Recent Publications

Wolfgang Obergassel
Lukas Hermwille
Sebastian Oberthür

In their new discussion paper, Wolfgang Obergassel and Lukas Hermwille from the Global Climate Governance Research Unit at the Wuppertal Institute and Sebastian Oberthür from the Institute for European Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel discuss how international climate policy can contribute to a green recovery. 

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Sofie Hamdi
Mohammad Salman

In light of growing tensions in the Persian Gulf between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the search for a formula of security in the five small Gulf States—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—has become a complex issue. The question that arises is how these small Gulf States can maintain security and stability in the prevailing scenario. As the weaknesses of the small Gulf States tends to polarize the region even more, it is argued that a hedging strategy can best capture the security dilemma that the small Gulf States are facing. This article examines how the five small Gulf States are facing the current security dilemma by following (or not) a hedging strategy. The results of a qualitative content analysis of news articles, official government's documents, and academic literature show that the Gulf States vary in warmth toward Iran or Saudi Arabia. Oman, and to a lesser extent Kuwait, seem to have good relations with both sides. Qatar currently enjoys relatively warm relations with Iran, while the UAE and Bahrain lean more toward the Saudi side.

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With contributions from Przemysław Biskup, Benjamin Bodson, Andreas Eisl, Elvire Fabry, Agata Gostyńska-Jakubowska, David Henig, Kirsty Hughes, Juha Jokela, Carsten Jung, Rem Korteweg, Alexander Mattelaer, Anand Menon, Jonathan Portes, Nicolai von Ondarza and Alan Wager.

Brexit is an irreversible fact. Everyone will be worse off. But what are the exact ramifications, for the UK, the EU, and the partnership between the two?

This book examines the political, economic, social and institutional implications of the UK's departure from the EU in different policy fields, including trade, defence and security, foreign policy, judicial cooperation, migration and mobility, as well as its impact on UK politics and EU integration. 

Besides thinking through the consequences of Brexit, the authors consider the ongoing negotiations and the possibility of the EU and UK failing to agree on a deal before 31 December 2020. They also look at the dramatic impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and conclude that, given the related health, economic and social crises, the transition period must be extended. 

The publication also holds a few lessons on what the EU could and should take away from this experience. As the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, says in the book's foreword: "We must take the time to listen to our citizens, to understand them, and to provide answers for their concerns. It is too late for the British regions, but it is not too late for the rest of Europe."

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  • As the focus shifts from emergency towards recovery, an EU-wide approach will be needed more than ever.
  • The economic constraints associated to Covid-19 constitute both a challenge and an opportunity for the European Green Deal ambitions, depending on the design of emergency and recovery policies.
  • Post crisis, ensuring viable value and supply chains of basic materials industries will be critical.
Jonas Lefevere
Stefaan Walgrave
Jonas Lefevere
Henrik Bech Seeberg
Stefaan Walgrave


This paper investigates whether parties’ issue attacks can successfully discredit their rivals’ issue evaluations. Existing research demonstrates how a party can influence voters’ perceptions of itself on a single dimension of issue competition, but research showing the impact of negative campaigning on parties’ issue evaluations remains limited. Based on novel experimental evidence, we test the impact of three different types of issue attacks – attacking the rival’s position, competence, or commitment on the issue – on voters’ evaluations of the rival party on three issue dimensions, namely position, competence, and commitment. The findings indicate that commitment and position attacks depress the rival party’s issue evaluations on that dimension, whereas competence attacks do not. Moreover, positional attacks lower position evaluations and competence evaluations but increase commitment evaluations. Finally, the effectiveness of attacks varies between issues, and party preference moderates the effects of issue attacks.

KEYWORDS: issue ownership, political parties, position, competence, commitment, negative campaigning

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Jonas Lefevere
Richard Higgott
Luk Van Langenhove


This paper makes the case that the EU must not send out mixed messages. It cannot go down the road of adopting a forward leaning geopolitical strategy, while at the same time wishing to maintain its wider commitment to collective action problem-solving. In today’s unravelling of the post-World War Two world order, the EU’s longstanding instinct to resist geopolitical imperatives in favour of a commitment to collective action in multilateral institutional contexts should remain.

Therefore, the priority for the EU is  to remove ambiguity from its external policy by focusing specifically and precisely on topics and regions that matter to citizens directly: security, migration, climate, but also on other things that might seem one step removed from everyday life yet actually have a considerable impact on citizens, such as the defence of multilateralism and the situation in the near neighbourhood.

This paper sets out nine key points of substance for consideration. They are presented as a series of propositions in need of recognition by those driving EU international relations in the life of the next Commission.

If the EU really believes in its internationalist values, it should stick to them and make it clear that it is driven by the pursuit of geo-sustainability through multilateral cooperation, not by geopolitics and its related nationalist assumptions of closure to the wider world.

This, the paper argues, becomes even more important in a time of global pandemic.

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Irina van der Vet

The role of educators in the prevention of violent extremism and radicalisation has been widely discussed in Belgium since the 2016 Brussels attacks and due to the current rise of right-wing extremists in Europe and in the country. This paper describes the results of the pilot project developed within the European Union Horizon 2020 project, Mindb4ACT. The pilot was an experiment on designing innovative solutions for teachers of secondary schools in Belgium. Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Institute for European Studies, as the project partner, produced an animated video. The video was meant to raise awareness of the role of teachers in the prevention process, outline the basic policy mechanisms as the foundation for teachers’ actions, and offer selected methodological tools for teachers to apply in the classroom. 

In this policy brief, we argue that both epidemic zoonoses – diseases transmitted from animals to humans that can turn into pandemics such as COVID-19 – and climate change require a long-term preventive approach that tackles their root causes. This should reduce the number of future pandemics and extreme weather events and other related crises and prevent us from crossing dangerous tipping points. All levels of society (local, national, international) should be engaged in the approach and collaborate in an equitable fashion. As the negative effects of climate change are manifesting themselves more and more strongly and zoonotic epidemics can most likely not fully be eradicated, considerably more resources must also be spent on resilience building to seriously prepare societies, and vulnerable groups in particular, for future crises ahead of time. Changes in decision-making procedures and economic mechanisms can help overcome the bias towards the short-term present in modern political systems (“myopia”). 

Read the Policy brief >>>