Interview with the DPIR Inspires Magazine

Kalypso Nicolaïdis is Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford and director of the Center for International Studies and the Department of Politics and International Relations. She teaches theory of international relations, European integration, international political economy, negotiation and research methods. At Oxford, she has also chaired various research programmes including South East European Studies at Oxford (SEESOX) which runs, inter alia, the Greek-Turkish Network and the programme on the political economy of southeast Europe; the Cyberstudies programme; the programme Rethinking Europe in a Non European World (RENEW); and the Programme on Global Trade Ethics.

Outside Oxford, she is on the Advisory Committee of the Weatherhead Centre of International Affairs at Harvard University, a member of the Council of the European Council of Foreign Relations (ECFR) including as advisor for its EU Foreign Policy Scoreboard, as well as a founding member of the Spinelli Group, an editorial board member for the European Political Science Review, a member of the International Advisory Board at The International Spectator and a Board Member at the Conseil scientifique de l’IMéRA, Marseille. Before moving back to Europe, she taught European affairs and international relations at Harvard University where she was associate professor at the Kennedy School of Government, as well as the founder and chair of the Kokkalis Programme on Southeast Europe. She has also held visiting professorships around Europe, including at the Ecole Nationale d’Administration in Paris, at the College of Europe in Bruges as the professorial chair on Visions of Europe and in Sciences-Po, Paris as Vincent Wright chair.

Professor Nicolaïdis holds a PhD in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University, a Master in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government, a Master in International Economics and a Diplome Service Public from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris. She also studied law and philosophy at the Paris I-Sorbonne. She is of French and Greek nationality with German and Spanish origins.


Nicolaidis’s research interests are wide-ranging and often interdisciplinary, spanning international relations theory, political economy, political philosophy, legal theory and game theory. She has written on a variety of issues, including memory and interstate conflict, colonial legacies, the ethics of global trade, European and global constitutionalism, the Eurozone crisis and governance, Europe’s democratic question, Europe’s place in the world and foreign policy voice, European borders, neighborhood and foreign policy, the single market and the role of trust, EU relations with the Mediterranean and the Balkans, transatlantic relations, the idea of Europe as a model, law and democracy promotion, the reform of global governance and new theories of bargaining and federalism.

A ‘rooted cosmopolitan’, Nicolaidis has tried through her work and her life to build bridges and to articulate a philosophy of mutual recognition between countries and between peoples. She confronts the challenge of translating between languages and political cultures by speaking, teaching and publishing across national borders. In her research, she applied this pluralist commitment both to issues of global governance – from trade to R2P – and to the European Union. In her book, European Stories (co-edited with Justine Lacroix), she calls time on the search for a single European story and urges instead that we bring together various different European narratives.

Against this pluralist normative commitment, and originally in the context of the EU’s 2001 constitutional debates, she proposed and developed the concept of ‘demoi-cracy‘ to try to find a way out of stale debates about ‘more‘ or ‘less‘ Europe and to encourage commentators and citizens to view Europe not as an incipient state but as “a union of peoples who govern together but not as one”, embracing Europe’s internal pluralism while continuously pursuing maximal openness between its member states. Most recently she has applied the demoicracy frame to discussions of a justice deficit in the EU.

Her concept of ‘sustainable integration’ also speaks to the EU’s character as a transnational democracy, as ‘both an ethos and a practice for EU action,’ an approach which depends on the need for long-term decision making for the benefit of intergenerational justice. Her notion of sustainability implies that EU governance can be legitimate and effective over time if it is able to counter the short-term bias of democratic regimes with a narrative of its own based on long-term responsibility.

When it comes to Europe’s relations with the rest of the world, Nicolaidis has both developed and criticised the idea of Europe as a normative power, argued that the EU should adopt a ‘decentering’ agenda in its policy dealings with the wider world, which involves taking a more self-reflexive or ‘post-colonial’ stance – as discussed in her latest book Echoes of Empire and other publications on Europe’s role in the world.


Professor Nicolaïdis has been involved in policy for some time. IN 2008-10 she was a member of the Gonzales reflection group mandated by the European Council to submit a report on the future of Europe 2030 (see projects). Beforehand, she was advising Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou on European affairs between 1996 and 2004 and chaired the International Group of Expert Advisors on the Convention for the Future of Europe and the Greek 2003 Presidency. She was advisor to the 2004 Dutch presidency of the EU on the theme of ‘Europe: a Beautiful Idea’, a policy-academia dialogue. She also worked with the European Commission on the White Paper on Governance (subsidiarity, global governance), on DG trade and DG communication consultations, as well as a trade and regulation expert for UNCTAD and the OECD. She was also asked to write a report on the European Neighborhood Policy by the European Parliament.

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