High representative of the Union : the constrained agent of Europe’s foreign policy
This study argues that the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is a constrained agent of Europe’s foreign policy. The 2009 Lisbon Treaty reform created the remodelled version of the High Representative of the Union as a potentially powerful agent to represent and coordinate Europe’s foreign policy. However, the analysis shows how and why the member states granted only limited discretion to the new foreign policy actor during the first years of the post’s existence. The aim of the study is to reveal the conditions of discretion of the High Representative. With the use of a principal-agent (PA) approach, the study shows that conflicting preferences of the member states, tight control mechanisms, as well as inadequate cooperation with the European Commission limited the High Representative’s room for manoeuvre. The findings suggest that the PA approach can be developed further in the future in order to better explain limited discretion of agents in matters of foreign policy. Based on the findings, the study also puts forward a number of characteristics of a ‘constrained agent’. It is suggested that the post of High Representative has the potential to emancipate from its status of a constrained agent over time, and to gain credibility as a foreign policy actor.