The European Union’s responsibility to protect – “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) in an Arab Spring

Start date: 26 August, 2012 End date: 24 September, 2012 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A14658 Countries: Egypt Institutions: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Grant recipient: Ida Krogh Mikkelsen Total grant: 12,000 DKK


The events of the ‘Arab Spring’ and especially the military intervention in Libya have reinvigorated the discussion of the implementation of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine (R2P). The European Union (EU) has been a strong supporter of the doctrine since the adoption in the UN World Summit Outcome Document in 2005. The EU has continued to support the R2P doctrine via key political endorsements, but despite this vocal support the evidence of consistent and systematic use of the R2P in the conduct of the EU foreign policy is often lacking. This thesis aims at filling the thematic research gap exposed by recent events: how does the EU relate to the R2P doctrine in both theory and practice?
Through a comprehensive analysis of the legal basis of the EU’s R2P action and the actual capabilities of the EU, the thesis presents a mapping of the status, in principle, of the EU as a progressive R2P actor. By applying an operationalised version of Marianne Riddervold’s model of the ‘EU as a humanitarian foreign policy actor’ (2011), the thesis engages in the causal questioning of how and why the EU acted in the particular case of the crisis in Libya 2011. The analysis indicates how the EU exercises humanitarian actorness partly in the given case. However the substantial discrepancy between utilised arguments and actual action exposes shortcomings in the EU’s capabilities as progressive R2P actor and suggests explanatory factors behind the observed inconsistency in the conducted policies. The larger implications of the findings are discussed in a broader context of the way forward for the EU’s foreign policymaking.