The EU’s relationship with Africa is defined by power asymmetry, commonly characterised by a distribution of resources and capabilities across issue areas that almost always favour those at the top. Although asymmetry constrains weaker parties in identifying their preferences and the resources they can draw upon, in practise even in a situation of power asymmetry weaker actors can be successful in achieving their preferences. This thesis questions why some African countries have been able to exercise leverage and control vis-à-vis the EU despite power asymmetry. This question is answered through case studies of the EU’s relations with Ghana and Senegal in three policy areas: aid, trade, and migration. The thesis adopts an empirical approach firstly to identify both parties’ capacities and constraints in conducting relations, and secondly to establish the conditions under which African countries are able to fulfil their goals. As a foreign policy actor the EU faces institutional and political constraints which lead to gaps between policy rhetoric and practise, and between expectations and actual capabilities. This affects the EU’s position vis-à-vis third parties and creates a disjunction between the EU’s structural power and its actual bargaining power. Structurally weaker countries are able to influence the EU, firstly, because of how the perceptions they hold of the EU’s constraints and capacities shape their own strategies, and secondly, because of the presence of certain contextual factors which favour or constrain the exercise of leverage and control. Senegal and Ghana are employed as case studies for the EU’s relations with Africa. Although the socio-economic and political environment, the structural differences in power, and the EU’s strategies are similar in both countries, Senegal has been more effective in promoting its interests than Ghana in relations with the EU. Senegal’s perceptions of the EU’s capabilities and constraints, the prevalence of ‘ownership’ and government ‘control’, and a strategic position have led to success in attaining its preferences and goals. Ghana’s perceptions of apparent differences in structural power and mostly externally-driven policy processes have led it to adopt a more cooperative and consensual approach, weakening Ghana’s ability to influence processes and outcomes vis-à-vis the EU. Leverage and control are therefore found in an actor’s perception of its own power and that of others and in an environment where certain conditions favour weaker country influence, indicating that power is both relational and contextual
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