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Sovereignty, cosmopolitanism and the ethics of European foreign policy

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This article explores the tensions between cosmopolitanism and sovereignty as a means to conceptualize the ethics of European foreign policy. It starts by discussing the claim that, in order for the EU to play a meaningful role as an international actor, a definition of the common ethical values orienting its political conduct is required. The question of a European federation of states and its ethical conceptualization emerges clearly in some of the philosophical writings of the 17th and 18th centuries. I seek to provide an outline of the main arguments presented by authors such as Saint Pierre, Rousseau and Kant regarding the implications of the emerging difference between cosmopolitanism and the law of nations in the ethics of international relations. The article focuses on the normative significance of the concept of sovereignty as it emerges in modern political philosophy and highlights its tensions with the ideas of moral and political cosmopolitanism. This exploration serves a double function: theoretical and practical. From the theoretical perspective it leads to a better understanding of the tensions involved in conceptualizing a common ethical orientation for the states of Europe. From the practical standpoint it sheds light on some persistent difficulties the European Union faces in trying to move beyond an intergovernmental political arrangement in the field of foreign policy.

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