About the project

The EU, and the international system at large, has entered a new era of unpredictability. States face challenges that tend to outstrip effective collective responses. There is a new volatility in the public policy arena where larger powers increasingly choose to act outside the institutional frameworks which the smaller powers rely on as a guarantor of their stability and prosperity. The EU is uniquely illustrative of how an organised political and administrative framework can empower small states, as opposed to foras of inter-governmental bargaining where the bigger powers can more easily impose their will. Small member states are having to deal with this increasingly unstable international scene and at the same time, public sentiment in many EU countries has become increasingly negative towards European integration and cooperation. The public administrations of small member states are beset with unprecedented tasks and responsibilities. These have placed their already limited capacities under huge strain, while also adding more credibility to populist rhetoric and dissent towards ‘Europe’. In addition, the myriad uncertainties of Brexit and the radical policy shifts emerging from the new US administration, stand every chance of altering the institutional structure that has served as the cornerstone of Western stability as well as the security of small states throughout the international system for decades.

This political turmoil is a pan-European challenge that the EU states face collectively and thus needs to be examined on an international level. There is a need to analyze the small member states that are especially vulnerable and rely on the EU’s legal framework to navigate their way through these uncertain times. This network´s research builds on four interlinked research clusters that are all focused on the contemporary challenges of small states in Europe.


Research clusters:

  1. Small states and the changing security environment in Europe: The return of great power politics.
    Assigned partners: University of Iceland and Vilnius University

  2. Small states and the current political turmoil related to immigration: Migration, security and populist extremism.
    Assigned partners: University of Copenhagen, University of Malta, and University of the Aegean in Rhodes

  3. Small states and open borders: The effects of limitations on human mobility on small states within the EU.
    Assigned partners: Lund University and University of Zagreb

  4. Small states and good governance: The role of public administration in tackling contemporary policy challenges.
    Assigned partners: Tallinn University of Technology and University of Ljubljana


The central objectives of this project are:

1) to examine the ‘coping strategies’ of small states in the current political turmoil, in terms of policy, resources and focus

2) to consolidate and expand the current network of European HEI’s focusing on small state studies

3) to produce advances in knowledge that will facilitate the development of teaching in small state studies in relation to EU studies

4) to raise awareness and influence policy and practice on the challenges of small states in Europe.


The objectives of the network are linked to the following activities and outputs

  1. Publication of an edited academic book – Edited by Professor Ian Taylor from St. Andrews University
  2. At least 4 high-level peer reviewed papers
  3. International academic conference – hosted in Iceland fall 2019
  4. Workshops based on the research clusters – hosted in Vilnius (spring 2018), Malta (fall 2018), Lund (winter 2018), Ljubljana (spring 2019).
  5. Roundtables aimed at young researchers – held in conjunction with the workshops
  6. One-to-one teaching
  7. Policy-briefs
  8. Concluding open seminar in Brussels – spring 2020