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.

PhD student position in Economic History with specialization in International Relations

The Department of Economic History of Stockholm University announces a position in its doctoral studies program, specialized in International Relations and enrolled in the Stockholm University Graduate School of International Studies (SIS). For this position, candidates are sought with an interest in global security questions, broadly defined. This includes questions of how global security is conceived and pursued by through international organizations to ensure mutual security and safety in the world. Empirical foci could include ‘old’ security challenges (e.g. territorial incursion) as well as ‘new’ security challenges (threats to environmental, economic, human, and societal security). The doctoral student’s research studies will be part of the department’s international relations research agenda, including the dynamics of global security cooperation. Research studies with a historical and/or global political economy angle will also be welcomed.

Deadline for applications is 10 June 2014. Read here for more information on the position, requirements, application, etc.

New Study: Making Sense of EU Sense-Making

One of the greatest challenges to managing modern crises is foresight. How can we see a crisis coming? Recent history is full of examples of failed foresight: September 11, the Tsunami disaster, food safety scandals, and the Arab Spring. In a globalized world where crises originate and travel across borders with ease, the challenge is multiplied by the inefficacy of national approaches. Rarely does one state have the capacity or the ability to spot the “next one” coming. Cooperation with neighboring states is critical — not only to spot a possible oncoming crisis but also to make sense of what is happening.

The European Union’s foresight capacities are poorly known. Recent research shows the EU is increasingly assisting member states in managing “transboundary crises”, but little is known about its ability to help member states makes sense of unfolding crises. A recent book by the Societal Security Research group aims to improve our understanding. Using an analytical framework familiar to crisis management scholars, the study examines all the EU’s tools and information systems relevant to crisis management. Those systems are analyzed in terms of their ability to help detect, analyze and communicate oncoming crises. The results are impressive.

Eighty-four systems were found and inventoried. These range from severe weather warnings to political conflict predictors. The “Early Warning and Response System” for pandemics and other health threats is an example. It links national capitals, compiles information, and looks for clues from multiple sources that, when analyzed together, helps to identify a possible outbreak. The Integrated Political Crisis Response system combines crisis information with EU decision-makers to quickly address a crisis. These and many other systems are examined in depth in the new book available here, and presented in a short article by the EU’s Institute for Security Studies here. It is clear that even member states of the EU are not aware of the full extent of the EU’s capacities to foresee future crises.

The book identifies a number of problems, however. The crisis warnings systems operate at different levels of functionality – some are simple websites, while others are 24/7 staffed units – which generates mixed expectations amongst national officials. Attempts are being made to link these systems up, through the ARGUS “system of systems”, for instance, but the process is slow. Since modern crises cascade across sectors, it is not clear whether different warning systems can communicate effectively with one another. More research is needed, but the EU’s growing role in helping to manage crises in a complex, globalized world is worth keeping track of.