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By Hartmut Mayer, Henri Vogt

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Extra info for A Responsible Europe?: Ethical Foundations of EU External Affairs (Palgrave studies in European Union Politics)

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It is equally rare that an institution clearly stands out as alone being capable of discharging a certain moral duty. There are usually many people on the beach, and there are (even more frequently) many institutions that could take care of a certain problem. One person, however, has to be found to wade into the water and it better be quick. By the same token, it is hoped that some means of identifying those (institutional) agents that are saliently related to the problem can be found and found quickly.

I have taken and adopted some of these features from O’Neill’s discussion of the institutional agency attributable to nation-states in O’Neill 1986, 62. I will later argue that some organisations may possess a much more robust institutional agency than nation-states. Erskine 2003, 6 & 15n19. O’Neill 1986, 66. In making this important point, I think O’Neill has predominantly informal institutions in mind. I concede that the dependence of individual agency on the existence of institutions as formal organisations (which is what we are concerned with here) is less obvious.

12 But what of the first objection mentioned above? Perhaps no such methodological or conceptual priority obtains but it may still be true that O’Neill’s 22 A Responsible Europe? reference above to already existing and formative institutional contexts for individual action is once again an indirect way of referring to what is in reality just the pre-established context of other individuals’ actions. What creates the semblance of the continued and independent identity of institutions is in fact merely a long sequence of individual actions.

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