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The legitimacy of EU foreign and security policy in the age of global contestation (LEGOF) (completed)

The EU is a semi-autonomous, non-state actor aspiring to the command of its own coercive power. What might be the legitimacy basis of its foreign and security policy? 

Photo of two soldiers preparing to give medical aid to a ship crew they rescued at the sea outside of Somalia.

EU High Representative Federica Mogherini meeting the press before a meeting in the UN Security Council in 2017. Photo: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

About the project

LEGOF examines the viability of the European Union's (EU) foreign and security policy in the context of enhanced uncertainty, risk and ambiguity in international affairs. It aims to provide an updated analysis of the role and capabilities of the EU in the changing world order.

LEGOF posits that there is need for a particular type of legitimacy for the EU to be a capable and a reliable actor. The requirement of physical capabilities to insert the EU's will in a changing world order depends on the Union's ability to establish a legitimacy basis of its own that is also acceptable for others. The prevailing mood is of a need to shift from soft to hard power in the context of increased geopolitical competition. Yet the success of such a shift itself depends on protracted consensus-making processes between the Masters of the Treaties. Power is only power as long as there is agreement and as long as the member states stay together.


LEGOF aims to break new ground in research on EU foreign and security policy through its emphasis on legitimacy in the establishment of capability. Drawing on its conception of legitimacy it conducts four strands of empirical analyses, which address both the procedural and the substantive dimensions of EU foreign, security and defence policy. LEGOF’s theoretically informed research establishes a sound basis for developing policy relevant analyses.


LEGOF involves a cross-disciplinary group of researchers from political science, sociology, law, and philosophy: 


LEGOF is financed by the Research Council of Norway’s research initiative ‘Europe in Transition’ (EUROPA).

Project period: 1 October 2018 – 30 September 2021

Published Sep. 21, 2018 2:06 PM - Last modified Jan. 11, 2022 9:09 AM



Helene Sjursen

ARENA Centre for European Studies
P.O. Box 1143 Blindern
0318 Oslo