Document Type

Undergraduate Syllabus


Spring 2011



Course Number

DIPL 2115/6409

Course Description

Studies of international relations have recently begun to move beyond the focus on great powers to take up the issues surrounding the roles that smaller states play in global affairs and especially in multilateral institutions. Portugal provides an excellent opportunity for learning about small state diplomacy. For a country of its size, Portugal has played an unusually significant role in international affairs, especially within the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP). This course examines Portugal’s role in these organizations, asking how small states defend their interests in international affairs, what strategies they use, and what resources they draw upon, as well as the benefits and constraints that accrue from membership in international organizations.

Portugal is particularly interesting because of its dramatic political, territorial, and economic transformations in the past thirty-five years. Since the 1970s, it transitioned from dictatorship to democracy, from empire to nation-state and member of the EU, and from relative poverty to rapid development. International relations were important for Portugal in each of these changes, and in turn, Portugal has re-emerged as an important player in international relations, winning a seat on the UN Security Council and presiding over the Council of Europe, serving as a leading contributor to UN peacekeeping missions, hosting NATO’s Joint Forces Command Headquarters, and founding the CPLP to maintain cooperative relations with its former colonies. The course will cover both the international dimensions of Portugal’s transformation including decolonization, the role of the US and NATO in the transition to democracy, and the effect of EU membership on Portugal’s development and Portugal’s own role in current international affairs. Specifically, the course will examine such questions as: Why is Portugal such a prominent contributor to UN peacekeeping missions and how has it fared in those missions? How did Portugal successfully compete against larger nations to win a seat on the UN Security Council for the 2011-2012 term? Is Portugal a victim or a culprit in Europe’s current financial crisis, and is its EU membership helping or hindering economic recovery? How has Portugal’s presidency of the European Commission affected its role in the EU? How do small states like Portugal envision the future of NATO? And, how can formerly imperial states collaborate effectively with their ex-colonies.