Laura Gelhaus

GEM-STONES Doctoral Fellow


Host Institutions

Thesis Title

The Common Agricultural Policy’s external dimension – changing land relations, impacting food security??

Research Abstract

In a globalized world, rural areas are changing dramatically. Not only is rural land being commodified, including for the industrialised production of food and biofuel, it is also increasingly internationalized as demonstrated e.g. through global land grab dynamics. Contrary to this, many rural areas struggle with poverty and urbanization of primarily educated, young inhabitants. Interestingly, the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy, the Rural Development Policy, promotes a romantic image of rural areas with (obviously not poor) small farmers engaged in environmentally friendly, artisanal production of traditional products. Thus, it occupies an interesting space in seeming opposition to large-scale factory farming while offering an apparent remedy to problems of rural poverty and depopulation.  

Thus, this project analyses how (successful) this “vision” is externalized by the EU, utilizing Lavenex and Schimmelfennig’s (2009) theoretical framework of external governance. Interestingly, the EU uses two distinct instruments to project its Rural Development Policy to non-member states: a support for Geographical Indications and the LEADER programme which functions in the frame of community-led development. Identifying a lacuna in the literature towards impacts for policy-addressees, including the potential of successful external governance implying unintended or harmful consequences for rural people, the project adopts a micro-level perpective in a field study of Georgian rural communities.

Keywords: European Union, external governance, rural development, territory, land

Societal Relevance

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is not only one of the oldest and most developed European policies, it is also one of the most criticised. Clearly, in lights of global food price crises, recurring Malthusian fears of population growth, connections of agriculture and climate change as well as other environmental externaities and related debates on the industrialisation of food and mega-farms, understanding the EU’s agricultural policy’s effect on third countries is vital.

However, most analyses focused on the first pillar of the CAP, related to market interventions, coupled subsidies and direct income support, largely ignoring the second, rural development pillar. Yet, lately both policy makers’ attention and resources have shifted towards this dimension, warranting a closer analysis. Crucially, the rural vision the EU promotes – supporting small, artisinal, multifunctional family-farming in areas of special constraints – may be at odds with trends of food industrialisation, mega-farms and the depopulation of rural territories. Thus, this project analyses how the EU exports its vision to non-members, acknowledging this potential misfit. 


Oct 2016 – Aug 2017: University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Sep 2017 – Aug 2018: Université de Genève, Switzerland

Sep 2018 – Feb 2019: The Transatlantic Foundation, The German Marshall Fund of the United States 

Mar 2019 – Oct 2019: University of Warwick, United Kingdom


Master of Arts in International Security

Double Degree, University of Warwick and University of Konstanz

Master of Arts in Political Science and Public Administration majoring in International Administration and Conflict Management

Double Degree, University of Konstanz and University of Warwick

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Public Administration

University of Konstanz


  • Critical Security Studies
  • Food security
  • European Union external relations
  • Territory
  • Qualitative methods

Richardson, B. & Gelhaus, L. (2015): Shame on You: Fat Discrimination and the Food Industry, in: Lacuna. 

Student-Led projects

Member of the Critical International and Political Studies (CRIPS) graduate working group at the University of Warwick.

This project has received funding from the European Union's horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.