News on Europe and the Mediterranean

Dear colleagues and friends,

After I hope a well deserved summer, it’s time for me to update you on my recent projects and publications.

First of all, as the new director of the Centre for European Research at Queen Mary, University of London, I am encouraging you to follow our news and event on our new twitter account @CER_QMUL as well as our website 

Very soon events’ and a blog about European Research will be posted.

Second, the gist of my research project for the past two years is now available open access via an article Sarah Wolff (2017): EU religious engagement in the Southern Mediterranean: Much ado about nothing?, Mediterranean Politics, DOI: 10.1080/13629395.2017.1358905

Here is a short abstract: Since the Arab uprisings, religious engagement is central to EU relations with the Southern Mediterranean. Given that the EU is a liberal-secular power, this article investigates why and how the EU is practising religious engagement and whether it is a rupture with past EU modalities of engagement in the region. The main finding is that EU religious engagement constitutes both a physical and ontological security-seeking practice. This is illustrated in three steps. First, EU’s physical security is ensured by the promotion of state-sponsored forms of religion in Morocco and Jordan that aim at moderating Islam. Second, the framing of religion as an expertise issue in the EEAS and European diplomacies reinforces EU’s self-identity narrative as a secular power. This self-identity is, however, subject to politicization and framing contestation through the case of Freedom of Religion or Belief and the protection of Christian minorities in the Arab world. Overall, this article finds that EU religious engagement is conducive to selective engagement with some religious actors, which could potentially lead to more insecurities and polarization in the region.

Looking forward to your comments and feedback!

Take care



SM_CER_AW copy


Reassessing the role of religion and secularism in US and European foreign policies – Free e-print

Dear Colleagues,

Today my review on the role of religion and secularism in US and European foreign polices came out on Global Affairs. It reviews three books:

Beyond Religious Freedom. The New Global Politics of Religion. Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2015 ISBN: 9780691166094

Securing the Sacred. Religion, National Security and the Western State. Robert M. Bosco, University of Michigan 2014, ISBN: 978-0-472-11922-6

Secular Wars. Myths of Religion, Politics and Violence, Stacy Gutkowski, IB Tauris, 2013. ISBN: 9781780765358

Abstract: ‘Religion plays a role in politics – not always for good, not always for bad. Religion can be part of the process. What makes the difference is whether the process is democratic or not’, declared the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR) Federica Mogherini (Mogherini, 2015). Referring to the role of Islam during the Arab uprisings, this statement proves the rising awareness of European foreign policy-makers for religion in international relations. Although this has been common practice for US foreign-policy makers, where religious groups are more influential, since 9/11 secular European foreign affair ministries are getting to grips with religion. The Foreign Commonwealth Office has developed a toolkit on the Freedom of Religion of Belief (FoRB) and French laïc foreign-policymakers are developing strategic expertise on religious issues. The European External Action Service is also training its diplomats on religious issues (Wolff, 2015) and promoting ‘religious literacy’ (EEAS, 2016). From a research perspective, these developments are rarely being analysed. Europe remains indeed the most secularized continent in the world, and its academics were late in acknowledging that modernization does not necessarily leads to more secularization. Globalization, migration and democratization provide religious actors with a rehabilitated voice on the international stage (Cochran Bech and Snyder, 2011). However empirical in-depth studies substantiating these claims are seldom. The three books under study fill in this gap and analyse how religion, faith and their corollary secularism impact international relations but also states’ and international organizations’ behaviour. They all consider that religion and secularism are factors of international relations that merit to be further researched.

You can freely download an e-print with this link


International Relations and the EU OUP 3rd edition (Hill, C. M. Smith and S. Vanhoonacker Eds) is out!

Dear Colleagues and Students,

The 3rd edition of the OUP textbook International Relations and the European Union (C. Hill, M. Smith and S. Vanhoonacker Eds) is finally out! To prepare exams and your syllabuses please check it out. It includes:

  • Chapters on theories, institutions, policy areas, and the EU’s relationship with selected countries make [International Relations and the European Union] the most comprehensive text available on this subject.
  • Systematically incorporates the study of IR into an examination of the EU’s external relations.
  • A team of leading experts provide authoritative coverage of the many aspects of the EU’s external relations.
  • Each chapter includes helpful features such as boxes, useful websites, and suggested further reading to aid student learning.

New to this Edition:

  • A re-worked Part One examines three key frameworks for understanding the EU’s role in the international system. In three new chapters, the EU is examined as sub-system of international relations, as a part of the process of international relations, and as a power in its own right.
  • Fully updated to take account of contemporary issues including the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the migration and refugee crisis, and the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Here is a summary of the chapter on The External Dimension of EU’s internal security (to be referenced as  Wolff, S. (2017). ‘The external dimension of the EU’s internal security’ In: Hill, C., Smith, M. and S. Vanhoonacker (2017). International Relations and the European Union (third edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.): 

Since the end of the Cold War, the internal-external security nexus, namely the links between formerly distinct concepts under the Westphalian approach to international relations, has become increasingly relevant. This chapter reviews the development of an external dimension of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) that has evolved from a side-product of European economic integration to a complex and dynamic policy area. Although since the Lisbon Treaty the EU has considerably expanded its internal and external security tools and competences, the EU’s global influence in this area is constrained by normative, national, institutional, policy and legal challenges. The rapid evolution of global security challenges – such as counter-terrorism, migrant and refugee flows, and cybercriminality – means there is a need for continuous policy and institutional reforms if the EU is to be an influential global actor. The success of the external dimension of JHA is thus highly dependent on both the EU’s internal development in JHA and international security challenges, and on the way in which the EU responds to these.

Click here to know more and order the textbook



Religion, Secularism and the French presidential elections

France is proud of its secularism. But religion also influences voters.

In an election that has frustrated that traditional split, religion could end up being a confounding, rather than clarifying, force, according to an article in the Washington Post. Dr Sarah Wolff comments that with debates over the integration of Muslims playing out over matters of public dress and activity, a “typical liberal view of laïcité” [secularism] may leave vulnerable citizens unprotected. She argues that Macron may have to take a more controversial stand. “What is needed is a critical approach to adapt laïcité to current times. Laïcité as equal conditions for all citizens to practice their religion,” she adds.

The full article by Isaac Stanley-Becker is available here

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