On August 30, 2021, the TRIGGER Workshop “Is the EU an effective actor in global governance?” was successfully held. An interesting group of academic experts and policy practitioners came together in this digital workshop to scrutinize its findings and discuss potential implications for policy-making. Four “deep-dive/breakout” groups were formed to specifically address certain topics and analyse the state of EU actors across different dimensions over time, thus producing four different figures illustrating the development of EU actorness in the deep-dive areas. These figures can be found in this text and also on the official LinkedIn and Twitter accounts of the TRIGGER project.

The TRIGGER actorness model

One of the goals of the workshop was to discuss the EU’s role in global governance comparatively across four policy domains, namely climate policy, data protection, EU-Africa cooperation and sustainable development. The TRIGGER family of deep-dive partners, consisting of researchers from CEPS – Centre for European Policy Studies, the Robert Schuman Centre, EMEA – Euro-Mediterranean Economists Association, EPFL – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, EUI – European University Institute and FUB – Freie Universität Berlin, found that the TRIGGER actorness model can indeed be operationalized methodologically, measured throughout time and applied to different policy areas. The finding also indicates that EU actorness has increased across deep-dive areas – however to asymmetric extents. Each deep-dive group assessed its discussion topic based on the TRIGGER actorness model, which is comprised of 7 dimensions, namely (1) Authority, (2) Autonomy, (3) Cohesion, (4) Recognition, (5) Attractiveness, (6) Opportunity/Necessity to act and (7) Credibility. The heptagram chart below showcases the current state of the different deep-dive areas to each one of 7 dimensions. Data protection (blue) stands out for the very high degree of opportunity/necessity to act and its recognition. Other deep-dive areas, such as SDGs (yellow) are relatively consistent across all dimensions, but lack an actual “peak”, as data protection or climate policy (green) have.


The results from the deep-dive sessions will be presented individually in the figures below, with the 7 dimensions being presented as progress bars since their evolution across different periods is evaluated.

Deep-diving into EU actorness

The four deep-dive areas address in the workshop on August 30 were; climate policy, data protection, EU-Africa relations as part of development policy and sustainable development. Julia Teebken and Klaus Jacob from FUB led the breakout group on climate policy, for instance. This deep-dive pointed to the academic nature of the climate policy discussion. It was summarized that, according to the findings of EU actorness in this field, cohesion took a dip in terms of international policy engagement by the EU. Cohesion is considered an important dimension for actorness in general, having a relevant pull-power. Altogether, the breakout group concluded that it is of paramount importance to link the internal and externals dimensions of actorness as much as possible, in order to facilitate a broader, more conclusive actorness analysis. Dr. Lisanne Groen from the Open University of the Netherlands was the discussant in this breakout group. The degree of EU actorness across different phases – in this case across different climate treaties/protocols – was captured in the figure below. In this case, we find the most urgent necessity to act, however, we see that actorness cohesion is not yet on the same level.

Moritz Laurer and his team from CEPS led the breakout group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which concluded that the EU must account for the multiple facets that enable sustainable development and therefore conduct a multivariate analysis on how to reach the proposed goals. Simultaneously, incoherent policies and asymmetric actions can be dealt with, thus streamlining joint efforts toward sustainable development. The discussant in this breakout group was Louis Meuleman, Director of Public Strategy for Sustainable Development (PS4SD). The dimension of EU actorness in the field of SDGs across different periods of time is demonstrated in the figure below, which shows that despite the high levels of authority and autonomy, cohesion is still comparably low and their necessity to act is far from its most urgent degree.

In another deep-dive group, led by Sara Ronco from EMEA, the EU-Africa cooperation was discussed. In this group, the current state of actorness of EU-Africa collaboration was critically addressed, scrutinizing the idea that the EU’s attractiveness is only based on financial capital and the access it provides to a large single market. Additionally, the group thematised the notion that several African countries are moving away from the EU as their partner in face of the EU’s crumbling cohesion. At the same time, increasing efforts in trying to regain visibility were observed, especially with respect to development aid and EU-Africa relations (i.e., Team Europe, the New Agenda for the Mediterranean, etc.). The discussant in this group was Moubarack Lo, Director General of the Bureau of Economic Perspective in Senegal. The EU actorness level in this field and in each dimension over time is captured in the figure below, which demonstrated that low necessity to act and low credibility are attributed to this area, despite its constant attractiveness.

Finally, the data protection breakout group was led by Aengus Collins, Deputy Director at the International Risk Governance Centre of EPFL. It addressed EU actorness with respect to the enforcement of data protection rules. At present, rules are made at the EU level, but their enforcement is up to the Member States. This allowed for the question of whether current EU actorness would be sufficient to ensure EU-wide data protection. The group also discussed the potential misalignment of interests between the European Commission and the Member States on the GDPR, along with the consequences this yields for the overall EU actorness. Hielke Hijmans, from the Belgian Data Protection Authority and VUB, was the discussant. The results from this deep-dive are illustrated in the figure below, which stress the urgent necessity to act and the high degree of recognition attributed to data protection.

The EU’s effectiveness in global governance

When looking at the EU’s effectiveness in terms of external goal attainment, it was found that the effectiveness is highly goal-specific and that some goals of the EU are often underlying rather than explicit. Methodological diversification can help for the analysis of implicit EU goals and assist in a process of “reading between the lines”. This finding interrelates with the observation of the EU as a non-monolithic actor with a heterogeneous interest landscape.

Another observation widely discussed was that of a highly dynamic global governance scenario. External context conditions and actor constellations – context matters! – impact the EU’s external reach and effectiveness. Therefore, determining whether the EU is an effective actor in global governance or not directly depends on what other relevant actors do. At the same time, however, it was emphasized that EU goals are inherently dynamic and their changes over time need to be reflected as part of this analysis.

The workshop ended with a keynote by Olivia Gippner, a Member of the Cabinet of Vice- President Frans Timmermans. As such, she is in charge of the EU Green Deal and Climate Policy. Olivia Gippner spoke about the preparation of the upcoming climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow in November 2021 and the EU’s Fit for 55 packages.

Future outlook – Co-Create the European Union!

Given the results from the deep-dive sessions and taking stock of the findings collected, it is essential to work toward a comprehensive framework for studying the EU as an actor of global governance. One of the tools the TRIGGER project will use to achieve this goal is the COCTEAU (Co-Creating the European Union) tool, which seeks to engage citizens in policy/governance decisions through a gamified approach. As this workshop determined, policymakers face an increasing need for citizen input to correctly approach complex, multivariate governance decisions, especially when conditions of uncertainty are added to it. By engaging citizens in policy-making on a large, EU-wide scale, COCTEAU attempts to tackle the issue of sharpening policy options and scenarios, while developing a better understanding of the preconditions required for compliance and buy-in to certain policies. Essentially, this would allow for a more structured, coherent link between short-, medium- and long-term decisions in public policy-making. Give COCTEAU a go and help us co-create the European Union: https://trigger-game.eu/