Geopolitics and foreign policy in small, federal states: the case of the Belgium's federal and regional governmentsGeopolitics and foreign policy in small, federal states: the case of the Belgium's federal and regional governments
Faculty of Social Sciences. Political Sciences
Research group
International Politics
Publication type
New Orleans, L.A. :International Studies Association, [*]
Source (book)
ISA's 51st Annual Convention "Theory versus Policy? Connecting Scholars and Practitioners", Panel WD41: The Changing Geopolitics of Small States, New Orleans Hilton Riverside Hotel, The Loews New Orleans Hotel, New Orleans, LA (USA), 17-20 February 2010
Target language
English (eng)
University of Antwerp
The geopolitical approach to the study of the foreign policy of a country offers interesting insights into the process via which (governmental) elites perceive the place of their country in the world, and deduce from this certain geopolitical priorities and/or missions. In this paper, we study the case of Belgium. In this country, foreign policy is still conducted by the Belgian federal government, but since 1993 the regional governments of Flanders and Wallonia have been granted unparalleled possibilities to develop their own respective foreign policies, and therefore also their own geopolitical priorities and missions abroad. What impact did the process of regionalization of foreign policy have on the geopolitical priorities of the country? To what extent are these regional external policies different or similar from a geopolitical point of view to those developed at the federal level, or those of the other regional government? Our research strategy will be both inductive and deductive. First, we introduce the concept of the broad definition of security, and its implications upon the study of the geopolitics and external activities of federal and federated governments, with Belgium as a brief illustration. Second, we bring together the relevant empirical facts; how is foreign policy organised in the Belgian federation today? What differences can be detected in the geopolitical priorities of the respective Belgian governments? Third, in our deductive approach we will try to develop a deeper understanding of these findings by applying insights from different strands of Geopolitics; (1°) Traditional Geopolitics which focuses on physical-geographical, human-geographical and spatial variables, (2°) Cognitive Geopolitics which tries to study the perception by central political decision-makers of the environment in which they have to try to operate, and (3°) Critical Geopolitics, which focuses on the way in which these elites, but also the broader public, construct the surrounding space (and the internal Belgian political reality); what are the (political-) strategical objectives behind this simplified construction of space, and what manipulative effect do they create