RSU Doctoral Student Diāna Potjomkina

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Thesis topic: Sources of expertise in foreign policy

Scientific supervisors: Assoc. Prof. Daina Bleiere

Achievements: Fulbright scholar, nine months spent in Washington within the frame of prestigious Fulbright Programme

WHAT...

“Research topic comes from my work experience – I commenced my work at The European Movement – Latvia, non-governmental organisation, six years ago, and I became interested in participation of citizens in decision-making process. While analysing sources of expertise in foreign policy, my goal is to identify experts – opinion leaders – for foreign policy makers during decision-making process – whom they rely on while making decisions. Are those internal sources within the ministries, embassies, think tanks, non-governmental organisations or media? Which are the information sources used by foreign policy makers? Whom do they consult with? How and how often these consultations take place? The focus of the research is laid on the EU foreign policy towards Belarus. However, nine months spent in Washington made me think about carrying out a comparative research.”

WHY...

“There is a lack of all-encompassing and in-depth studies on the sources of expertise in foreign policy. Alongside my personal interest in this topic, I am motivated by feedback given by foreign experts in Brussels and Washington – they expressed interest to get acquainted with the conclusions of the thesis that hopefully will be completed in the next two years. Though, the thesis focuses on The European External Action Service, still national dimension is also covered in the research. Therefore, Latvia is also among the objects of research, consequently, research results would be binding also for local diplomats.

I have a personal interest in this topic, and this aspect is essential while working on such a voluminous research. The topic should be interesting enough for the researcher to be willing to work on it anytime, including weekends. For those engaged into international relations it is essential to realise that they contribute to a better world. The results of my research might also lead to improving decision-making processes in the field of foreign policy by emphasizing the involvement of non-governmental organisations, civil society.”

CONCLUSIONS

“Owing to the opportunity to spend time for research in Washington within the frame of the Fulbright Programme, I have overcome the most difficult part of the thesis – theoretical part. In Washington I had enough time and access to resources to accomplish this. Besides, I interviewed several experts there and attended two international conferences that gave me loads of motivation and inspired me for my future endeavours.

It is still too early to draw conclusions. I can solely give comments from my own experience. First, opposed to USA with so called revolving door between diplomats and academic world, in Europe it is not typical for a diplomat to switch careers and transfer to a think tank or vice versa. Second, despite the fact that there is a dialogue with regard to development cooperation, education, youth-related or social matters at the level of the European Union, foreign policy still remains a sensitive field with dominance of national interests and loads of secret aspects. Therefore, often there is a lack of dialogue between foreign policy makers and experts. Besides, personal contacts play a crucial role on both sides of the ocean.”

ABOUT ME...

"My mother was a geography teacher at school, and as a child I spent hours turning over the pages of colourful and bright geography books exploring Qatar, The United Arab Emirates or USA. So I have been interested in international matters since childhood. I might even say that my hobby turned into profession. In addition to my three working languages – Latvian, Russian and English – I have also learned Spanish. I am a keen traveller and enjoy world literature. I read the Quran with great interest. The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe is one of my favourite books. The message of the book – deep down, we all are the same and we all care for the same things regardless of our nationality."