilateral level in curbing emissions and unlock stalemate on the multilateral stage.

EU Strategic Partnerships and the Global Economic Downturn

This ESPO report looks at EU partnerships with Brazil, China, India and the US and finds that bilateral relations struggle to engender convergence at the global level on macroeconomic issues.

The EU-South Africa strategic partnership: changing gear?

By Damien Helly (16/10/2012) Policy Brief
The Council of the European Union

The September summit between the EU and South Africa marked some progress on the political dialogue and confirmed the importance of the economic partnership.

Premier Wen’s last China-EU summit

By Chen Zhimin (10/10/2012) Policy Brief
Friends of Europe/Flickr

The September summit between the EU and China took record of progress but also registered regrets and divergence on important economic and political issues.

Brazil and the EU: between balancing and bandwagoning

By Susanne Gratius (11/07/2012) Working Paper
Brazil and the EU: between balancing and bandwagoning

In terms of values, Brazil and the EU are close partners. Nevertheless, they hardly ever adopt common positions on the international stage.  How can this distancing be explained and how can the strategic partnership be deepened?

The EU-Russia partnership: a new context

Council of the European Union

With Putin back in power and the EU mired in crisis, the future of the EU-Russia partnership is uncertain.

The EU-Russia summit in St. Petersburg

By Hiski Haukkala (02/07/2012) Policy Brief
The Council of the European Union

The partnership between the EU and Russia remains a contested one despite some recent steps in the right direction.

Why EU strategic partnerships matter

By Giovanni Grevi (11/06/2012) Working Paper
The Council of the European Union

EU strategic partnerships serve multiple purposes in an uncertain global context. Bilateral relations should be mobilised to enhance international cooperation.

After the China-EU summit: reaffirming the partnership

By Zhongqi Pan (27/04/2012) Policy Brief
Philip Jägenstedt/Flickr

The China-EU summit last February has improved the atmospherics of mutual relations but the partnership’s potential remains unfulfilled.

The EU Strategic Partnerships Review: Ten Guiding Principles

By Thomas Renard (13/04/2012) Policy Brief
The Council of the European Union

Strategic partnerships have not delivered strategic results yet. They should be made more effective with a focus on the guidelines outlined in this policy brief.

The EU-India summit: on the threshold of change

By Gauri Khandekar (27/02/2012) Policy Brief
The Council of the European Union

The EU-India Summit made progress on the bilateral compact of the strategic partnership. More needs to be done for convergence on the multilateral level.

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Dear Friends and Colleagues,

FRIDE ceased its think tank activities on 31st December 2015 for economic reasons. The Board of Trustees had to take this difficult decision since, despite many efforts to diversify its funding sources, FRIDE cannot sustain its think tank operations with a view to 2016 and beyond.

Established in 1999, FRIDE has made a major contribution to shape debate on Europe’s external activities in an increasingly challenging international environment. It has covered issues ranging from democracy and human rights to sustainable development, new approaches to multilateral cooperation and security affairs. FRIDE’s long-standing focus on the extended neighbourhood of the European Union proves today all the more relevant given widespread turbulence in the region. FRIDE’s emphasis on the importance of the values framing Europe’s external activities is central to current political debates in Europe and beyond. This shows the need for continued engagement in the pursuit of a common European foreign policy that is both effective and informed by the core values of European integration.

The Board wishes to thank Diego Hidalgo, FRIDE’s founder, for his tireless commitment and very generous support for many years. The Board also wishes to thank FRIDE’s dedicated staff, the members of the Board and the Advisory Committee for their contribution in making FRIDE one of the top foreign policy think tanks in Europe. We are very grateful to all those who have supported FRIDE’s work and projects over the years and we thank the many partners from all parts of the world who have worked with FRIDE on joint initiatives. We hope that FRIDE’s extensive input to the debate on Europe in the world will continue to inform thinking and action at a very critical time for Europe’s future.

The President of the Board

FRIDE cesó sus actividades como think tank el 31 de diciembre de 2015 por razones económicas. El Patronato tuvo que adoptar esta difícil decisión dado que, a pesar de los intensos esfuerzos realizados para diversificar sus fuentes de financiación, FRIDE no puede sostener sus operaciones como think tank a partir de 2016.

Establecido en 1999, FRIDE ha realizado una gran contribución al debate sobre las actividades exteriores de Europa en un ambiente internacional cada vez más complejo. Ha trabajado en temas que van desde la democracia y los derechos humanos al desarrollo sostenible, los nuevos enfoques en la cooperación multilateral y las cuestiones de seguridad. La atención prestada por FRIDE a la vecindad extendida de la Unión Europea durante mucho tiempo prueba ser hoy aún más relevante debido a la turbulencia que azota a la región. El énfasis de FRIDE en la importancia de los valores que enmarcan las actividades exteriores europeas es central en los debates en Europa y más allá. Esto muestra la necesidad de un compromiso continuo con la búsqueda de una política exterior europea común que sea eficaz y esté basada en los principios fundamentales de la integración europea.

El Patronato desea agradecer a Diego Hidalgo, fundador de FRIDE, por su incansable compromiso y muy generoso apoyo a lo largo de tantos años. También quiere expresar su gratitud a la dedicada plantilla, a los propios miembros del Patronato y del Comité Asesor por sus contribuciones para hacer de FRIDE uno de los principales think tanks de Europa en cuestiones de política exterior. Estamos muy agradecidos con todos aquellos que han apoyado el trabajo y los proyectos de FRIDE a través de los años y también damos las gracias a los numerosos socios de todas partes del mundo que han colaborado con FRIDE en iniciativas conjuntas. Esperamos que las extensas aportaciones de FRIDE al debate sobre Europa en el mundo continuará informando el pensamiento y la acción en un momento muy crítico para el futuro de Europa.

El Presidente del Patronato

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