Laurence Cooley

The construction of European Union conflict management policies: A comparative analysis of Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo

Supervisors: Michelle Pace, Tim Haughton (CREES), Thomas Diez

, (CREES), Thomas Diez

My PhD research seeks to explain the design of European Union (EU) conflict management policies in the Western Balkans. In order to do this, I employ a constructivist institutionalist approach that explains policy preferences by reference to policy-makers’ understanding of the nature of ethnicity and ethnic conflict and also seeks to explore whether there is policy learning in the EU’s approach to conflict management. Empirically, I focus on three case studies, namely the EU’s current involvement in the constitutional reform process in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the negotiation and implementation of 2001’s Ohrid Agreement in Macedonia, and its strategy in post-independence Kosovo. My thesis makes use of discourse analysis of EU policy documents and speeches, as well as interviews conducted with key EU policy-makers in Brussels and in my three case-study countries.

My initial research findings question assumptions made in existing research that the EU might have a transformative effect on identities in societies experiencing conflict. While there are significant differences between the three cases, I argue that EU conflict management policies are informed by an ‘ethnic conflict’ paradigm that takes antagonism between ethnic groups as given. This paradigm serves to limit the range of policy options considered by external actors, and as a result EU policy remains largely top-down and focused on the accommodation of ethnicity through mechanisms such as consociational power-sharing, rather than on any attempt to transform inter-group relations. Furthermore, I suggest that rather than being an accurate description of the role of policy learning in the EU’s conflict management policy-making, pronouncements by senior EU officials that there are lessons to be learned from successful cases of conflict management such as Northern Ireland instead form part of a discourse that attempts to legitimise EU policy and contributes to the construction of the Union’s self-image as a ‘force for good’ in conflict and post-conflict situations.


I came to Birmingham in 2007 to start an ESRC-funded 1+3 PhD on the role of the European Union in ethnic conflict resolution. After completing an MA in research methods, for which I won the department’s Joshua Beeby Prize for the highest dissertation mark in the Graduate School, my PhD research started in October 2008.

Prior to arriving in Birmingham, I studied as an undergraduate at Bath and for an MA in politics with a specialism in comparative ethnic conflict at Queen’s University Belfast. During my undergraduate degree I worked on placement for a year in the European Economic and Monetary Union team of HM Treasury. Between my degrees I also worked as a research assistant at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London and as a volunteer for a human rights NGO in Osijek, Croatia.

During my PhD, I have spent two periods away from Birmingham visiting other institutions. In spring 2010, I was a visiting researcher at the Centre for EU Studies at Ghent University, Belgium, and in February-March 2011 I was a visiting student at the Penn Program in Ethnic Conflict at the University of Pennsylvania.


  • BSc Economics and Politics (Bath)
  • MA Politics (QUB)
  • MA Political Science (Research Methods) (Birmingham)

Research interests

  • Ethnic conflict and its management
  • European Union external policies
  • Migration within and into Europe
  • The role of ideas in policy-making

Professional memberships

  • Political Studies Association (PSA)
  • University Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES)
  • European Union Studies Association (EUSA)
  • Associate, Higher Education Academy (HEA)

Teaching responsibilities

  • Not teaching in 2010 / 11
  • POLS101 Foundations of Politics (first-year undergraduate module, 2008 / 09 and 2009 / 10)
  • POLS201 Political Analysis (second-year undergraduate module, spring term 2010)

Conference papers

Cooley, L. (2011) ‘External actors and the export of models of conflict management: Learning, legitimacy and the spread of the ‘ethnic conflict’ paradigm’, presented at the PSA Annual Conference, London, 19-21 April

Cooley, L. (2011) ‘‘A union of minorities’: The EU’s self-image and the legitimation of consociational conflict management in the Western Balkans’, presented at the ISA International Convention, Montreal, 16-19 March

Cooley, L. (2011) ‘The EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina: Democracy promotion within the limits of the ‘ethnic conflict’ paradigm’, presented at the EUSA Biennial International Conference, Boston, 3-5 March

Cooley, L. (2010) ‘EU conflict management policies in the Western Balkans: A case of ‘ethno-national policy learning’?’, presented at the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies International Conference, Exeter, 27-30 June

Cooley, L. (2009) ‘The EU and conflict resolution: Explaining the popularity of the consociational model’, presented at the UACES Annual Conference, Angers, France, 3-5 September


Diez. T. and Cooley, L. (2011) ‘The EU and conflict transformation’, in Wunderlich, J-U. and Bailey, D.J. (eds.) The European Union and Global Governance: A Handbook, London: Routledge, pp. 187-95

Sriskandarajah, D. and Cooley, L. (2009) ‘Stemming the flow? The causes and consequences of the UK’s ‘closed door’ policy towards Romanians and Bulgarians’, in Eade, J. and Valkanova, Y. (eds.) Accession and Migration: Changing Policy, Society, and Culture in an Enlarged Europe, Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 31-55

Cooley, L. and Rutter, J. (2007) ‘Turned away? Towards better protection for refugees fleeing violent conflict’, Public Policy Research 14(3), pp. 176-180

I also regularly write book reviews, which have been published in journals including Political Studies Review, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Ethnopolitics and the Web Journal of Current Legal Issues.




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