Recent Publications

April 2020
annual report

In 2019, the Institute for European Studies was honoured to bring four PhDs to fruition: Sara Silvestre (PhD in Political Science), Max Jansson (PhD in Law), Carla Mascia (PhD in Political Science) and Stephan Klose (PhD in Political Science). The IES organised 59 events and produced 104 publications. 

The Institute continued to expand and now counts 108 people or 52.4 full-time equivalents. In 2019, IES scholars took part in a total of 175 media appearances. Moreover, the Institute was successful in obtaining externally funded projects. At the end of the year, no less than 35 external projects were conducted by IES scholars, whereas an additional 14 projects were funded through our own budget. 

IES research output contributed significantly to a range of prominent policy developments, like the EU and Flemish policies to achieve CO2 neutrality in the coming decades.

The Institute’s leading advanced Master programmes deliberated 40 new graduates that have now obtained life membership to our 1250+ alumni group.

In 2019, the IES as well as the VUB strengthened its links with the University of Warwick and United Nations University – UNU-CRIS. Also, intra-VUB collaboration was further increased, in particular between the IES and Vesalius College.

Muzaffarjon Ahunov
Leo Van Hove


We examine to what extent (aspects of) national culture can explain cross-country variations in financial literacy. Our results, for a sample of 92 countries, show that Hofstede’s dimensions of power distance and individualism explain, respectively, over 40 and 60 per cent – which is substantially more than national cognitive scores and standard economic variables. In particular, we find that financial literacy is lower in countries where power distance is high, and that the opposite is true for individualism. Uncertainty avoidance would seem be negatively related with financial literacy, but the evidence is not so strong. For masculinity, indulgence, and long-term orientation we find no significant impact. Overall, our results highlight the need for additional (interdisciplinary) theories that can improve our understanding of the determinants of financial literacy and better guide policies in this area.

Ahunov, M. and L. Van Hove, National culture and financial literacy: international evidence, Applied Economics, Vol. 52, Nr. 21, April 2020, p. 2261-2279.

Jordan Becker

Only the Dead is the most comprehensive mixed-methods analysis to date of an old and important debate that Stephen Pinker’s (2012) Better Angels and learned – if colorful – responses to it (Cirillo and Taleb 2016) have brought to a popular audience in the last decade. While it is a work of outstanding social science by an eminent scholar of international security and war, Only the Dead is also accessible to this same popular audience, and makes a significant contribution to both researchers in his field and broader society. The foremost among those contributions is to identify, with clarity that previous scholars have not, the role of international orders in keeping peace among their members – and driving conflict externally (Braumoeller 2019, p. 5). While others (Freedman 2014, Hoffman 2016) have suggested this, Braumoeller is the first to test the proposition systematically, arguing convincingly that such orders, and not shifts in underlying human views of war or even human nature, shape the likelihood of extreme violence in particular places and times. Doing so is likely to stimulate future research that will increase our understanding of war, peace, conflict and cooperation.

Jordan Becker (2020) Only the Dead: the Persistence of War in the Modern Age, Defence Studies, 20:1, 101-103,DOI: 10.1080/14702436.2020.1717953

Ugo Armanini
Dr. Nicola Casarini
Linde Desmaele
Dr. Alice Ekman
Maximilian Ernst
Dr. Mario Esteban
Bruno Hellendorff
Remy Hermez
Dr. Bjorn Jerden
Dr. Oskar Pietrewicz
Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo

What is the perspective of key EU member states towards South Korea? While EU- South Korea relations have attracted growing attention in recent years, the relationship between key EU member states and the Asian country remains underexplored. This report addresses this omission by describing and analysing the recent evolution of the relationship between Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Sweden, on the one hand, and South Korea on the other. The report covers the areas of economic relations, security relations, bilateral relations and North Korea, and cultural relations.

The report shows that there is a clear trend towards greater cooperation between key EU member states and South Korea. This trend holds regardless of who is in power in South Korea, with the report covering the second half of the Lee Myung-bak government, the whole Park Geun-hye government, and the first half of the Moon Jae-in government. The trend also holds regardless of the type of government in the EU member states analysed.

To read more:

Van Droogenbroeck, E.
Van Hove, L.

Van Droogenbroeck, E. and L. Van Hove, Triggered or consciously evaluated? A qualitative inquiry into the decision to start using e-grocery services, The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, Vol. 30, Nr. 2, February 2020, p. 103-122. 10.1080/09593969.2019.1655085

Luis Simón

Most debates on U.S. military strategy in the Western Pacific revolve around the question of how to deter China. Advocates of deterrence by punishment believe that the Chinese threat is serious but not critical, because the United States can leverage its global military-technological advantages to preserve a position of regional military primacy. Those in favor of deterrence by denial point to China’s potential and “home advantages,” and argue that the United States should settle for more modest objectives such as preventing Chinese regional military dominance. I argue that the high level of uncertainty around Chinese capabilities and the evolving Sino-American regional military balance have led the United States to adopt a flexible strategy, and embrace distinct–even contradictory–operational concepts to deter Beijing: The United States itself mostly focuses primarily on deterrence by punishment, while actively encouraging and enabling its regional allies to develop deterrence by denial.

Philipp Thaler

The gradual integration of EU energy policy has implications for the national energy policies of its neighbors. While members of the European Economic Area (EEA) and the Energy Community implement large parts of the EU’s energy acquis, other third countries are also affected. Switzerland—physically integrated in the European energy grid but lacking a formalized mechanism of regulatory adaptation with the EU—is an interesting case in this respect, not least because of its implications for a UK-EU relationship post-Brexit. Currently, an EU-Switzerland electricity agreement is being negotiated but its conclusion remains highly uncertain. This briefing paper highlights that either outcome—with or without and electricity agreement—has important implications for the Swiss energy transition, Swiss access to European bodies of energy policy-making, and Swiss renewable investors. Yet, even without an electricity agreement, interdependence between the Swiss and EU electricity systems will increase, creating pressure to find alternative forms of cooperation. 

Download the Policy brief >>>

Serena D’Agostino
Ferran Davesa
Jana Gheuens

Several protest waves hit the roads, streets and public squares in Europe and beyond in the last years. As diverse as these movements are, they all express a big sense of urgency. To what extent are the current democratic systems able to provide answers to these challenges? Can decision-making structures be transformed so as to achieve effective representation? Three possible pathways are identified in order to organize our political systems in a less elitist way. We argue that political participation should go beyond the mere presence of minority groups in formal political settings to include their voice and influence.

Read it here!

Laura Iozzelli

Benney, T., Orsini, A., Cantwell, D., & Iozzelli, L. (2020). Theories and Methods of Agency Research in Earth System Governance. In M. Betsill, T. Benney, & A. Gerlak (Eds.), Agency in Earth System Governance (pp. 38-51). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Ramon Pacheco Pardo
Tongfi Kim
Linde Desmaele
Maximilian Ernst
Paula Cantero Dieguez
Riccardo Villa

What drives President Moon Jae-in’s policy towards multilateral institutions? The Moon government has made participation in global governance a cornerstone of its foreign policy. Similarly to its predecessors, the government has been a strong supporter of multilateralism This is non-negotiable for Seoul.

This report seeks to map out and analyse the Moon government’s policy towards key multilateral institutions operating in the areas of security, economics and sustainable development. It also seeks to explain the key drivers underpinning this policy. As we show, Seoul’s support for an involvement in multilateral institutions is not uniform. The Moon government acts as a leader in some cases, an active participant in others, and a passive by-stander on occasions. There are various reasons why this is the case, as we show throughout the report and in the concluding section.

Multilateral institutions with global governance responsibilities are the focus of the report. This is an underexplored area in spite of its centrality to the Moon government’s foreign policy. Asian institutions such as the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus or the Asian Development Bank are not discussed. While relevant to South Korean foreign policy, Seoul’s role in these institutions is necessarily different due to their more limited geographical scope and South Korea’s greater relative power in them. The report also excludes bilateral relations such as Seoul’s alliance with the United States. While they inform South Korea’s foreign policy, bilateral relations are self-evidently different than multilateral relations.

Security, economics, and sustainable development are crucial to any country’s foreign policy, especially the first two. The institutions covered in this report therefore include the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), peacekeeping, and the nuclear non-proliferation regime in the area of security; the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and G20, the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision (BCBS) and Bank for International Settlements (BIS), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the area of economics; and climate change, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC) in the area of sustainable development. These institutions have been selected since, at least in theory, South Korea seeks meaningful engagement in and with them. This applies to both the Moon government and previous ones.

The focus on the drivers of engagement is a deliberate choice in order to shed light on what motivates the Moon government’s policy towards multilateralism. The impact or outcome of South Korean foreign policy decisions is not always attributable to the policies per se. Factors such as the policy choices of other countries, the capabilities of a particular institution or changes in budgetary allocations can have a positive or negative effect on whether Seoul achieves its preferred policy goals. By analysing the reasons why the Moon government has decided to take a more active or passive role in any given international institution, we hope to contribute to a better understanding of why South Korea makes certain foreign policy choices.

Our analysis only covers the Moon government, in power since May 2017. However, and as we show throughout the report, the government has more often than not pursued and built on the policy of previous presidents. This sits in contrast with policy shifts in areas such as relations with North Korea policy or Japan. Therefore, we can assume that some if not all of the drivers behind Moon’s multilateral institutions policy also applied to previous governments. Indeed, we argue that there is a consensus among liberals and conservatives in South Korea regarding Seoul’s involvement in multilateralism.