Since the turn of the millennium fragile, conflict-affected states (FCAS) have grown to constitute a significant issue within European discourse. The spill-over of their ‘complex political emergencies’ is destabilising, as epitomised by the 9/11 attacks. Bush’s ‘war on terrorism’ speech-act during 9/11’s aftermath signified a juncture, and new historical epoch within International Relations. Within this epoch the EU was confronted by violent extremism/terrorism and irregular-migration flows. Nonetheless, fragile states risked being ‘aid orphans’. They can be unattractive to aid-donors due to the foreign aid dilemma whereby those states and peoples exhibiting the direst need of assistance are frequently the hardest to assist through the complexity of their needs and threats. This thesis takes a critical interest in UK government and EU-level institutional thought pertaining to aid challenges in fragile states. It focusses specifically upon the empirical case of Afghanistan (which was the facilitator of 9/11, and whose ‘complex political emergency’ spanned the epoch). Research is conducted from a critical-interpretivist perspective, qualitatively tracing aid ideas through institutional frame analysis (IFA), with interest in how some ideas came to be prevalent within European discourse while others did not. This entails expanding upon the genesis of ideas, their promulgation, diffusion and salience amidst frame-contestation within interactive discursive-struggle, and their subsequent adoption and adaptation (or resistance thereto). In doing so, the thesis reveals changes within institutional framing of problems and solutions, institutional path-dependency and associated cultural values. Ultimately, the thesis reveals substantive processes of Europeanization concerning transformational soft-content between the UK and EU-level, including notably how UK leadership ambitions ‘uploaded’ pragmatic facets of whole-of-government and stabilisation thinking.

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