Rik Coolsaet

Senior Associate Fellow


Belgian foreign policy, terrorism, international relations


LATEST BOOK: Vergeet dat onze tijd zoveel complexer is dan alles wat ooit voorafging.
Geschiedenis van de wereld van morgen


Rik Coolsaet is Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Ghent University (Belgium) and Senior Associate Fellow at Egmont Institute.

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 the 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 by Van Halewyck, 2015, 6th rev., and partly in French by De Boeck, 2002). With Vincent Dujardin and the late Claude Roosens, he published in 2014 the history of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Les Affaires étrangères au service de l’Etat belge, de 1830 à nos jours (Mardaga) and, in Dutch, Buitenlandse Zaken in BelgiëGeschiedenis van een ministerie, zijn diplomaten en zijn consuls van 1830 tot vandaag (Lannoo). With Duco Hellema and Bart Stol, he authored an edited volume on the Dutch-Belgian bilateral relations since 1945 (Nederland-België. De Belgisch-Nederlandse betrekkingen vanaf 1940, Boom, 2011).

Since 2003, he has conducted research on terrorism and radicalization. He was a member of the original European Commission Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation (established 2006) and the subsequent European Network of Experts on Radicalisation (ENER). His Jihadi Terrorism and the Radicalisation Challenge. European and American Experiences (Ashgate, 2011) was included in the 2012 ‘Top 150 Books on Terrorism and Counterterrorism’ by Perspectives on Terrorism. His publications have focused on, inter alia, the impact of 9/11 on Europe, the push and pull factors behind the contemporary foreign fighters phenomenon, the origins and drawbacks of the concept of ‘radicalisation’, and the post-Daesh landscape. Some of this research was released by the Egmont Institute. His latest contributions have been published by Oxford University Press (2022) and Routledge (2023, forthcoming).

Finally, he has also written extensively on international relations, mostly in Dutch. His Macht en Waarden in de Wereldpolitiek (Power and Values in World Politics, Academia Press) provided until 2015 for a yearly overview of major trends in global politics. A 2008 publication, De geschiedenis van de wereld van morgen (A History of Tomorrow’s World, Van Halewyck) aimed at exploring the past in order to identify what the future could look like, both in global politics and our daily lives – no watertight barrier existing between both. His follow-up publication Vergeet dat onze tijd zoveel complexer is dan alles wat ooit voorafging (Tomorrow’s World Is Not That Much More Complex Than Yesterday’s World, Kritak 2021) again took stock of the consequences of the simultaneous emergence of a multipolar world order and of a middle-class society.