GIR Colloquium Research Special | Panel discussion on the growing role of Europe in the Indo-Pacific region – School of Social and Political Sciences GIR Colloquium Research Special | Panel discussion on the growing role of Europe in the Indo-Pacific region – School of Social and Political Sciences

GIR Colloquium Research Special | Panel discussion on the growing role of Europe in the Indo-Pacific region

GIR Colloquium Research Special

Panel discussion on the growing role of Europe in the Indo-Pacific region

Overview: This colloquium will be presented in form of a panel discussion that focuses on the growing role of Europe in the Indo-Pacific region, with case studies from select European powers and the European Union.

Speakers: Gorana Grgic, Thomas Wilkins, Gabriele Abbondanza

Discussant: Dr Sebastian Biba, Goethe University

Date: Friday, 18 November

Time: 12pm-2pm

Location: United States Studies Centre Boardroom, or via Zoom at

Catering: Provided!


Title: Systemic determinants of actorness: What role for the EU in the Indo-Pacific?

Presenter: Dr Gorana Grgić, The University of Sydney

This paper examines the role of the European Union as an actor in the Indo-Pacific. In doing so, it seeks to advance the literature on EU’s actorness and power in an era of growing strategic competition and under the conditions of multipolarity. The paper’s contributions are two-fold. First, on the theoretical front, it proposes a model to study actorness that better incorporates systemic factors. Second, on the empirical front, it provides a detailed analysis of the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy, with specific reference to the systemic factors, capabilities, and their relation to one another, as well as other key regional actors. The paper will focus on: (1) the phenomenon of Brusselisation and the work of the so-called “geopolitical Commission”; (2) the extent of cohesion in the stated goals and strategies between the EU and its member states; and (3) the perceptions of other major actors in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in the context of transplanting the facets of transatlantic cooperation to this region. Following Bretherton and Vogler’s (1999) seminal research that identified ‘opportunity’ as a key variable shaping the EU’s global role, this paper considers the wider context of the Indo-Pacific power relations and competition. It discusses the strategic articulation of opportunities and threats by the EU, after which it interrogates the stated strategic goals, objective capabilities, and proposed courses of action. The paper will also weigh in on the position of the EU vis-à-vis the United States and the manner in which the US presence in the region influences EU’s ability to wield influence and be perceived as an actor.


Title: Italy’s quiet pivot to the Indo-Pacific

Presenter: Dr. Gabriele Abbondanza, The University of Sydney

While the United Kingdom, France, and Germany pursue their Indo-Pacific strategies, Italy is the only “Big Four” European country and “Quint” NATO member seemingly uninterested in what is becoming the world’s geopolitical and geoeconomic centre. Indeed, just one year ago the country’s defence minister denied that Italy was planning to send a frigate to the South China Sea, despite its large naval capabilities, since that would not have been “in the country’s strategic interest”. However, a number of developments contradict the assumption that Rome overlooks the importance of the Indo-Pacific region. This paper seeks to shed light on the understudied foreign policy direction of a G7 country who has yet to formulate an Indo-Pacific strategy, in order to show its actual commitment, potential future developments, and related risks. By reviewing official policies and evolving trajectories, this paper reveals that Italy is already engaging with the Indo-Pacific through a set of high-profile initiatives falling under three broad areas: i) norms; ii) diplomacy; and iii) trade. It then explores potential new steps towards the establishment of an official Italian strategy for the Indo-Pacific, while considering the strategic hazards that are attached to this policy. As the first scholarly work on the Italian role in the Indo-Pacific, this paper makes a novel contribution to the diplomatic and the strategic study of this macro-region, and investigates what could hypothetically become a complementary approach to that of existing Indo-Pacific strategies.


Title: Britain’s Return “East of Suez”: Setting the Indo-Pacific “tilt” in historical context

Presenter: Dr. Thomas Wilkins, The University of Sydney

This paper seeks to better understand the recent Indo-Pacific “Tilt” policy of the UK government by positioning it within the context of Britain’s historical role “East of Suez”. This is important since debates about the renewed British emphasis on the Indo-Pacific region are sometimes clouded by deprecating analyses centred on a “declinist” narrative and thus its efforts are dismissed out of hand as inconsequential. This paper will provide a clear outline of the continuities as well as innovations in British policy toward the crucial Indo-Pacific region to reveal how historical practices and legacy alignments and connections are being harnessed to expedite new strategic policies. From this we can better situate the motivations and potentialities for an enhanced UK presence in the region, whilst contrasting Britain’s unique experience with that of other European powers newly engaged in the Indo-Pacific. It argues that the British approach is not some ill-starred solo attempt to restore its historical pre-eminence in Asia, but rather to leverage historical and contemporary relationships to carve out a meaningful role in partnership alongside the US, Japan, Australia, and several South East Asian countries.


Dr Gorana Grgić is a jointly appointed Senior Lecturer at the Department of Government and International Relations and the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

Dr. Gabriele Abbondanza is a Sessional Lecturer at the Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney; and an Associate Fellow at the Italian Institute of International Affairs (IAI). From January 2023 he will hold the EU-funded position of Marie Curie Cofund Fellow at the University of Madrid. He specialises in Australian and Italian foreign and security policy; the Indo-Pacific; irregular migration; and middle and great power theory. His research has been published in leading journals, including International Affairs, European Political Science, the Australian Journal of International Affairs, and The International Spectator. He has published a co-edited volume, two monographs on Australian and Italian foreign policy, and currently teaches a number of courses related to International Relations and Security Studies.

Dr Thomas Wilkins is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government & International Relations at the University of Sydney, a Senior Fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), and a Senior Fellow (non-resident) at the Japanese Institute of International Affairs (JIIA). His work focuses on Indo-Pacific security affairs, especially alliances and alignments, regional security architecture, and Japanese and Australian foreign policies. He has published widely on these topics in journals such as The Pacific Review, Asia Policy, and the Australian Journal of International Affairs, and his latest monograph, Security in Asia-Pacific: The Dynamics of Alignment (2019), is published with Lynne Rienner Press.


Image by andy on Adobe Stock

The event is finished.


Nov 18 2022


12:00 pm - 2:00 pm


Hybrid event

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