The Politics of Foreign Policy Change. Explaining the Swedish Reorientation on EC Membership

University dissertation from Lund University Press

Abstract: This study addresses the problem of foreign policy change. While the 1990s has been characterized by remarkable changes in world affairs, political scientists have been slow to study the processes through which such changes take place. Drawing on the limited research that does exist in this field, the study presents an alternative explanatory model of foreign policy change, arguing that states tend to alter their foreign policy orientations when changes in fundamental structural conditions coincide with strategic political leadership and the presence of a crisis of some kind. This model is then applied to the Swedish government1s decision in October 1990 to restructure its relationship to the West European integration process. The author argues that with the end of the Cold War, the poor prospects in the EEA negotiations and the emerging recession, the basic preconditions for Sweden1s long-standing policy of non-EC membership had been significantly altered. The structural changes in the international and domestic environment were perceived and acted upon by Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson. Forming an informal coalition with Minister of Finance Allan Larsson, Carlsson launched the policy reorientation in the midst of a severe balance of payments crisis. By redefining Swedish EC membership from a political to an economic issue, he successfully capitalized on the seriousness of the economic situation and marginalized potential opponents to EC membership within the cabinet.