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Legitimation strategies of informal groups of states: The case of the E3 directoire in the nuclear negotiations with Iran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-405
Number of pages18
JournalCooperation and Conflict
Issue number3
Early online date17 Feb 2020
Accepted/In press28 Jan 2020
E-pub ahead of print17 Feb 2020
Published1 Sep 2020


King's Authors


The European Union has seen the rise of informal groups of states as an increasingly important governance mechanism within its formal structures. Such groups can make decision-making processes more efficient, but they also suffer from a substantial lack of legitimacy in the eyes of the non-members. In this article, we examine how informal groups overcome this fundamental dilemma between efficiency and legitimacy and sustain themselves at the forefront of important policy areas. To this end, we trace the development of what we argue to be a particularly useful case: the E3 directoire in the nuclear negotiations with Iran. The empirical results point to new insights into how directoires – and informal groups in general – can use different types of legitimation strategies to gain and maintain legitimacy. More specifically, the E3 implemented three successive legitimation strategies – detachment, co-optation and integration – using different types of legitimacy sources, in particular problem-solving, institutional adjustments and fostering institutional and policy congruence.

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