Professor Karen E. Smith                                                                                                                   


Contact details:


Department of International Relations

London School of Economics and Political Science

Houghton Street

London WC2A 2AE UK

Tel. 44 (0) 207 955 6332

Fax: 44 (0) 207 955 7446


LSE Experts site


Employment history:


Since 1997, I have been on the faculty of the International Relations Department

at the London School of Economics. I am also Director of the European Foreign Policy Unit

(within the International Relations Department).


1996-97 Jean Monnet Fellow, European University Institute, Florence, Italy


1989-92 Editor and freelance journalist, Bologna, Italy


 Please click here for information on courses I teach


 Research interests:


My main area of research has been the 'international relations of the European Union'. Initially, I was principally interested in analysing and explaining why a collectivity of states, the EU, has formulated and implemented common policies towards other countries and in the international system - overcoming numerous obstacles to inter-state cooperation in order to do so. I have since been exploring what kind of policy the EU's foreign policy system produces and related issues of consistency, coherence and effectiveness of EU foreign policy. In particular, I have examined the EU's pursuit of so-called 'ethical' foreign policy goals such as promoting human rights and democracy. More recently, I have pursued my interest in ethical foreign policy, and tried to explain policy-making within European states regarding genocide. I am currently pursuing several research questions arising from my book, Genocide and the Europeans (Cambridge University Press, 2010), as well as continuing to analyse EU-UN relations.


In 2012-13, I served as Co-Chair of the Task Force on EU Prevention of Mass Atrocities, an initiative of the Budapest Centre for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities. For information on the Task Force, click here, and for information on the Centre, click here. The Task Force's report, 'The EU and the Prevention of Mass Atrocities: An Assessment of Strengths and Weaknesses' was published on 4 March 2013; click here for a copy. Several events will be held to debate the Task Force’s final report. In 2013 it was debated at events in Brussels on 6 March, in Geneva on 8 March, at the LSE on 26 March, in Rome on 10 April and Budapest on 6 November.


I have recently guest-edited two issues of the open-access journal, Politics and Governance, on mass atrocity prevention. Articles in the first issue (vol. 3, no. 3, 2015) are now available here.


My work on EU human rights policy and EU mass atrocity prevention was the subject of an 'Impact Case Study' for the UK's 2014 Research Excellence Framework. You can learn more about the Impact Case Study here.


 Selected Publications (for a full list of publications, please click here; for recent opinion pieces and blog posts, please click here)



 European Union Foreign Policy in a Changing World, 3rd edition (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014).

Thoroughly revised and expanded, the book explores how and why the EU tries to achieve five core foreign policy objectives:

        the encouragement of regional cooperation;
        the advancement of human rights;
        the promotion of democracy and good governance;
        the prevention of violent conflicts; and
        the fight against international crime, including terrorism.

The book illustrates how the EU is faced with acute policy dilemmas because the five objectives not only clash with each other, but also with other policy priorities. The Lisbon Treaty may have addressed some of the challenges of making coherent EU foreign policy, but the book shows how coherence remains problematic. It also highlights the challenges the EU faces in trying to achieve its objectives in a multipolar world, while the euro crisis has damaged the EU’s international image and drained attention and resources away from foreign policy-making.

Genocide and the Europeans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 278 pp.

Genocide is one of the most heinous abuses of human rights imaginable, yet reaction to it by European governments in the post-Cold War world has been criticised for not matching the severity of the crime. European governments rarely agree on whether to call a situation genocide, and their responses to purported genocides have often been limited to delivering humanitarian aid to victims and supporting prosecution of perpetrators in international criminal tribunals. More coercive measures - including sanctions or military intervention - are usually rejected as infeasible or unnecessary. This book explores the European approach to genocide, reviewing government attitudes towards the negotiation and ratification of the 1948 Genocide Convention and analysing responses to purported genocides since the end of the Second World War. This book considers why some European governments were hostile to the Genocide Convention and why European governments have been reluctant to use the term genocide to describe atrocities ever since.

With Katie Verlin Laatikainen, eds, The European Union at the United Nations: Intersecting Multilateralisms (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2006), 232 pp.

The European Union has declared that it would assume some responsibility for ensuring 'effective multilateralism', and supporting international organisations, above all the United Nations. This volume explores this intersection of multilateralisms - how one multilateral, regional organisation is interacting with another, universal multilateral one. Contributors detail the development of the EU's coordination of diplomacy at the UN, analyze the extent to which EU member state diplomacy has been Europeanised, and evaluate the effectiveness of the EU at the UN. This volume provides evidence of the growth of the EU as a foreign policy actor in addition to identifying important qualifications of the EU's coherence and effectiveness as an actor within the UN context. The contributors show that the EU most often fails to make the UN as effective as it should be in addressing global challenges: the EU is failing to lead within the UN, and is still developing itself as a credible and reliable partner for the UN.

The Making of EU Foreign Policy: The Case of Eastern Europe, 2nd edition (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2004), 293 pp. Translated into Ukrainian.

This book argues that there has been a common European Union (EU) foreign policy towards six countries of Eastern Europe Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and analyses why the EU has agreed to the policy. The objective of the EU's policy is to support the transformation of Eastern Europe and thus ensure security and stability. The most important instrument that the EU has used to reach this objective has been the prospect of enlargement.

With Margot Light, eds, Ethics and Foreign Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 223 pp. Translated into Arabic.

The promotion of human rights, the punishment of crimes against humanity, the use of force with respect to humanitarian intervention: these are some of the complex issues facing governments in recent years. The contributors to this book offer a theoretical and empirical approach to these issues. Three leading normative theorists first explore what an 'ethical foreign policy' means. Four contributors then look at potential or actual instruments of ethical foreign policy-making: the export of democracy, non-governmental organisations, the International Criminal Court, and bottom-up public pressure on governments. Finally, three case studies examine more closely developments in the foreign policies of the US, the UK, and the European Union, to assess the difficulties raised by the incorporation of ethical considerations into foreign policy.

With Christopher Hill, eds, European Foreign Policy: Key Documents (London: Routledge, 2000), 477 pp.

This book is the very first to collect together the key official documents tracing the development of European foreign policy from the end of the Second World War to the present day. It contains:

·         all important documents on European foreign policy from 1948 to the Kosovo crisis

·         material from major treaties such as The North Atlantic treaty, the treaty of Rome and the treaty of Amsterdam

·         European responses to major world events such as the Middle East peace process, the Falklands war and the Balkans crisis

·         detailed commentary and analysis of the documents providing a valuable political and historical context

·         many documents which are extremely difficult to obtain elsewhere.



with Chiara de Franco and Christoph O. Meyer, '"Living by Example?" The European Union and the Implementation of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)', Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 53, no. 5, 2015.

Most empirical contributions to the normative power Europe (NPE) debate concentrate on whether and when the EU promotes its core internal norms abroad. In contrast, we investigate how norms emerging from international fora come to be accepted and internalised by the EU in the first place. We examine the case of the emerging responsibility to protect norm (R2P) and argue that the EU’s implementation has been more limited and slower than one would expect from the NPE procedural ethics of ‘living by example’. We examine the potential reasons for this failure to ‘live by example’: the role of persuasion by norm entrepreneurs; the role of inducements and costs; the goodness of fit between R2P and existing EU norms; and the clarity of the norm. We find that the lack of goodness of fit and clarity of the norm are important factors, but argue that low levels of bureaucratic receptivity were the greatest obstacle.

'The UK and "Genocide" in Biafra', Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 16, nos. 2-3, 2014. Time-limited access to article is available here.

In late August 1968, following a British proposal, Nigeria announced it would allow an International Observer Team into the country to show that it was not pursuing a campaign of genocide in Biafra. This article analyses why the United Kingdom pushed for the creation of the observer team, and shows how the team’s work was incorporated into the government’s justifications for its support of the Nigerian government. The experience of the observer team illustrates the difficulties of providing an ‘objective’ view regarding whether or not genocide is taking place.

‘Acculturation and the Acceptance of the Genocide Convention’, Cooperation and Conflict, vol. 48, no. 3, 2013. Click here for a PDF of the accepted (pre-publication) version.

This article contributes to the burgeoning literature on why states ratify human rights treaties. It first analyses why Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States did not initially ratify or accede to the 1948 Genocide Convention, and then explores why the three countries eventually did accept it, from twenty to forty years after it was approved by the UN General Assembly. The extent to which material costs and benefits, the logic of appropriateness, and acculturation played a role in each of the three cases is assessed. Acculturation is particularly evident in the Irish case, but it also helps to explain the UK and US acceptance of the Convention.

'Can the European Union be a Pole in a Multipolar World?' International Spectator, vol. 48, no. 2, July 2013.

Can the EU serve as a pole in a multipolar, interdependent international system? This article discusses three particular challenges the EU will face in operating in such a system: the challenge of re-establishing credibility after the euro crisis; the ever-present challenge of achieving unity among the member states; and the challenge of adapting foreign policy behaviour to match the new international environment. There is a risk that the EU could slide into irrelevance.

‘The European Union and the Politics of Legitimisation at the United Nations’, European Foreign Affairs Review, vol. 18, no. 1, 2013 (pp. 63-80). Reprinted with permission of Kluwer Law International.


The European Union should be well-placed to exercise influence at the United Nations, as it is endowed with many material and ideational power resources that could enable it to win approval for its positions and proposals. Yet it encountered hostility when it sought enhanced observer status in the General Assembly and it has often been isolated at the Human Rights Council. The EU’s failures to translate its putative power resources into influence in international affairs are often attributed to a lack of unity within the EU, but even when the EU is united at the UN, it may not win support. To help explain why, this article focuses on the UN as a locus of the international politics of legitimisation, where UN member states seek approval for their positions and policies, and base their appeals for support on competing principles and values.


'The European Union at the Human Rights Council: Speaking with One Voice but Having Little Influence', Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 17, no. 2, 2010, pp. 224-41.


The Human Rights Council was supposed to address the shortcomings of the former Commission on Human Rights, but it is already suffering similar shortcomings. Some critics of the Human Rights Council have singled out the European Union's role as particularly disappointing. This article argues that while there is evidence that EU member states are acting cohesively within the HRC, and more so than they have done in UN human rights bodies in the past, the EU's influence in the institution is still quite limited. It speaks with one voice and EU voting cohesion is impressively solid, but has had little influence on the agenda or outcomes of the HRC. This reflects in part the fragile place that human rights have in EU foreign policy-making.


'Speaking with One Voice? European Union Coordination on Human Rights Issues at the United Nations', Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 44, no. 1, March 2006, pp. 113-37.

This article analyses the extent to which the EU acts cohesively and effectively within the UN General Assembly Third Committee and the Commission on Human Rights. There is considerable evidence of increasing EU 'output' at the UN since the early 1990s, but there are serious limits to EU unity posed by conflicting national interests and the persistent desire of member states to act independently at the UN. Furthermore, the energy required to reach internal agreements restricts the EU's influence within the wider UN system.

'Beyond the Civilian Power EU Debate', Politique Europeenne, no. 17, automne 2005, pp. 63-82.

This article argues that the European Union is no longer a civilian power; instead it finds itself, like almost every other international actor on the planet, somewhere along a spectrum between two ideal-types of civilian and military power. But instead of debating what the European Union is (civilian power or not), we should move beyond this to analyse and debate what the EU does in international relations. The article suggests a few lines of enquiry to open that debate.

'The Outsiders: The European Neighbourhood Policy', International Affairs, vol. 81, no. 4, July 2005, pp. 757-73.

This article traces briefly the history of the ENP and then analyses the substance of the ENP. It then asks whether the ENP provides the appropriate framework for dealing with major challenges facing the EU in its relations with the neighbours.


 Current professional activities:

Advisory Council, European Peace and Security Studies Programme, Vesalius College, Brussels, Belgium.


Advisory Board, Centre for the Study of Human Rights, LSE.


Member of the International Advisory Board, The International Spectator (2012- ).


Member of the Editorial Board, Politics and Governance (2012- ).


Member of the International Editorial Board of the GREEN-GEM Book Series on Globalisation, Europe and Multilateralism (2012- ).


Member of the Editorial Board of Foreign Policy Analysis (2010-15).


Member of the Editorial Board, Studia Diplomatica: The Brussels Journal of International Relations (2009- ).


Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of European Public Policy (2008- ).


Member of the Editorial Board of the LSE Centre for International Studies book series with Routledge (2007- ).


Member of the International Advisory Board for the GARNET book series with Routledge (2006- ).


 Some past professional activities:

On 28 January 2015, the European Foreign Policy Unit hosted a workshop on 'The EU as a Diplomatic Actor'. For a report on the workshop, including links to videos of some of the presentations, see:


During the 2011-12 academic year, I organised a series of ten roundtables on EU Foreign Policy after Lisbon. The series was funded by the EU's Jean Monnet Programme.


Author of study on The European Union and the Review of the Human Rights Council, for the European Parliament's Sub-Committee on Human Rights, February 2011 (EXPO/B/DROI/2010/6).


LSE representative for the research project CHALLENGE (The Changing Landscape of European Liberty and Security;, funded under the European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme, which began in July 2004 and ended in May 2009.The work of the LSE Challenge team, including a report summarising the LSE's contribution, is available on the European Foreign Policy Unit website (


Editor, CFSP Forum, bimonthly online journal for the FORNET research network on European foreign policy (2003-2008). An archive of those issues is available here.


Advisory Board, EXACT Marie Curie Initial Training Network, University of Cologne, Germany.


Member of the Book Reviews Advisory Panel, responsible for 'Europe', International Affairs (2010-13).


Lecturer on the EU in the International System, European Online Academy, January 2004 to June 2008.


2007 Anna Lindh award for excellence in research on European foreign and security policy. The award was granted by the Volkswagen Foundation, the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (Stockholm) and the Compagnia di San Paolo (Turin), in the context of the foundations' European Foreign and Security Policy Studies training programme, which focuses on the prospects of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Security and Defence Policy. The three foundations support research projects that look beyond the national views currently dominating academic and practical approaches towards European foreign and security policy.



1992-1996 London School of Economics and Political Science: PhD in International Relations


1987-1989 Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Bologna, Italy and Washington DC: MA in International Relations and International Economics


1985-1986 Study at the University of Bologna, Italy


1983-1987 Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, USA: BA Magna Cum Laude. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Major in Political Science


Fluent in Italian; fair knowledge of French and Spanish.