Paradigmatic or critical? Resilience as a new turn in EU governance for the neighbourhood


Rising from the margins of EU aid documents, resilience became a centrepiece of the 2016 EU Global Security Strategy, especially in relation to the neighbourhood. While new resilience-thinking may signify another paradigmatic shift in EU modus operandi, the question that emerges is whether it is critical enough to render EU governance a new turn, to make it sustainable? This article argues that in order for resilience-framed governance to become more effective, the EU needs not just engage with ‘the local’ by way of externally enabling their communal capacity. More crucially, the EU needs to understand resilience for what it is—a self-governing project—to allow ‘the local’ an opportunity to grow their own critical infrastructures and collective agency, in their pursuit of ‘good life’. Is the EU ready for this new thinking, and not just rhetorically or even methodologically when creating new instruments and subjectivities? The bigger question is whether the EU is prepared to critically turn the corner of its neoliberal agenda to accommodate emergent collective rationalities of self-governance as a key to make its peace-building project more successful.

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    For more discussion on neo-liberal governance and its vulnerabilities see Reid and Chandler (2016) The Neoliberal Subject: Resilience, Adaptation and Vulnerability. London: Rowman and Littlefield.

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    This is particularly instructive, as Sect. “Resilience’s many ontological meanings: problematising the unsaid” of this article demonstrates when exploring the meaning of ‘resilience strategy’ for the EU: while there is an increasing emphasis on local ownership in the EU ‘resilience paradigm’, the former is delimited to approving the EU vision for transformation and change, rather than developing a truly autonomous and more sustainable local governance.

  3. 3.

    Discussion of resilience in the context of authoritarian or non-democratic regimes is particularly important, because resilience, as a theory of self-governance, is focused on capacity-building of the existing critical infrastructures. Their identification and differentiation from the structures that support and reproduce non-democratic regimes would be critical for societal and state resilience-building. This discussion however goes beyond the scope of this article, and will be developed elsewhere.


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I wish to thank the anonymous referees, and the JIRD editors for their constructive feedback on the earlier versions of this paper.


This project was supported by the EU Horizon 2020 UPTAKE project [Grant No 691818] and GCRF RCUK COMPASS project, 2017-21 (ES/PO10849/1).

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Correspondence to Elena A. Korosteleva.

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Korosteleva, E.A. Paradigmatic or critical? Resilience as a new turn in EU governance for the neighbourhood. J Int Relat Dev 23, 682–700 (2020).

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  • European Union
  • Resilience-thinking
  • Governance
  • Self-governance
  • Eastern neighbourhood