Public Perception, Parties and Policy
The effect of perception on the national gas policies of Hungary and Estonia towards Russia
This thesis contributes to the academic literature on energy relations between the EU and Russia, as it seeks to determine whether there is a relationship between member state’s perceptions of, and national energy policy towards, Russia. In answering this question, this thesis follows a case study research design, employing a co-variational analysis of Hungary and Estonia. The proposition that perception determines foreign policy stems from a combination of social-constructivism, which argues that identity shapes foreign policy, and image theory, which stresses that perception determines foreign policy. This thesis finds that there is a relation between perception and national energy policy towards Russia. Hungary has a more positive image of Russia both in public opinion as in political ideology, which has led to a policy of increasingly cooperating with Russia in energy relations. Estonia, on the other hand, has a more negative perception of Russia in public opinion and expert analyses, which regards Russia as an existential threat to Estonian national security. As a consequence, it appears to be pursuing an increasingly exclusionary national energy policy towards Russia.