The image shows EU flags in Brussels
Photo: Etienne Ansotte/EC Audiovisual Sevice

Balancing between integration and autonomy. Understanding the drivers and mechanisms of EU's foreign, security and defense policy (EUFLEX)

2018 - 2021 (Completed)
Research Project
The project will investigate the ongoing process towards differentiated integration in European foreign, security and defence policy.

In an international context that is constantly shifting, we need a better understanding of how various global and regional challenges affect Europe.

Our starting point is an assumption that global shifts and regional challenges add a completely new dimension to the European decision trap: States, or decision-makers, no longer face only a choice pf how to improve their influence within Europe and the EU system, but are also increasingly faced with an "exit" option.

The aim of EUFLEX is therefore to study how the EU, its member states as well as closely associated states, balance between the concerns for preserving national autonomy on the one hand and loyalty to the European integration project. Balancing between autonomy and integration has been a key question throughout the history of European integration, but it has become more urgent following the British government decision to withdraw from the EU. While the existing literature has focused primarily on why integration takes place in spite of this dilemma, EUFLEX will be more interested in investigating what kind of integration it produces. In the current situation, it is likely that we will see a process of more flexible integration. However, we know little about what it means in practice, and how will it be addressed by different actors and levels of government (the EU, the member states and associated member states).

EUFLEX is organized into three overarching thematic areas focusing on how different levels relate to the dilemma of integration and autonomy in the area of foreign policy and diplomatic integration, regional integration and security community building and defence integration.

For more information on NUPI's research on Europe and the EU, please visit NUPI Centre for European Studies.

Funding program

The Research Council of Norway (Europa i endring)


The image shows Research Professor Pernille Rieker (right) and Senior Research Fellow Kristin Haugevik (left) from NUPI.

Rethinking differentiated integration

September 17, 2019

Several NUPI researchers contributed to the debate about differentiated integration in the area of security and defence at the annual conference of the European International Studies Association (EISA) in Sofia, Bulgaria last week.

Bildet viser Norges utenriksminister Ine Eriksen Søreide som tar Federica Mogherini, EUs høyrepresentant for utenrikssaker og sikkerhetspolitikk, i hånden.

Norway’s cooperation with the EU – 4 ways ahead

February 28, 2019

Can Norway benefit from closer collaboration with the EU on foreign and security policy?


Publication : Academic article
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United clubs of Europe: Informal differentiation and the social ordering of intra-EU diplomacy

This article makes the case for integrating informal, social and minilateral dynamics in analyses of ‘differentiated integration’ in the European Union ...

Differentiated Defence Integration Under French Leadership

Studies dealing with EU security and defence policy tend to focus exclusively on what is formally included in the Union’s Common Security and Defence ...
Publication : Academic article

Differentiated Integration and Europe’s Global Role: A Conceptual Framework

In a time of global challenges, rising geopolitical tensions and a weakening of the traditional trans-Atlantic security community, we can expect pressures ...

European defence beyond institutional boundaries: Improved European defence through flexibility, differentiation and coordination

As a response to the changing geopolitical situation, initiatives aimed to strengthen European defence have been taken in NATO, in the EU, but also bi- ...
Publication : Academic article

The Nordic Balance Revisited: Differentiation and the Foreign Policy Repertoires of the Nordic States

Nordic governments frequently broadcast their ambition to do more together on the international stage. The five Nordic states (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, ...

The Palgrave Handbook of EU Crises

The Palgrave Handbook of EU crises comprehensively explores the European Union’s institutional and policy responses to crises across policy domains and ...
Publication : NUPI Report

Norway and the changing Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union

  • Christophe Hillion
For decades, Norway has cooperated with the European Union in matters of foreign policy, security and defence. It has thus participated in EU civilian ...
Publication : NUPI Policy Brief

European Defence and Third Countries after Brexit

The UK’s departure from the European Union has given energy to the process towards ‘ever closer Union’ in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy ...

Project Manager

Security policy  Governance  Europe  The EU  Foreign policy  Regional integration

Ulf Sverdrup

Former Director

Christophe Hillion

Former employee (part time)

Wed 16 Feb 2022
Time: 16:30 Europe/Oslo
Location: YouTube

Law of the Sea in the Eastern Mediterranean

We are very happy to welcome The Foreign Minister of Greece, Mr Nikolaos Dendias on 16 February, where he will talk about the Law of the Sea in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Thu 11 Nov 2021
Time: 11:00 Europe/Oslo
Location: C.J. Hambrosplass 2 D / Livestream to Facebook and Youtube

Is America turning its back on Europe?

The close relations between North America and Europe faced some severe challenges during the Trump presidency.

Tue 12 Oct 2021
Time: 12:00 Europe/Oslo
Location: C.J. Hambrosplass 2 D / Livestream to Facebook and Youtube

AUKUS and its implications for Asia, US-European relations and non-proliferation

What does the AUKUS security partnership between Australia, the US and UK mean for security in Asia, for the US-China rivalry, and for US-Europe relations?

Mon 11 Feb 2019
Time: 14:00 Europe/Oslo
Location: NUPI

Ever looser union? Differentiation in European integration

Professor Frank Schimmelfennig is visiting NUPI to discuss differentiated integration, which has become a core feature of European integration.