ASTK18311U CANCELLED - SUMMER 20: Small State Foreign Policy: Taking Leadership in International Diplomacy

Volume 2020/2021

Bachelor student (2012 programme curriculum): 10 ECTS

Bachelor student (2017 programme curriculum): 7.5 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS


Notice: It is only possible to enroll for one course having a 3-day compulsory written take-home exam due to coincident exam periods.



The course will take place in week 33


The aim of the course is to offer a comprehensive introduction to small state foreign policy and to discuss how small states can maximize influence and take leadership in international diplomacy. No knowledge of small states or small states studies have been assumed, but it is an advantage to have some basic knowledge of politics and international relations prior to the course.


The course identifies the characteristics of small states in international relations and discusses the similarities and differences between small state foreign policy and the foreign policies of middle powers and micro states.


The vulnerability of small states vis-à-vis the great powers has traditionally led to a focus on the security and defence policies of small states. The changing nature of international security is also changing the security and defence challenges and opportunities faced by small states. We discuss these challenges and opportunities and the strategic and concrete responses by small states. We analyse how challenges, opportunities and policy responses vary across different policy sectors.


Finally, we ask: How do small states maximize security and influence? To answer this question, we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of four small state strategies: Shelter strategy, smart state strategy, status seeking strategy and negotiation strategy.


Learning Outcome


  • Demonstrate knowledge of the theories and concepts relevant for understanding the opportunities and challenges of small states in international affairs.

  • Understand core institutions and diplomatic processes involved in contemporary small state foreign policy making and practices, in relation to specific sectors and cases.



  • Demonstrate informed, convincing and precise knowledge of small state foreign policy and leadership, including relevant literature review, theoretical debates and empirical analysis. 

  • Make informed, analytical evaluations of different approaches to maximizing small state influence in international affairs.



  • Critically reflect upon key contemporary issues and developments in contemporary small state foreign policy in the light of relevant historical, theoretical and methodological considerations.

  • Translate knowledge about theories and concepts of foreign policy into concrete empirical analysis and identify opportunities and challenges for small state influence.


A wide selection of journal articles and book chapters on the theory and practice of small state foreign policy and strategy.


Examples of literature:


Baldacchino, Godfrey and Anders Wivel (2020) Handbook on the Politics of Small States. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar (selected chapters).


Maass, Matthias (2017) Small States in World Politics: The Story of Small State Survival 1848-2016: Manchester: Manchester University Press (selected chapters)


Thorhallsson, Baldur and Sverrir Steinsson (2017). Small state foreign policy, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Foreign Policy Analysis, 28 pages.


Panke, Diana (2010). Good instructions in no time? Domestic coordination of EU policies in 19 small states. West European Politics, 33(4), 770-790.


Grøn, Caroline H., and Anders Wivel (2011). Maximizing influence in the European Union after the Lisbon Treaty: From small state policy to smart state strategy. Journal of European Integration33(5), 523-539.


Advanced bachelor students and Master’s students are welcome. Basic knowledge of IR (e.g. IP1 and preferably IP2 and IP3 in the Political Science, University of Copenhagen curriculum)
A mix of in-class lectures, student group work, invited guest-lectures, student workshops and class discussions. Active student participation is expected.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)



7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
3-day compulsory written take-home assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

- For the semester in which the course takes place: 3-day compulsory written take-home assignment

- For the following semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner