International Politics

, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 339–358 | Cite as

The European Union’s environmental foreign policy: from planning to a strategy?

  • Simon SchunzEmail author
Original Article


In the early twenty-first century, environmental matters have become subject to high politics, tackled in complex global contexts. In such contexts, effectively dealing with environmental challenges requires a geopolitically informed environmental foreign policy strategy. This article examines whether, to what extent and for what reasons the European Union, with its highly developed internal environmental regime and its ambition to lead global environmental politics, possesses such a strategy. It argues that the EU has for a long time pursued a leadership-by-example approach, characterized by attributes of planning rather than a strategy, but that signs of change can nowadays be detected notably in the area of climate change. Drawing on insights from pragmatist reasoning, the article concludes by suggesting how the EU’s environmental foreign policy could develop further strategically.


Environment Environmental foreign policy European Union Strategic studies Strategy 



The author would like to thank the participants of the workshop on ‘Geopolitics and Strategic Thinking in EU Foreign Policy’ at the European Workshops in International Studies (EWIS), Tübingen, 6–8 April 2016, in particular Cristian Nitoiu, Monika Sus and Neil Winn, as well as the two anonymous reviewers for their highly useful and constructive comments on earlier drafts of this article.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies DepartmentCollege of EuropeBruggeBelgium
  2. 2.UN University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS)BruggeBelgium

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