Congratulations Louise Bengtsson! Successful PhD Completed

European Societal Security Research Group member Louise Bengtsson has been awarded her doctorate, with a thesis titled ‘The Politics of Health Security in the European Union’. Louise’s work looks at the agents, practices, and materialities of securitization in European health cooperation.

From her abstract: The emergence of ‘health security’ as an area of European Union (EU) cooperation is one of the most notable trends in European integration of late. This doctoral dissertation traces and problematizes this development, using older and newer variants of securitisation theory to understand its practical and normative consequences. The study, consisting of five independent papers and an introduction, is based on extenstive field work at the European Commission and the EU Agency for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Collectively, the thesis explains how different security perspectives shaped empirical developments and permeated the process in different ways. The results not only explain practical outcomes but also further theoretical developments in critical security studies.

The thesis is available Open Access, on the Stockholm University website, here. Congrats Louise!

New Project Funded! Understanding the ‘Creeping Crisis’

Arjen Boin, Magnus Ekengren and Mark Rhinard have been awarded a major 4-year grant to study the dynamics and management demands of ‘creeping crises’. The project, which runs from 2019-2023 is titled ‘Understanding the Creeping Crisis: Towards Transboundary Detection, Intervention, and Management.’

Creeping crises are crises that simmer under the radar to suddenly and unexpectedly explode in the societal domain. They originate, travel and escalate owing to transboundary dynamics. They are the product of the social and technical spaces in which we live. This transboundary nature of creeping crises makes them hard to understand, detect, trace and contain. Practitioners need new knowledge and evidence-based strategies to prepare for these creeping crises. This project generates a set of scientifically validated frameworks for practitioners to understand and act upon creeping crises. It will help practitioners protect Swedish society from creeping crises by employing evidence-based and forward-thinking strategies. We will analyze cross-border dynamics, studying them within a variety of real-life natural, technical and social crises, in order to produce three important insights for MSB: where creeping crises originate and how they emerge (and thus can be better detected in the future), how they travel (and thus can be stopped), and how they can be contained (if and when they escalate into full crises). This project will identify what steps can be taken and where resources are best invested to address this increasingly challenging development. Outputs include academic publications and policy papers that result in methods and checklists for immediate use. We will organize frequent meetings with MSB officials and disseminate our findings in newspaper editorials, public workshops and scholarly conferences.

More information is available here:

New paper on Civil Protection Cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region

Magnus Ekengren and Mark Rhinard have, together with Costan Barzanje, published a report on civil protection cooperation in the baltic sea region. In this report, the authors map and assess the capacity of the institutional landscape of the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) for transboundary crisis management cooperation.

The report is published by the Swedish Institute of International Affairs and can be found at the link below.

Barzanje, C., Ekengren, M. and Rhinard, M. (2018) Working in the Same Direction? Civil Protection Cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region, UI Paper no. 4, October 2018.

First PhD in Sweden in the subject of International Relations

Societal Security Research Group member Elin Jakobsson is the first PhD in the subject area of International Relations. Her dissertation concerns how norms are accepted in the international community and she specifically studies norms related to disaster risk reduction and climate-induced migration.

The full version of the thesis Norm Acceptance in the International Community: A study of disaster risk reduction and climate-induced migration can be found here.

Read more about Elin, her research and the degree at the Department of Economic history and International Relations website.


Call for Papers: Politicologenetmaal 2017

Welcome to the Politicologenetmaal at Leiden University on June 1-2, 2017. Please find the Call for Papers for the different workshops below. The deadline is 10 March, 2017.


On Thursday June 1 and Friday June 2 2017 the ‘Politicologenetmaal’ (‘24-hour Political Science Conference’) is jointly organized for the 16th time by the Dutch Political Science Association (NKWP) and the Association for Political Science (VPW). This time the conference will be organized by the Political Science Department of Leiden University and held at the Pieter de la Court gebouw.
The conference begins on Thursday (noon) and ends on Friday (noon). The conference consists of 14 thematic workshops in which scholars present and discuss their research. The workshops consist of four panels and about 8-12 papers each (two on Thursday afternoon, two on Friday morning). The conference language is Dutch, but many workshops are held in English (please see list of workshops for details).

After the workshop panels on Thursday, a plenary session will be held with a keynote speech by Prof. Dr. Donatella della Porta (EUI Florence) on Social movements in times of austerity and an award ceremony for the best PhD thesis and MSc thesis of the year.

If you are interested in presenting a paper, please send your proposal directly to the contact person indicated on the workshop description by *March 10, 2017*. Proposals should include an abstract (max. 250 words), name, affiliation and contact email. You should hear by 31 March, 2017, whether your proposal was accepted.

It is also possible to participate in the Etmaal without presenting a paper. Should you be interested in one of the workshops but do not wish to present a paper you do not need to contact the workshop conveners. You can register directly through the conference website (

MSc students have the possibility to present (a draft version of) their thesis on a poster. Please contact the local organizing committee for further information:

Find all the information you need on available workshops, submitting your proposal and fees here. Conference website:

The organizing committee,

Corinna Jentzsch
Pauline Ketelaars (VWP-vertegenwoordiger)
Sarah de Lange (NKWP-vertegenwoordiger)
Tom Louwerse
Hans Vollaard

Please feel free to contact the organising committee if you have any questions:

New Blog Post: After the Brussels Attack – Time to Build Transboundary Crisis Management Capacity

By Arjen Boin, Mark Rhinard and Magnus Ekengren

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, in combination with the ongoing refugee crisis, demonstrate to many the risks of increased integration and open borders. In response, the borders are closing and the walls are coming up. The European road towards integration is running into roadblocks.

It is a scenario that EU-skeptics envisioned when the European Union began to speed up its march towards integration in the 1990s. Scholars and skeptics warned that the rise of integration would create new risks: transboundary threats that do not fall neatly within the geographic borders of a country, or politely confine themselves to a well-marked policy sector.

Transboundary crises do not adhere to the response plans of national or functional authorities. To prevent and manage these transboundary risks, we also need response capacities that reach across borders. If you increase integration, in other words, you must enhance transboundary crisis management capacities.

National leaders have always been faster to enable integration than to create transboundary crisis management capacities. As a result, the development of these capacities has not kept up with the speed of integration. This gap is easily and immediately exposed in times of crisis. Examples abound: think of the Mad Cow crisis (BSE), the ash crisis, the pervasive financial crisis, the refugee flows and now terrorism once again.

After each crisis, the leaders of EU member states tiptoe around what really is a stark choice: dial back integration (thus limiting transboundary risks) or increase transboundary crisis management capacities (making sure we can handle the risks). For a long time, EU leaders refused to backtrack and seemingly opted for the latter. But grand statements were rarely followed by meaningful resources and effective implementation.

Nevertheless, European leaders managed to build what looks like the foundation of a European crisis management structure. The EU now has crisis-related agencies, prevention programs, mechanisms for response coordination, crisis centers and rapid response teams both at home and abroad. With only modest funding, European leaders have enhanced EU crisis management capacities inch by inch.

To be sure, these capacities do not suffice: they represent only an initial and rather modest set of safeguards that cannot protect against all risks produced by the free movement of people, goods and services. After the terrorist attacks in Brussels, EU leaders now face a sharp choice: either backtrack on integration or create a truly transboundary crisis management system.

This time backtrackers appear to have the upper hand. Europe’s leaders have become skittish when it comes to building a more complete transboundary response system. As they do not trust the EU’s capacity to protect them from the negative consequences of integration, the backtrackers opt for closing borders and building walls. They seem less concerned by what was not so long the cardinal sin of “backsliding:” reneging on firm promises to democratic values and international treaties. Their voters prefer protection over principles, or so the backtrackers tell us. Backtracking and backsliding – it is today’s preferred solution to deal with transboundary risks.

But the promise of backtracking is a false one. The economic costs of closing borders are immense, much more than Europe can afford in a time of relentless unemployment. As any economist will explain, isolationism does not benefit economic progress. Not only is it expensive, backtracking simply does not work. A country can close it borders and make it harder (but never impossible) to let undesirables in. But many contemporary risks – ash clouds, climate change, cyber terrorism, epidemics, and financial breakdowns – do not recognize borders.

These rational arguments are a hard sell nowadays. It is much easier to promise safety through isolation – an idea that instinctively appeals to our senses. Put an extra lock on the door, fence off the neighborhood. Don’t cross the tracks, where the bad people live. But once the inevitable backsliding begins, there is no telling where it will end. Reneging on hard-earned promises to democracy in the name of crisis is a slippery slope.

The story about a European crisis management system is not self-explanatory. A transboundary system violates traditional conceptions of the state. It rejects the idea that national leaders should be endowed with extraordinary powers to manage “the exception.” It argues against the traditional notion that democracy is justifiably limited as leaders organize the wagons to face the threat coming over the border. It recognizes that these traditional conceptions do not work against modern crises.

The much more promising way forward – protecting integration and building response capacities at the EU level – requires a visionary pitch to convince skeptical publics. It is not sufficient to sell the beauties of integration if EU leaders cannot explain how they will work together to counter the inevitable risks that come with integration. Leaders must explain that a transboundary crisis management system requires giving up a little in exchange for safeguarding the greater good.

Crises provide critical junctures in the development of political systems. The Brussels attacks may well have brought us to such a juncture. Leaders can elect to build walls in the hope that modern risks somehow magically bypass their neighborhood. Or they can cooperate to build an encompassing system that will facilitate joint responses to common threats. Integration can only work when it is safeguarded. A coalition of the willing (and the courageous) must now take the necessary steps to build transboundary crisis management capacities.

Arjen Boin (Utrecht University), Magnus Ekengren (Swedish Defense University) and Mark Rhinard (Swedish Institute of International Affairs/Stockholm University) are members of the Societal Security Research Group ( and researchers in the Transboundary Crisis Management project funded by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency.


Article on the Rhetoric of the President of the European Commission



Societal Security team member Kajsa Hammargård has published an article Journal of European Public Policy together with Eva-Karin Olsson on the rhetoric of the president of the European Commission in crisis situations.


Despite efforts made to improve communication, the Commission is still facing difficulties getting across its messages. Scholars have stressed how both structural and personal characteristics impede the Commission’s ability to communicate. These obstacles are particularly troublesome in connection to crisis situations when the European Union receives the most media attention and scrutiny. At the national level, research has shown that political actors tend to increase their use of charismatic rhetoric during crisis events as a way of gaining and sustaining legitimacy and credibility. In this study we explore whether the same pattern can be seen at the European level by examining the European Commission during the financial and eurozone crisis. The main findings of the study demonstrate the opposite; that is, as the crisis got worse and as member states got increasingly engaged in its management, the Commission’s rhetoric became less charismatic.


Read the full article here.

Migration and the European Refugee Crisis – Presentation by Elin Jakobsson

Elin Jakobsson held a presentation on Migration at the Swedish International Institute of International Affairs on 15th December 2015. The presentation focused on the European Refugee Crisis and the laws and regulations that apply for individuals seeking international protection. The presentation was part of a theme day for high school students interested in international politics.

Have a look at the presentation (in Swedish) here.

Call for applications for the PhD project ‘The European Union as Crisis Manager: An Institutional Perspective’


The Department of Political Science of Leiden University invites applications for the PhD project ‘The European Union as Crisis Manager: An Institutional Perspective’

The wider project team of which this PhD will be part, analyzes the EU’s growing crisis and disaster management capacities. It assesses those capacities in light of the EU’s unique system of supranational governance. Moreover, it aims to identify institutional pathways towards the efficient and legitimate development of EU crisis management capacity.

The PhD position is a four-year AIO position within the Department of Political Science at Leiden University. The project will be supervised by Prof. dr. Arjen Boin.

Deadline for applications is December 1, 2014. Read here for more information on the position and the application process.