Rik Coolsaet

Senior Associate Fellow


Belgian foreign policy, terrorism, international relations


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Rik Coolsaet is Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Ghent University (Belgium) and Senior Associate Fellow at Egmont Institute. He was appointed a member of the original European Commission Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation (established 2006) and the subsequent European Network of Experts on Radicalisation (ENER).

He was chair of the Department of Political Science at Ghent University from 2006 to 2014. He served as Director of the ‘Security & Global Governance’ Programme at Egmont Institute. In the 1980s and 1990s, he held several high-ranking official positions, such as deputy chief of the Cabinet of the Belgian Minister of Defence and deputy chief of the Cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

His areas of expertise are international relations, diplomacy and Belgian foreign policy, and terrorism and radicalisation. He published the first comprehensive study on the history of Belgian foreign policy since the creation of the kingdom in 1830 (Belgium and its foreign policy, in Dutch and partly in French). The latest revised edition, released in September 2014, pursues this history until 2014 (in Dutch only, published by Van Halewyck). Two other major studies on Belgian foreign policy deal with Dutch-Belgian bilateral relations since 1945 (Nederland-België. De Belgisch-Nederlandse betrekkingen vanaf 1940, Boom, 2011, with Duco Hellema and Bart Stol) and with the history of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Les Affaires étrangères au service de l’Etat belge, de 1830 à nos jours (Mardaga, 2014) and, in Dutch, Buitenlandse Zaken in België. Geschiedenis van een ministerie, zijn diplomaten en zijn consuls van 1830 tot vandaag (Lannoo, 2014), with Vincent Dujardin and Claude Roosens.

Four successive studies on radicalisation and the so-called ISIS generation have all been published by Egmont: Returnees – Who are they, why are they (not) coming back and how should we deal with them ? Assessing policies on returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands (with Thomas Renard, February 2018); Anticipating the post-Daesh landscape (October 2017); ‘All Radicalisation is Local’. The genesis and drawbacks of an elusive concept (June 2016); Assessing the fourth foreign fighters wave. What drives Europeans to Syria, and to Islamic State? Insights from the Belgian case (March 2016).

His latest contribution on this issue (Radicalisation – The origins and limits of a contested concept) was included in an edited volume by Nadia Fadil, Martijn de Koning and Francesco Ragazzi, Radicalisation in Belgium and the Netherlands: Critical Perspectives on Violence and Security (London, I.B.Tauris, 2019).