Hylke Dijkstra Hylke Dijkstra Sacha Ruland

States and Secretariats - Hylke Dijkstra

Written by  Femke Kools Sunday, 15 January 2012 10:46
The role and power of civil servants in the EU, UN and NATO

Could you describe your research?
I am interested in why states voluntarily delegate tasks in the area of international security to organisations such as the EU, NATO and the United Nations. Traditionally, sovereignty is held in high regard. Your present ally can become your enemy tomorrow, so to speak. Even so, thousands of civil servants work for these kinds of organisations. What exactly do they contribute? Under what conditions do member states delegate these kinds of tasks? And why does NATO have such a heavily manned headquarters with fifteen thousand staff while the UN, which deploys as many troops, does not?

How did you come across this research theme?
Earlier this year, I defended cum laude my dissertation on the role of the European Commission and the EU Council Secretariat in foreign policy. My most important conclusions were that, in contrast to what one might think, countries do not automatically transfer their powers. Every time again this is a thorough trade-off between the loss of sovereignty and the efficiency that it generates. Next to that, the Brussels organs are deliberately kept small, which to some extent makes them inefficient, but allows the member states to retain some control. The first High Representative for European foreign policy, Javier Solana, was deliberately not placed within the powerful EU Commission, which would have been more logical and efficient, but within the weaker Council Secretariat. The second conclusion was that Brussels, nevertheless, has exercised significant influence, especially regarding innovative police and judicial missions. The study of the rather obscure EU Council Secretariat, which was rarely in the picture for the first fifty years of its existence, has made me curious about the role of NATO and the UN secretariats. Are there trends in their roles or are there specific characteristics for each organisation?

What’s your plan of action?
On the one hand, I study official documents such as negotiation positions and reports. In addition, I study cases of collective military operations, for which I also interview people in the field. For my thesis I researched four cases and interviewed 105 people. My empirical case study research was one of the reasons for the grade cum laude.

What is the societal relevance of your research?
250,000 soldiers were deployed abroad in 2010. This was a record number. It is important to know which organisations are behind these deployments. Are they legitimate? Do they do their work well? Are there best practises that could be relevant to other organisations?

How multidisciplinary is your research?
I make extensive use of economic theories. I try to expand research agendas from international political economy to security issues, in the hope that it results in a better theory of international organisations.

The Dies theme is “Inspired by Quality’. Who or what inspires you?
My broad interest and curiosity are the biggest drivers. I also find it important that my research is relevant for society. I find it fascinating to link abstract theories to daily reality, preferably connected to bigger scientific questions.

Why did you choose to do this research at this university in particular?
I did my Bachelor’s in European Studies and Economics here and my Master’s in European Studies at Cambridge. They wanted to keep me for my doctoral studies  but I found UM more attractive. Maastricht has a research group totally focused on the EU bureaucracy, the doctoral degree lasts four years and you are an employee instead of a student. In addition, it is closer to Brussels, which is convenient for my fieldwork. I have worked here now for four years. There is still enough to do, but I think it is also important to now and then work for a period abroad. It never hurts to get some fresh perspectives on your work, certainly as an independent researcher.






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