This chapter attempts to fill part of a gap in the literature by exploring the EU’s soft power in connection to the area of higher education and more specifically to the communities of alumni built around the Erasmus+ Programme. Its focus is on a ‘bottom up’ rather than the ‘top down’ view of the Strategic Partnerships (SP); and its underlying argument is about the persistence and even strengthening of the educational links and networks set against the stagnation and erosion of the SPs in the broader sense. For this reason, the chapter examines the life beyond summitry generated by the Erasmus+ Programme in the cases of Brazil and Russia, which are illustrative because since the outset their SPs with the EU included support for people-to-people connections based on academic exchanges with the goal of increasing mutual trust and understanding. This study’s conclusion points out the growing role of higher education in sustaining the EU’s relations with its strategic partners, especially those relations that have ended up ‘suspended’ and even ‘frozen’ at the highest political level as a result of a combination of exogenous and endogenous factors.

 

Ferreira-Pereira L.C., Mourato Pinto J. (2021) Soft Power in the European Union’s Strategic Partnership Diplomacy: The Erasmus Plus Programme. In: Ferreira-Pereira L.C., Smith M. (eds) The European Union’s Strategic Partnerships. The European Union in International Affairs. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-66061-1_4