Research projects

Jan Orbie: the EU’s role in the social dimension of globalization

Already since his early career Jan Orbie has been working on the way in which the EU engages on the social dimension of globalization. A list of publications can be found here. Since a few years he has also been the supervisor of several PhD projects focusing on this topic. In addition, several other CEUS members like Fabienne Bossuyt and Ferdi De Ville are co-supervising PhD projects related to the social dimension of EU external policies. A list of specific projects carried out by the CEUS can be found below.

Deborah Martens: influence of trade regimes on social development

In December 2014 an interdisciplinary BOF project started in which Deborah Martens (a political scientist) cooperates with an agricultural economist on the role of EU trade agreements in enhancing social development of the South. The title of the project is: ‘When Brussels trade politics and farm economics meet: do EU trade agreements enhance social development in the South?’ The project combines political science to study the motivations behind EU-decisions on social trade conditionality with agricultural economics to study the effects of trade conditions on the micro level. In particular the project will look into the impact of GSP+ conditionality on the coffee and banana sector in Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua and Ecuador. This project aims to look into the concept of fair trade and will also assess the involvement of civil society in the monitoring of labour provisions of trade agreements.

Lore Van den Putte: promotion of social norms via bilateral trade agreements

In 2012, Lore Van den Putte was granted a Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) fellowship on the social dimension of EU bilateral trade agreements (until 2016). In a first phase of the research the social content of all EU bilateral trade agreements concluded since the 1990s until 2015 has been comparatively assessed. It was found that over time the social ambition of the EU has increased and witnessed a qualitative leap forward since the mid 2000s. Therefore, in a second phase of the research, the question was raised as to how we can explain this unexpected rise of the social clause. In this regard was found that ‘social trade’ (the link between trade and social norms) has become an ‘unobjectionable norm’ within the EU. A last phase of the research focuses on how the EU promotes social norms in its bilateral trade agreement with Peru and Colombia. Related to that the functioning of civil society forums, set up to monitor the implementation of these social norms, will be investigated. A link to Lore's bibliography can be found here.

Hang Yuan: the social dimension of EU-China relations

In 2012, Hang Yuan was granted a Lotus project on the social dimension of EU-China relations (until 2015). In the framework of this project the involvement of the EU and China in international social policy diffusion and the development of global social governance were investigated. Four specific gaps in the literature were addressed. First of all, the social dimension of the EU-China relationship was investigated. Secondly the project looked at the way in which the EU approached China with regard to social issues. Thirdly China’s response to the EU’s efforts was assessed. Finally, the project shed light on China’s role in international social policy interactions and global social governance. Please find a link to Hang’s bibliography here.

Myriam Oehri: EU and US labour governance in Mexico, Morocco and the Dominican Republic

The doctoral project of Myriam Oehri was designed to comparatively assess through which mechanisms of influence the United States and the European Union promote labor standards beyond their borders. Drawing on a qualitative comparative case study design which focused on the US and the EU labor standards' promotion in Mexico, Morocco, and the Dominican Republic, the study revealed that the US and the EU integrate both hierarchical and network-based governance modes in their trade agreements with the target countries. When it comes to the engagement in practice, the latter modes are more comprehensively applied than the former, irrespective of various power-based constellations between the target states and the US and the EU, respectively. The dissertation was supervised by Prof. Sandra Lavenex (University of Geneva) and Prof. Jan Orbie (Ghent University). Myriam graduated in August 2015 and currently works at the University of Geneva. A link to here publications can be found here.

Bregt Saenen: the role of the EU in the ILO

In 2010, Bregt Saenen was granted a Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) fellowship on the EU's position and impact in the International Labour Organization (until 2014). Title: 'A Global Social Europe? The position and impact of 'the' European Union in the International Labour Organization'. The project aimed to examine the role of the European Union (EU) in global social affairs. Situated in the current debate on the social dimension of globalization and justified by a void in academic research, the project examines the position and impact of the EU in the International Labour Organization (ILO). Three interlinking questions are addressed: (1) whether the EU manages to speak with one voice in the ILO (EU convergence or divergence?), (2) whether it has an external impact in the ILO (EU as norm maker or taker?), and (3) how both these dimensions relate to one another (EU position as leverage or hindrance?). A link to the publications can be found here.

2007 project: The EU’s Global Social Role

This international research project, led by professor Jan Orbie and Lisa Tortell, concerns the role of the European Union in relation to the social dimension of globalization and, more specifically, the potential contribution of the EU in this area through its external policies. In recent years, EU policy-makers have highlighted their intention to contribute to the social dimension of globalization. Although the Union potentially plays a unique and powerful role in this area, this topic has been neglected in the academic literature and in the political debate on Europe’s world role. The project's basic research questions involve: (i) assessing the power of the EU in international social affairs (e.g. compared with the member states; e.g. through its trade and development policies), (ii) considering its commitment to social goals in the world (e.g. compared with other policy objectives) and (iii) identifying the extent to which the EU behaves as a multilateral actor in social affairs (e.g. within the International Labour Organisation).