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Rethinking Partnerships: Exploring the EU’s Development Cooperation in Central America via Critical Discourse Analysis and Expert Interviews


  • Camilla Castelanelli

Summary, in English

The European Union (EU) is the largest provider of development aid in the world, considering the funds given by its institutions and Member States. Development cooperation has been a central policy theme since the Treaty of Rome in 1957, thus constituting a significant sphere of the EU’s foreign affairs. In this context, the concept of partnership covers a meaningful role, and has lately gained momentum with the emphasis laid by Von Der Leyen’s Commission. Nevertheless, partnerships are more than a policy ‘buzzword’, and the EU’s donor-recipient approach raises questions in terms of power relations.
This study aims to explore the discourse on partnerships applied in the EU’s development cooperation in Central America. To do so, the Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council - European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean: Joining Forces For a Common Future (2019) are analysed. Intertextuality is achieved by taking into consideration The New European Consensus on Development: ‘Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future’ (2017) and The Americas and the Caribbean - Regional Multiannual Indicative Programme 2021-2027 (2021). In addition to researching which power relations they convey, I look at their impact on EU-Central American partnerships, and how this discourse can be reformed.
This process is guided by the lens of post-colonial theory, in addition to operationalising the concepts of partnership and agency. This thesis conducts a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) based on Fairclough’s approach. Three intersecting degrees of analysis are applied, ranging from the text analysis of the aforementioned EU’s policy texts to the understanding of the discourse and social practice. This CDA is complemented by a categorical analysis of seven expert interviews which provide a bottom-up perspective.
As a result, it can be argued that the EU is not a fully-fledged post-colonial development actor, but still an emerging one. This can negatively affect the partnership with Central America, as a neo-colonial donor-receiver relation can reproduce asymmetries. A more equal development discourse could be possible, as demonstrated by the experiences of NGOs and intergovernmental organisations. The EU’s focus should shift from material resources to more self-reflection, mutual recognition, and the creation of sustainable shared impact.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


  • Social Sciences


  • Development
  • Partnerships
  • European Union
  • Central America
  • Discourse
  • interviews
  • civil society
  • European Studies


  • Alena Minchenia
  • Henrik Rønsbo