ARENA Working Papers
WP 99/8



Role Conceptions and the Politics of Identity in Foreign Policy

Lisbeth Aggestam
Department of Political Science, University of Stockholm

I Understanding Foreign Policy in Post-Cold War Europe

Effective foreign policy rests upon a shared sense of national identity, of a nation-state's `place in the world', its friends and enemies, its interests and aspirations. These underlying assumptions are embedded in national history and myth, changing slowly over time as political leaders reinterpret them and external and internal developments reshape them. [Hill & Wallace 1996: 8]

But foreign policy, most broadly defined, is central to people's sense of national identity, and to an understanding of their nation's purpose, role and values. A nation, and an administration, without a realistic and well articulated foreign policy, which explains the bewildering present and illuminates the uncertain future, is rudderless. [Howell 1997: 26]

There seems to be agreement between many foreign policy practitioners and theoreticians that perceptions of identity are of importance as a psychological frame of reference in international relations (Prizel 1998: 2). The problem is how we conceptualise this relationship between identity and foreign policy. How, when and why do cultural norms and values matter in foreign policy? How does one operationalise the theoretical linkage between identity and foreign policy in the empirical analysis?

These enigmas came to the fore in the late 1980s when the delineation between `self' and `other' became increasingly ambiguous with the end of the bipolar division in Europe. Curiously, it seems as if academics hurried to proclaim the `crisis of national identity' long before the practitioners themselves started to problematise the implications of the end of the Cold War on their own self-images (Wallace & Niblett, forthcoming).

This paper is concerned with the analysis of stability and change in foreign policy perceptions in post-Cold War Europe. Given the dramatic changes on the European scene in the last decade, the question is raised how the actors - the foreign policy-makers themselves - interpret and perceive the functions and roles national foreign policy fulfil in this new, more complicated and unfamiliar setting.

The concept I use to operationalise and `bridge' perceptions of identity, on the one hand, with foreign policy behaviour on the other, is by focusing on role conception. A role conception is a set of norms expressing expected foreign policy behaviour and action orientation. It can be thought of as a `road map' that foreign policy-makers rely on to simplify and facilitate an understanding of a complex political reality (cf. Goldstein & Keohane 1993: 3). The source material used in this study to analyse role conceptions consists of foreign policy speeches, documents and interviews. The intention is to compare role statements from three states: Britain, France and Germany. [1]

Thus, this paper is an attempt to outline a conceptual framework that focuses on the reasoning of national foreign policy-makers and their understanding of international relations in post-Cold War Europe. The analytical framework emphasises how cognitive and cultural factors motivate and legitimate decisions that relate to the general direction of foreign policy. Whilst immediate situational factors are important in understanding the daily flow of foreign policy decisions, it is here argued that broader foreign policy approaches, especially regarding European integration, are bound up with a sense of identity in foreign policy.

The theoretical framework is generated with a particular empirical puzzle in mind. For more than a quarter of a century, the EU member states have declared their aspiration to achieve a common `voice' and European identity in foreign policy - what was labelled as the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) in the Maastricht treaty. How are these processes of foreign policy cooperation and intense interaction between foreign policy-makers affecting perceptions of identity and interest? Whatever happened to the realist notion that states are seeking to preserve national independence in foreign policy, thus giving rise to a logic of diversity rather than conformity between states? [2]

More specifically, I am interested in how foreign policy is perceived by policy-makers given that the state is embedded in both domestic and European institutional contexts that generate roles. In the sections that follow, I will outline a perspective of the foreign policy-maker situated in a boundary position from which s/he mediates between two contexts of foreign policy-making: the national and European. In this view, the foreign policy-maker is both subject to norm-conforming social structures and involved as an agent in (re)constructing identities and interests, some of which may be `imagined' beyond the state. [3]

II Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity

Collective identities express ideas about membership within a social group. As such, they provide a system of orientation for self-reference and action (Ross 1997: 42). Culture is in this paper interpreted as the broad context in which individual and collective identities are linked producing shared meanings that influence the framing of political action. In foreign policy, the concept of culture could be characterised as `broad and general beliefs and attitudes about one's own nation, about other nations, and about the relationships that actually obtain or that they should obtain between the self and other actors in the international arena' (Vertzberger 1990: 268).

The politics of identity refers to a particular set of ideas about political community that policy-makers use and drawn on to mobilise a sense of cohesion and solidarity to legitimate the general thrust of foreign policy. As a consequence of its articulation and institutionalisation in the political culture, it may become internalised in the cognitive framework – or prism – through which foreign policy-makers interpret the political reality.

Identity constructions are, however, contextually dependent and develop and change over time. As Ignatieff (1998: 18) puts it, `'National identity is not fixed or stable: it is a continuing exercise in the fabrication of illusion and the elaboration of convenient fables about who `'we'' are.'' Just as it evolved in particular historical circumstances, current transformations internally and externally to the state have an impact and may lead to re-definitions of identity and foreign policy interests. In many states, the end of the Cold War and the deepening of European integration have sparked off debates about different conceptions of a national and European identity.

In this section, the influence of socio-cultural dynamics on foreign policy is considered in two institutional contexts. In the first domestic context, I elaborate on the interconnection between national identity and foreign policy by drawing on the literature of nationalism, social psychology and cognitive studies in foreign policy analysis. In the second context, I discuss the `Europeanisation' of foreign policy from a social constructivist perspective that emphasises how state interaction and processes of socialisation may affect perceptions identity in foreign policy.

National Identity and Foreign Policy

National identity is closely linked to different conceptions about sovereignty and statehood. It has since the early nineteenth century promoted the idea that the source of individual identity and loyalty lies with `a people' – the nation, which is seen as the source of sovereignty which the state, in turn, is founded on.

Membership of a political community is institutionalised spatially within territorial states (Krasner 1988). The framing of foreign policy follows as a consequence of the political community being recognised as a sovereign state in the international system. Wallace (1991: 65) has called this the `grand strategy' definition of foreign policy – `'that foreign policy is about national identity itself: about the core elements of sovereignty it seeks to defend, the values it stands for and seeks to promote abroad.''

According to Breuilly (1993: 2), nationalism is a political doctrine built upon three assertions to legitimise state power.

- There exists a nation with an explicit and peculiar character.

- The interests and values of this nation take priority over all other interests and values.

- The nation must be as independent as possible. This usually requires at least the attainment of political sovereignty.

A sense of belonging appears to be closely interrelated with membership of a political community that seems to offer protection from external threat (Clarke 1993: xi; Garcia 1993: 13). Both identity and security are relational concepts that imply the existence of an `other' against which the notion of a collective self and conditions of insecurity are articulated (Lipschutz 1995: 217). In social psychology and identification theory, the dynamics of national identity are assumed to be closely intertwined with perceptions of security.

If there has been a general identification made with the nation, then there is a behavioural tendency among the individuals who made this identification and who make up the mass national public to defend and to enhance the shared national identity. [Bloom 1990: 79]

However, this loyalty and attachment that the state may enjoy from its population is not simply emotional, but to some extent functional. It is functional in the sense that an identification with the nation-state relies on it being enhanced and protected. The state will probably not remain stable if it does not fulfil basic requirements of security and welfare (cf. Flynn 1995: 235-6).

Nonetheless, the `institutionalisation' of national identity that takes place through various forms of political socialisation tends to make identity constructions relatively resistant to change. It reinforces certain practices and rules of behaviour which explain and legitimise particular identity constructions (cf. March & Olsen 1998: 7; see also Almond, Powell & Mundt 1993: 46). Political socialisation is a necessity according to Giddens (1985: 221) given that the state itself is an unnatural social construct: `'nationalism helps naturalize the recency and contingency of the nation-state through supplying its myths of origin.'' If the idea of the state fails to be supported by society, the state itself lacks a secure foundation (Buzan 1991: 78).

Foreign policy with all the symbolic trappings of sovereignty and statehood plays a significant role in the socio-political imagination of a collective identity (cf. Anderson 1991). Foreign policy speeches often reveal subjective we-feelings of a cultural group that are related to specific customs, institutions, territory, myths, and rituals. These expressions of identity indicate how foreign policy-makers view past history, the present, and the future political choices they face.

By virtue of our geography, our history and the strengths of our people, Britain is a global player.

As an island nation, Britain looks outward naturally.

Our task has to be to shape these strengths and give them definition within a foreign policy that is clear and stated. [Tony Blair 1997]

We have to tell our people that we are now a normal country, nation, and we have to take part in developments. We are, therefore, more convinced that European integration is the best for us and for Europe as a whole. [Wolfgang Sch�uble, interview November 1997]

If sufficiently internalised, these accounts of national identity may become part of the political culture and `national style' of a state's foreign policy.

Culture represents a unified set of ideas that are shared by the members of a society and that establish a set of shared premises, values, expectations, and action predispositions among the members of the nation that as a whole constitute the national style. [Vertzberger 1990: 267]

These cultural norms and values could be interpreted as a national `ideology' or belief system in foreign policy, in the sense that ideas about who `we' are serves as a guide to political action and basic world views (cf. J�nsson 1984: 42-3; Little & Smith 1988). Thus, this conceptual lens through which foreign policy-makers perceive international relations tends to set the norm for what is considered by themselves as `rational' foreign policy-making.

It is however important to stress that socio-cultural sources of foreign policy are dynamic and may be subject to change, not least because the state itself contains a range of different social groups with varying interests and identities. The concept of political culture does not assume that everyone in a society necessarily support its institutions at all times, nor interpret national identity in identical ways.

There may well exist `credibility gaps' in a political culture, giving rise to competing interpretations of historical myths and meanings. Germany after the Second World War is probably the most dramatic example of this, whilst the meanings of the British nation have become increasingly contested at the end of this century. In these debates, it is noticeable how different political elites attempt to portray themselves as guardians of the national identity. Changes in the predominant idea of the nation are likely to have significant foreign policy implications. As Bloom (1990: 81) concludes, `'[a] government's foreign policy may thus be dictated by internal domestic realities as much as by the actual nature of its international relations.''

Europeanisation of Foreign policy

Many scholars seem to argue that the arena of international relations is changing in Europe as a consequence of different processes of formal and informal integration. Transnationalism and transgovernmentalism have become commonplace features in this system (Wallace 1994). In combination with the end of the Cold War, these characteristics appear to create a different setting for the functioning and scope of foreign policy - moving away from a Hobbesian European system towards a Grotian European society. Buzan (1995: 205) describes this order as `mature anarchy.' [4]

By the term mature anarchy, I mean a system of strong states (in terms of high levels of sociopolitical cohesion), embedded in a well-developed international society (a dense network of mutually agreed norms, rules and institutions [...] In one sense, the model represents a fusion between liberal and realist visions of the international system: It keeps states as the basic unit, but contains the security dilemma within a liberal-inspired ``non-violent conflict.''

Some observers go further and argue that a new `post-modern' system is arising – not from the ashes of destructive wars – but from popular revolutions that put an end to the balance-of-power system in Europe. In such a post-modern system, core ideas of the state, such as sovereignty, security and national identity, are attributed with new meanings (Cooper 1996). This view implies a different understanding of nationalism as a political doctrine and challenges the assumption that states strive to maintain their national independence in foreign policy.

Wendt (1992: 400) describes European integration as a process leading towards `a `'cooperative'' security system, in which states identify positively with one another so that the security of each is perceived as the responsibility of all.' This perspective is reminiscent of what Deutsch (1957) and his associates conceptualised many years ago as a `security community': a transnational region in which the positive identification and interaction between the members would lead to a decline of military force and a rise in the expectancy of peaceful relations.

German policy-makers frequently express thoughts along these lines given their historical record in Europe. [5]

Die Fortf�hrung des europ�ischen Einigungsprozesses ist deshalb immer zugleich auch aktive Sicherheitspolitik f�r Europa. Krieg zwischen Staaten ist im Westeuropa unsere Tage undenkbar geworden. [Werner Hoyer 1997]

This is hardly a contentious statement and is supported by a majority of European politicians. The interesting question is rather how deep this `sense of community' is felt within the European Union and how it may be affecting foreign policy perceptions.

What makes the Deutschian perspective particularly stimulating is the recognition that different social-communicative processes between states may affect and shape their identities and interests. High levels of interaction between states encourage the development of a growing `we-feeling' and common `role-identity' (Deutsch 1957: 5-7). This mutual responsiveness and compatibility of interests may, according to a social constructivist understanding, make possible new repertoires of action and behaviour. As Barnett (1993: 275) argues, ``Institutions generate their stabilizing properties once actors consistently adopt a particular role conception and modify their behavior according to each other's roles, behaviors, and expectations.''

The concept of `security community' is currently experiencing a renaissance in the academic literature. The concept has been refined and emphasises the socio-cognitive imagination of a common destiny and identity within a transnational region. Adler and Barnett (1998: 30) distinguish between `loosely' and `tightly coupled' security communities according to (i) their depth of trust; (ii) the institutionalisation of their governance system; and (iii) the degree of anarchy in the system.

`Tightly coupled' pluralistic security communities..., possess a system of rule that lies somewhere between a sovereign state and a centralised regional government. This system is something of a post-sovereign system, comprised of common supranational, transnational and national institutions, and some form of a collective security system. [Adler 1997: 255]

Social constructivism stresses how state actors are embedded in national and international structures that are both normative and material, but remains vague about the actual conditions favouring shared transnational identities. It appears crucial, however, that a process of social learning is initiated, i.e., that the actors involved begin to reassess their fundamental beliefs and values (complex learning). One factor that is regularly singled out as essential in the initial stages of a social learning process is the intensity of interaction among the participants in a group. [6]

The high density of multilateral interactions and the continuous communication and adjustment (coordination reflex) within CFSP point at certain qualitative new features of solidarity between EU members. Transparency, consultation and compromise are norms underpinning the CFSP framework. As the former British Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind (1996) expresses it: ``consultation and co-operation are now instinctive.'' Thus, the foreign policy cooperation between EU member states could be interpreted as the beginnings of a learning process where the actors involved increasingly perceive themselves as a ``we''.

The aspirations proclaimed in both the Maastricht and Amsterdam treaties of a European identity and a common foreign policy might be seen as a distinctive re-framing of foreign policy. As Hill and Wallace (1996: 6) note, the CFSP `have moved the conduct of national foreign policy away from the old nation-state national sovereignty model towards a collective endeavour, a form of high-level networking with transformationalist effects.'

The commitment to reach common positions in the CFSP is foremost based on the build-up of mutual trust, increased communication and the political will among its members. On this level, it is noticeable that a `Europeanisation' of foreign policy has taken place – even among larger states, as witnessed by a former European Correspondent and Political Director of the British FCO.

... the foreign policy process has become Europeanised, in the sense that on every international issue, there is an exchange of information and an attempt to arrive at a common understanding and a common approach – compared to how things were in the past, where most issues were looked at in isolation without addressing the attitudes of other member states or a European dimension. [Pauline Neville-Jones, interview January 1996]

Trust is essential to intersubjective understandings and the development of a supranational identity: ``Trust, shared identities, and familiarity encourage further contact, further integration, an expansion of the number of topics viewed as appropriate for discussion, and the development of common definitions of problems and appropriate actions'' (March & Olsen 1998: 27; see also J�nsson 1993: 213).

Yet, at the same time, it is important to stress that the CFSP is largely declaratory and by no means represents an integrated common European foreign policy. Intergovernmentalism predominates in the second pillar of the EU indicating that the actors involved still, to some extent, regard their interaction in a strategic and self-interested manner. The important point to make here and to explore further in the empirical analysis is that norms agreed on the European level do not by necessity have a constitutive effect on the identity of the actors involved. In other words, there is no automatic spill-over of European norms inevitably becoming internalised and leading to intersubjective understandings (cf. Checkel 1998: 23).

Given the theoretical discussion in the previous section on national identity and foreign policy, it is here suggested that reference to transnational practices and a European supranational identity will be accepted more easily among a broader public if these are in some way framed as compatible with a national identity. This in turn encourages further processes of social learning.

It is, however, a fine balancing act for foreign policy elites to articulate views of European integration that are seen by the broader public not as a threat to national identity (zero-sum), but an enhancement of multiple identities (cf. Bull 1977: 254). Thus, it will be interesting to explore in the empirical analysis whether different views of how to build a European foreign policy can be understood in terms of how these ideas resonate with particular national identity constructions in foreign policy.

III Foreign Policy Role Conceptions in Europe

The analytical framework constructed in this paper is intended to be applied to a comparative study of British, French, and German foreign policy since the end of the Cold War (1990-99). The empirical material consists primarily of foreign policy speeches, documents and interviews, which focus on three dimensions of political-security relations in Europe.

- ideas of a European order

- approaches to foreign policy cooperation and integration in the EU

- bilateral relations (Anglo-German, Anglo-French, Franco-German)

By exploring foreign policy-makers' perceptions towards these three dimensions, it is argued that we may be able to unravel underlying cognitive structures of expected foreign policy behaviour.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this paper, the concept of role is advanced as the methodological tool by which we may capture the elusive relationship between identity and foreign policy. The concept of role provides an analytical link between identity-constructions and foreign policy behaviour. Role conceptions suggest how norms and values become operationalised in terms of verbal statements about expected foreign policy behaviour. Role provides an essential link between agent and structure, as it incorporates how foreign policy behaviour is both purposeful and shaped by the institutional context. As Hollis & Smith (1990: 168) assert, ``Role involves judgement and skill, but at the same time it involves a notion of structure within which roles operate.''

Holsti introduced the concept of role to foreign policy analysis in a seminal article first published in 1970. A number of interesting attempts have been made since to develop the concept of role in foreign policy analysis. [7] There does not, however, exist a developed role theory per se which has been systematically developed and applied in FPA. Thus, in the sections that follow, I will outline the component parts of the role analysis that this study builds on.

The Boundary Position of the Foreign Policy-Maker

Foreign policy-makers are depicted in this study as agents collectively representing the state as a social actor in foreign policy (cf. Katzenstein 1996). This means that I assume that role conceptions have a social origin and that the state is the role-beholder. [8] The analysis deviates from a strict interpretation of instrumental rationality and methodological individualism that would imply that action in foreign policy is simply based on the maximisation of power and security interests.

Rational theory tends to ignore endogenous dynamics and focus on material utility maximisation, while a reflective approach emphasises the impact of cultural practices, norms and values on perceptions of interests (Keohane 1988). The two approaches reflect different logics of how human behaviour and intentionality are interpreted: rational instrumental action (logic of expected consequences) and rule-based action (logic of appropriateness) (Checkel 1998: 4).

The notion of `role' rests on the analogy with the theatre, in which an actor is expected to behave in predictable ways according to a script. A reflectivist perspective would imply that norms and values constitute the `script' that shape behaviour. Yet, the approach adopted in this study falls on the middle ground between rational and reflectivist understandings of how the actors in foreign policy are reasoning. As March and Olsen (1982: 12) point out,

...the two logics are not mutually exclusive. As a result, political action is generally explicable neither as based exclusively on a logic of consequences nor as based exclusively on a logic of appropriateness. Any particular action probably involves elements of each. Political actors are constituted both by their interests, by which they evaluate their anticipations of consequences, and by the rules embedded in their identities and political institutions. They calculate consequences and follow rules, and the relation between the two is often subtle. [9]

The culture-bound prism through which foreign policy-makers view the world and consider their interests does not preclude strategically motivated action in a bounded rational sense. Yet, it tends to demarcate the limits for what is perceived and defined in the first place as acceptable and viable goals and interests in foreign policy: `'culture does not impose a cognitive map upon persons but provides them with a set of principles for map-making and navigation'' (Ehrenhaus, quoted in Vertzberger 1990: 270). The actors in foreign policy are thus not simply confined to acting according to the roles prescribed in a script (rule-based behaviour). Indeed, they may be actively involved in reconstructing the identities within these structures through their interaction with other international actors.

In Europe, the agents of foreign policy are positioned at the intersection of transnational processes and domestic structures. Although, they are national agents of foreign policy, they find themselves in a boundary position from which they mediate between two worlds of foreign policy-making: one in the national capital – the other centred in Brussels. Whilst foreign policy role conceptions are primarily shaped within the broader political culture of a state, the interaction and elite socialisation taking place on the European level may influence and change their perceptions. Actors learn and are socialised into playing roles through interaction within both domestic and international institutional contexts (Barnett 1993: 275). As I will discuss below, this may give rise to role conflicts in foreign policy.

The Concept of Role

`Role' is a concept that initially was developed in sociology and social psychology to denote an actor's characteristic patterns of behaviour given a certain position. [10] In international relations theory, a role has mainly been deductively conceived of in the singular – as a general role - denoting `role-expectations' within a system of balance of power. In this view, the sources of roles are predominantly systemic (Rosenau 1990: 213; Walker 1987: 271).

The reason why Holsti's work in the 1970s was seen to be breaking new ground on the conceptualisation of role in foreign policy was that he adopted an inductive approach to explore what role conceptions policy-makers themselves perceived and defined. His findings indicated that the practitioners of foreign policy expressed different and more roles for themselves in foreign policy than the ones stipulated by academics (Holsti 1987: 28). Importantly, this seems to suggest that roles have multiple sources and that roles are not exclusively generated by the international distribution of power. As Barnett (1993: 278) points out, ``The state's survival is rarely at stake but the government's domestic standing frequently is, so it is possible that domestic-generated roles will have greater force than roles dictated by power considerations.'' To understand the various roles that a state conceives for itself, we need to be aware that these roles evolve as a consequence of the state's presence within a multitude of institutional contexts.

The concept of role can be used in different ways to explain or understand foreign policy. It is a broad concept that carries different connotations. Briefly, we may want to distinguish between (i) role expectation; (ii) role performance; and (iii) role conception.

(i) The first refers to roles that other actors or groups prescribe and expect the role-beholder to enact. In the comparative study undertaken here of Britain, France and Germany, role expectations are only accounted for in terms of the bilateral relations between the three states. Yet, the way in which foreign policy-makers themselves perceive role expectations arising from the alter is important to note. For instance, since re-unification, German policy-makers frequently mention how they experience pressure to play a more active role in foreign and security policy.

Nowadays, we have much more responsibility. Our partners, our friends, expect much more of us, to be more active, since we don't have the restrictions anymore, as far as the inner German conflict is concerned. [interview, Ministry of Defence, October 1997]

Germany has to be willing to function on the same basis as everybody else, as regards the use of its armed forces and security matters. We cannot have the most powerful member of the Community claiming that it cannot operate like everybody else. [Douglas Hurd, interview December 1995]

(ii) Role performance encompasses the actual foreign policy behaviour in terms of decisions and actions undertaken - the outcome. The question of whether role conceptions indeed influence states to act in certain distinctive ways is explored in two case studies. In the first case, I study British, French and German foreign policy actions regarding the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the instability in the Balkans until the Dayton Agreement was signed. In the second study, I analyse the negotiations in the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference of the positions Britain, France and Germany adopted regarding the future development of the CFSP (which resulted in the Amsterdam treaty).

(iii) The main focus in this study resides, however, on the normative expectations of a certain kind of foreign policy behaviour expressed by the role-beholders themselves.

A national role conception includes the policymakers' own definitions of the general kinds of decisions, commitments, rules, and actions suitable to their state, and of the functions, if any, their state should perform on a continuing basis in the international system or in subordinate regional systems. [Holsti 1987: 12]

To reiterate a point made earlier, actors do not passively act according to a script but are actively involved in categorising themselves. They may often act with reference to a particular role which furnish them with an action orientation. When it is communicated and expressed in speeches, it points to the intention of an actor, if not necessarily the final outcome of an action (performance) (cf. Graber 1976). As Ebba Eban once so eloquently put it,

What statesmen and diplomats say is often as vital as what they do. It would not be far-fetched to go further and declare that speech is an incisive form of action. [quoted in Le Prestre 1997: 14]

A role conception embodies a mixture of values and descriptions of reality that may be partial or general and more or less manifest. As a cognitive construct, a role conception may become intersubjective and thus relatively stable over time, as policy-makers are socialised into and internalise these role conceptions.

As these national role conceptions become a more pervasive part of the political culture of a nation, they are more likely to set limits on perceived or politically feasible policy alternatives, and less likely to allow idiosyncratic variables to play a crucial part in decision making. [Holsti 1987: 38-9]

As a belief system, role conceptions have the function of `organizing perceptions into a meaningful guide for behavior' (Holsti 1963: 245). As the British diplomat, Robert Cooper (1996: 8) asserts, `[t]hinking about foreign affairs - like any other kind of thinking - requires a conceptual map which, as maps do, simplifies, the landscape and focuses on the main features.'

The literature on belief systems suggests that the dynamics and impact of new information are largely determined by whether the structure of a belief system is `open' or `closed'.

The `belief system' of the practitioner is a deep-rooted legacy of experience and political culture, but it is also an organic set of attitudes which is capable, within limits, of self-transformation. [Hill 1988: 30]

New information tends to be interpreted and adopted in view of pre-existing beliefs. Yet, their centrality may alter in the light of new information, which can bring prior beliefs into `cognitive dissonance.' This can be seen as a process of learning, giving rise to new definitions and understandings of a role conception (cf. Goldmann 1988: 25; Hermann 1990: 10-11).

Role conceptions are broad categories that allow a certain flexibility of interpretation, depending on the extent to which they have become formally institutionalised with a specific guide to action. Barnett (1993: 275) distinguishes between position and preference roles: the former providing an actor with well-defined and detailed guides to action, while the latter contains greater flexibility of interpretation as to the meaning of a role.

A certain amount of discretion in interpreting roles appears indispensable to accommodate the potentially conflicting roles that different institutional contexts generate. This is where we find the foreign policy-maker in the boundary position mentioned earlier, mediating between various demands and expectations that arise from different institutional contexts. Given the ever increasing interdependence and multilateralism that characterise European international relations, it is reasonable to assume that this mediating role between different institutional contexts becomes more demanding.

A role conflict may be said to exist when role conceptions in the overarching role-set are incompatible with one another. As pointed out above, the salience and centrality of a role conception do vary depending on the situational context and time.

Two potential role conflicts stand in focus in this study. The first focuses on whether the strengthening of a European identity and development of a Common European Security Policy is perceived by policy-makers as contradictory to NATO and the transatlantic relationship. The second centres on the possible tension that may exist between the domestically generated drive for national independence in foreign policy and the explicit political commitments made by EU members to speak and act in unison in international affairs.

Two considerations need to be added to this discussion of role conflicts. The first point to highlight is that foreign policy-makers may not wish to officially acknowledge role conflicts. German foreign policy-makers, for example, tend to avoid acknowledging potential role-conflicts in case that would involve privileging a particular institution or set of relationships in favour of another. According to Ash (1996: 92), this Sowohl-als-auch (as-well-as) approach to foreign policy means that German foreign policy-makers `choose not to choose.' Finally, the second addendum to make is that national and European role conceptions are not by necessity oppositional categories.

Again, if we look at Germany, the language of European integration seems well integrated among the political elites and helps define the state's goals and definitions of interests.

German interests can't be different from European interests, because German interests are integration into Europe; adhesion and enlargement of the European Union; and creating structures in Europe that are stable and that can meet, and prepare Europe in the global world. [interview with a CDU official, October 1997]

Yet, this does not preclude that German foreign policy-makers are also guided by self-interest. As Hedetoft (1998: 3) observes,

Germany serves its own interests and visions of itself and its future best by embedding its political actions and discourses in the framework of Europe. For the same reason, Germany can come across and represent itself as a relatively insignificant country, shying away from political and military leadership, paying its moral dues etc., but in very real terms still being an extremely influential country with great political and economic clout.

The Analysis of Role Conceptions in Europe

The role analysis of British, French and German foreign policy builds partly on role typologies found in earlier studies. [11] Yet, it is important to stress that it also differs in significant ways from previous research.

Firstly, the domain is confined to Europe rather than a comprehensive analysis of role conceptions within the global international system. The foreign policy speeches and parliamentary debates reviewed are primarily addressed to audiences within Europe, thus, raising issues of particular concern to this geographical region.

Secondly, the concept of role is extended beyond the `national' to include an analysis of how foreign policy-makers may express `we-feelings' and a `common role-identity' on the European level.

Thirdly, given the theoretical framework on identity and foreign policy informing this study, the empirical analysis combines both induction and deduction - a research approach that Layder (1998: 19) calls `adaptive theory': ``adaptive theory attempts to combine an emphasis on prior theoretical ideas and models which feed into and guide research while at the same time attending to the generation of theory from the ongoing analysis of data.''

What follows below are some examples of role conceptions I am presently elaborating on in my comparative analysis of Britain, France, and Germany. Themes of a role conception are observed in the empirical material when a foreign policy-maker speaks of commitments, duties, functions, responsibilities, which indicate expectancy of a certain kind of foreign policy behaviour. Six role conceptions are sketched out: regional collaborator, leadership, ally, promoter of security, bridge/mediator and independent. [12] These role conceptions are examined in relation to the meaning and understanding policy-makers attach to them.

Regional Collaborator. Similar to Holsti's (1987: 23) definition, this role conception contains `far-reaching commitments to cooperative efforts with other states to build wider communities,' focusing in particular on the commitments expressed to cooperate within CFSP. Depending on the depth of commitment to collaborate and the extent to which the CFSP becomes institutionalised, this role conception could be seen to be evolving from a preference to position role. Furthermore, it tends to reveal underlying conceptions of `Europe' as a political community.

Europe does not yet have the single coherent world vision, the deep-rooted instincts of a national foreign policy. That is not to the discredit of the European Union. But it is one more reason why we should see CFSP as a complement to our national foreign policies, an increasingly robust complement, but not a replacement. [Malcolm Rifkind 1996]

Leadership. The themes of this role conception refer to perceived duties and special responsibilities that the government should champion and take a leading role in pursuing in its relations with other states. This role indicates the state's self-image of its range of influence and how it relates to power.

It should be noted that a leadership conception might be considered a collective exercise with another state - forming a `core' in pursuing a policy. This is evident in the case of Germany, where policy-makers are careful of expressing any notion of a national leadership that could give rise to fears of German hegemony or isolation. [13] Thus, reference to a leading role in promoting European integration is, for example, expressed as a collective European effort, particularly with France:

... no single country can lay claim to leadership in Europe, at least not in terms of power. But in terms of ideas and their tenacious pursuit, a number of nations can and must lead the process of European unification. [Karl Lamers 1994: 10]

Ally. Commitments to support and cooperate closely with another state indicate perceptions of a `special relationship' and strategic partnership. This role conception is particularly interesting to study in terms of the bilateral relations between the three states, as it communicates the depth of trust essential to collective identity formation.

Demokratie, Weltoffenheit und Toleranz, das mu� das europ�ische Gesicht Deutschlands ausmachen. F�r diese innere Achse kommt der festen und engen Verbindung mit Europa und gerade mit Frankreich besondere Bedeutung zu.//

Das deutsch-franz�sische Verh�ltnis ist auch der Katalysator f�r die in der Gemeinschaft bestehenden Interessenunderschiede. [Klaus Kinkel 1995: 25]

However, the language of being a close ally may not be reserved for a partner within CFSP, which has consequences for how `tightly coupled' a security community will be.

Britain's relationship with the US has been fundamental to our foreign policy throughout this century...

We have stood shoulder to shoulder in NATO. We were the core of the successful coalition in the Gulf War...

It is right for us to be close and for that relationship to work for the fundamental principles we both believe in. [Tony Blair 1998]

Promoter of security. This category includes general statements referring to commitments and responsibilities to work towards security and peace in Europe. An initial comparison between Britain, France and Germany indicates that the three states tend to emphasise different contents of this role conception. Taking pride in their military resources and past, Britain and France are inclined to refer to military responsibilities to reduce threats to European security.

We need strong defence, not just to defend our country, but for British influence abroad. Today, whether in Bosnia or the UN peace-keeping forces, or in any of the negotiations on disarmament and the reduction of weapons of mass destruction, sound defence is sound foreign policy. It is an instrument of influence. [Tony Blair 1997]

Germany, on the other hand, tends to stress the civilian power approach with non-military instruments at its disposal, frequently with reference to its own geopolitical position in the centre of Europe.

Als Land an der Ostgrenze der Gemeinschaft hat Deutschland ein besonderes Interesse daran, die Reformprozesse in diesen L�ndern zu stabilisieren und langfristig unumkehrbar zu machen. [Wolfgang Ishinger 1993: 63]

Bridge/Mediator. Statements suggesting that the state is particularly suited and capable of conducting diplomacy which fosters reconciliation between adversary parties indicate the role of bridge/mediator. I have combined bridge and mediator into one broad role conception, though there is a difference between the two in regard to the degree of active/passive intervention. A bridging role is, in contrast to mediator, more instrumental in facilitating communication between states and regions. This role conception frequently appears in speeches on the theme of transatlantic relations and the construction of a `European Security and Defence Identity' (ESDI).

Strong in Europe and strong with the US. There is no choice between the two. Stronger with one means stronger with the other.

Our aim should be to deepen our relationship with the US at all levels. We are the bridge between the US and Europe. [Tony Blair 1997]

Independent. This role conception expresses commitments to retain independence of action in foreign policy and to defend national/European interests. References to this role can be found in French speeches, which perhaps is not surprising given the Gaullist tradition and preoccupation with France's political uniqueness and status in the world. However, in the 1990s, it mostly appears as an assertion against American hegemony. Interestingly, this role conception tends to be framed in a European discourse as an ambition to create a more autonomous European foreign policy as a powerful global player, transferring to the EU the ambitions it once cherished for itself.

L'Europe doit mettre un terme � son impuissance. Elle doit s'affirmer comme l'un des acteurs majeurs du monde, d'un monde multipolaire qu'il nous faut construire en achevant d'effacer Yalta.

Pour cela, l'Europe doit �tre en mesure d'assurer, sur son sol, la paix et la s�curit�. Elle doit contribuer � la stabilit� du monde, comme le commandent son histoire, le niveau de son d�veloppement et ses int�r�ts. Elle doit, en un mot, assumer ses responsabilit�s en mati�re de d�fense et se doter d'une v�ritable Politique �trang�re et de s�curit� commune. [Jacques Chirac 1996]

IV Concluding Remarks

The role conceptions outlined above indicate that the categories in the typology are partly overlapping and not mutually exclusive. As Holsti found in his extensive role analysis, foreign policy-makers tend to conceive of several roles concurrently. [14] As I have argued in the paper, this indicates that roles may be generated not only from international systemic forces, but from the dynamics found within regional transgovernmental institutions and domestic politics. Given this multiplicity of roles a state may perceive for itself, it is difficult to assume a priori exactly which role a state may wish to play at a particular time.

In Europe, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world, states are embedded in numerous institutions and networks which influence perceptions of foreign policy ideas and interests. The European Union can be described as a `tightly coupled security community' with the CFSP becoming an increasingly institutionalised part of it. But does that indicate that Britain, France and Germany share a collective European identity and common role conceptions in foreign policy?

This question can of course not be answered until the empirical work of this research project is finished. It requires a more in-depth analysis of the understandings and meanings British, French and German foreign policy-makers attribute to roles and whether these perceptions converge. In the content analysis of speeches, I firstly examine whether political leaders perceive and discuss interest and influence in a national or European discourse. Secondly, I note what type of contents a particular role conception tends to be attached to (military, political/diplomatic, ideological/cultural, economic).

The stability of the EU as a foreign policy actor is dependent on the member states modifying their behaviour according to each other's roles and expectations. The more the `Europeanisation' of foreign policy becomes formally institutionalised within the EU, the more foreign policy perceptions will be influenced by position roles. In contrast to a preference role, a position role increases the predictability of foreign policy behaviour and stable expectations. Yet, it provides the policy-maker with less scope of interpretation and thus less flexibility in managing potential role conflicts. It certainly undermines the notion of national independence in foreign policy.

With an in-depth analysis of the contents of role conceptions, we may be able to trace evolving changes in how the broad operational framework of foreign policy is interpreted. In a temporal perspective of ten years, I attempt to explore how combinations of different role conceptions at various times tend to cluster as a `role-set' in foreign policy. A role-set may be interpreted as a school of thought that predominates among policy-makers and brings a certain stability to foreign policy. Not least, it tends to illuminate different approaches and understandings of European integration in foreign policy.

Importantly, it is probably at this juncture in the analysis of role-sets that we most incisively will be able to capture the interconnection between European/national identity and foreign policy in terms of motivation and legitimation. It will, therefore, be interesting to probe the extent to which the contestedness of national and European identity is related to stability and change in the overarching role-set in foreign policy.



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[1] This paper contains empirical material mainly from Britain and Germany as the research on French foreign policy is as yet at an early stage.

[2] See Hoffmann 1966.

[3] This is based on the assumption that agency and structure are mutually constituted.

[4] Cf. Kupchan & Kupchan (1991: 132) who talk of `mitigated anarchy.'

[5] As a German policy-maker argues, ``The Germans tend to look forward and try to emancipate themselves from their history'' (interview, Ministry of Defence, November 1997)

[6] On the complexities of analysing socialisation and learning - see Checkel (1998: 15-18).

[7] See for example, Barnett 1993; Edstr�m 1988; J�nsson 1984; Le Prestre 1997; Rosenau 1990; Walker 1987; Wish 1980.

[8] This does not mean that any two foreign policy-makers share exactly the same perception or image about foreign policy and international relations. Yet, it is suggested that beliefs and ideas are formed within a cultural context and that their prominence and legitimacy are dependent on them being more broadly shared at a particular time.

[9] See also Searing (1991) for a similar view which suggests that roles combine and provide a vital link between the two logics.

[10] See for example, Goffmann (1959); Jackson (1972); Mead (1934).

[11] For example, Holsti 1987; L�tourneau & R�kel 1997; Macleod 1997; Thumerelle & Le Prestre 1997.

[12] It should be noted that this is work in progress and does not represent conclusive results. The empirical section serves as an exemplar of a role analysis.

[13] This is evident in the repeated rejection of the American offer of `Partners in Leadership' (Bush in 1989; Clinton in 1994), as this would imply a strong bilateral relationship with Germany assuming a European leadership role. Given the preoccupation in both Britain and France to exercise a leadership role, the American overtures to the Germans were of some concern to British and French policy-makers at the time.

[14] Holsti (1987: 28) found an average of 4.6 role conceptions per state.

[Date of publication in the ARENA Working Paper series: 15.2.1999]