Portrait of Dr Eske Van Gils

Dr Eske Van Gils

Post-Doc Research Associate


Eske is a Post-Doctoral Researcher for the GCRF COMPASS project at the School of Politics and International Relations. Her research focuses on changing power dynamics between the EU and states in the post-Soviet region, looking at strategies of resistance and negotiation. She also examines issues of regime legitimacy in non-competitive regimes and the instrumentalisation of international relations in this regard. 

Eske is part of the Global Europe Centre at Kent. She completed her PhD research in 2016, with a thesis on bargaining power in relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan; and was a Lecturer in East European Politics at the School before commencing the Post Doc. In 2016, she was awarded the University of Kent Research Prize for Postgraduate research, and shortlisted for the Kent Union Teaching Awards.  

Research interests

  • European Union external policies and the Eastern Partnership 
  • Politics in the post-Soviet region, with particular attention for Azerbaijan 
  • Capacity-building in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan


Current convening and teaching:

  •  PO618 East European Politics 

Modules convened previously: 

  • PO618 East European Politics (2016-2017)
  • PO831 The  EU in the World (2015-2016 and 2016-2017)
  • PO566 Europe and the World (2016-2017) 





  • Van Gils, E. (2018). From ‘Unilateral’ to ‘Dialogical’: Determinants of EU–Azerbaijan Negotiations. Europe-Asia Studies [Online] 70:1572-1596. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/09668136.2018.1546828.
    The European Union (EU) and Azerbaijan have negotiated three different agreements for a new legal basis underpinning their relationship since 2010. Whereas the EU tries to adhere to a more unilateral approach, Azerbaijan wants cooperation to take place on a more inclusive, dialogical, basis. The essay will present a model of ‘bargaining power’ to analyse how the Azerbaijani government has tried to enforce this, and to what degree it has been successful. It finds that the bargaining power model can explain some of the changing power dynamics in EU–Azerbaijan relations, and that these might speak to the broader Eurasian region too.
  • Van Gils, E. (2018). Azerbaijan’s Foreign Policy Strategies and the European Union: Successful resistance and pursued influence. Europe-Asia Studies [Online] 70:738-758. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/09668136.2018.1479733.
    In recent years, Azerbaijan has positioned itself on the international scene as an increasingly important and assertive actor. This essay focuses on Azerbaijan’s relations with the European Union (EU). It will identify the policy strategies used by Azerbaijan to engage with the EU in two areas where their interests and objectives do not align, namely democracy and human rights promotion policies, and agenda-setting of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The essay highlights, first, the relevance of national independence, ‘balancing’ and regime legitimacy in explaining Azerbaijan’s foreign policy strategies, and second, the mixed track record of Azerbaijan’s assertiveness, with different outcomes depending on whether the policy strategies are reactive or proactive.
  • Van Gils, E. (2017). Differentiation through bargaining power in EU–Azerbaijan relations: Baku as a tough negotiator. East European Politics [Online] 33:388-405. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21599165.2017.1322957.
    Using the case of democracy and human rights promotion, this article examines the concept of “differentiation” in relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union (EU). Post-independence, Azerbaijan increasingly positions itself as a strong and influential actor, demanding more discretion from the EU, based on equal input and interest representation. This article argues that the EU approach remains too unilateral, causing the Azerbaijani government to resist and gain influence through different routes, including lobbying activities. The article concludes that EU policy-making mechanisms could become more differentiated to reflect the political reality of changing power dynamics between the EU and Azerbaijan.
  • Van Gils, E. and Yörük, E. (2015). The World Bank’s social assistance recommendations for developing and transition countries: Containment of political unrest and mobilisation of political support. Current Sociology [Online] 65:113-132. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0011392115617310.
    This article presents a political-sociological analysis of the World Bank’s social assistance programmes in developing and transition countries. It builds on the argument that political objectives have played a critical role for the Bank in shaping these policies, including the prevention and containment of social unrest as well as mobilization of popular support. The paper presents empirical evidence based on an analysis of 447 World Bank policy recommendation documents published between 1980 and 2013. It was found that, despite the Bank’s denial of having any political agenda, many WB documents explicitly refer to social assistance as a possible instrument for governments to contain social unrest and mobilize political support. Moreover, the World Bank’s political concerns have increased steadily over the last three decades. The findings support the argument that international institutions such as the WB do not solely consider the well-being of people as an end in itself but also as a means of achieving further political goals. This political dimension of social assistance programmes has consequences for the way policy recommendations should be interpreted by political and social actors in developing and transition countries.


  • Van Gils, E. (2019). Azerbaijan and the European Union. Routledge.
    This book provides a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of EU-Azerbaijan relations. It examines the current state of Azerbaijan and its regime, charts the development of EU-Azerbaijan relations over time and discusses the dynamics at work in the relationship. It details the nature of the Azerbaijani regime, including its authoritarian character and allegations of corruption, explores the differences between European values and the values of the Azerbaijani government, and explains the difficulties that have arisen in the relationship, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution process, media suppression and human rights violations. The book includes a comparison with EU relations with other states in the region.

Edited book

  • Korosteleva, E., Merheim-Eyre, I. and Van Gils, E. (2018). ‘The Politics’ and ‘The Political’ of the Eastern Partnership Initiative: Reshaping the Agenda. [Online]. Korosteleva, E., Merheim-Eyre, I. and Van Gils, E. eds. Routledge. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/The-Politics-and-The-Political-of-the-Eastern-Partnership-Initiative/Korosteleva-Merheim-Eyre-Van-Gils/p/book/9780815358985.
    Drawing on Edkins’ (1999) interpretation of ‘politics’ and ‘the political’, this article conceptually rethinks the Eastern Partnership agenda. Part of the problem, as this article argues, is the EU’s failure to imagine a new social order, which would give a relational value to the Other, and become more accommodating of their diverse and different world: and not by way of disciplining it to the EU purported standards, but rather by way of aligning differences to a mutually agreeable ‘normal’. The article thus problematises power relations as a process of ‘othering’, in order to re-conceptualise them via the key notions of differentiation conceived as distinction rather than deviation, and normalisation, seen as the interplay between different normalities. The article argues for bringing ‘the political’ (Edkins 1999) back in as an opportunity for debate and legitimation of contesting social orders.
Last updated