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JAN ZIELONKA This article will analyse the EU’s efforts to spread its norms and extend its power in various parts of the world.1 It will argue that this effort is truly imperial in the sense that the EU tries to impose domestic constraints on other actors through various forms of economic and political domination, or even formal annexations.2 The effort has proved most successful in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood, where it has enormous political and economic leverage and where there is a strong and ever growing convergence of norms and values. However, in the global arena, where actors do not share European norms and the EU has limited power, the results are quite limited. Consequently, it is not only Europe’s ethical agenda that is in limbo; some basic social preferences across the EU also seem unsustainable. Can Europe maintain, let alone enhance, its environmental, labour or food safety norms without forcing global competitors to embrace them?3 As Harold James rightly argued, the imperial analogy offers a good way of describing the development of power on the basis of inequality and its use to handle cultural diversity.4 The imperial analogy also helps to conceptualize the EU’s evolving nature as an actor. Different actors apply power differently and have a different approach to ‘alien’ values. The article will analyse the unique ways in which the Union tries to handle power and norms in the international arena and will assess their efficacy. In conclusion I will argue that although the Union has a global economic reach it is not in a position to impose on other actors its preferred model of economic and political cooperation. The challenge the EU faces, therefore, is not only how
For definitions of power and norms, see David Baldwin, ‘Power analysis and world politics: new trends versus old tendencies’, World Politics 31: 2 (1979), pp. 161–94; Zaki Laïdi, La norme sans la force. L’énigme de la puissance européenne (Paris: Presses de Sciences Politiques, 2005), esp. pp. 49–54. Most scholars agree that these are the basic characteristics of empire, but disagree on other matters. For typologies of empires see e.g. S. N. Eisenstadt, Political systems of empires (New York: Free Press, 1963), pp. 10–12. See also Alexander J. Motyl, Imperial ends: the decay, collapse, and revival of empires (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), pp. 18–20; Herfried Münkler, Empires: the logic of world domination from ancient Rome to the United States (Cambridge: Polity, 2007), pp. 1–17. The concept of norm used here refers to a ‘freely accepted process of harmonization of actors’ preferences in order to advance common interests by strictly adhering to a certain number of rules’. A vast body of such norms is already agreed within the EU, but it is not shared by the EU’s global economic competitors such as the United States, Japan, China, Brazil or India. See Zaki Laïdi, ‘The normative empire: the unintended consequences of European power’, Garnet Policy Brief 6, Feb. 2008, p. 1. Harold James, The Roman predicament: how the rules of international order create the politics of empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), p. 4.
International Affairs 84: 3 (2008) 471–484
© 2008 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
see e. see Charlotte Bretherton and John Vogler. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs . 15 Nov. The European Union as a global actor. It usually refers to states whose central government is so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory. Iraq. Students of international organizations argue that some of these bodies are not just agents of member states. 2nd edn (London: Routledge. only a tiny minority of analysts would claim that typical Westphalian nation-states are the only influential actors in global affairs. The analysis of international politics (New York: Free Press. 2008 © 2008 The Author(s). there are different types of states. For an earlier effort to conceptualize what constitutes an international actor. international actors. 125–44. let alone the sole. Students of international political economy point out that some business firms are more important not only as economic but also as political actors than many of the existing states. the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). but they are not necessarily the principal. the annual Failed States Index published by Foreign Policy. Moreover. Afghanistan or the Democratic Republic of Congo. The term ‘failed states’ is a commonly used but highly contested concept. Even the United States has made major legal revisions to its trade and tax law to comply with WTO rulings. For a recent analysis of the EU’s nature as a global actor. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is often mentioned in this context. because the outside world looks ever less European. pp. some would add. the Union is not the only peculiar international actor. and Europe lacks a plausible strategy of projecting its norms.7 There are also so-called ‘virtual 5 6 7 David Miliband. This category should probably include not only dysfunctional states with extremely weak central governments. most recently in July–August 2007. However. 472 International Affairs 84: 3. Obviously not all of these actors can be called power centres.. in James N. See e. to use David Miliband’s expression.org. indeed primarily. but they are certainly engaged in global power politics in their own different ways. with particular reference to its dispute settlement mechanism. 12–36. ‘Europe 2030: model power not superpower’. 2007. Oran R. Consider for instance. The EU as an international actor Jacques Delors used to call the EU an ‘unidentified political object’. 5 This is a daunting task. Young. but also the European quasi-protectorates of Bosnia and Kosovo (and.g. www. 2006). So-called ‘failed states’ are hardly able to project power on their own. And we are also reminded that a growing number of transnational non-governmental organizations are able to shape the global agenda.labour.uk. accessed 1 April 2008. but independent and powerful actors. pp. how to export rules and norms for which there is limited demand among the existing and emerging global players. but also.Jan Zielonka to enhance its global power. speech delivered at the College of Europe. ‘The actors in world politics’. Rosenau et al. the Alliance for Climate Protection or Amnesty International to loosely organized movements such as No Global. and it is obviously difficult to comprehend the nature and behaviour of such an object. Bruges. in different manners and with different results. These range from highly institutionalized NGOs such as Greenpeace. States have not withered away. the power of Microsoft or even Gazprom. Europe should try to become a ‘model power’ rather than a ‘superpower’. even though they attract a lot of attention and resources. 1972). So we have a plethora of non-state actors trying to exert their influence in different fields.6 Today. such as Sudan.g. In other words.
As Richard Rosecrance pointed out. 2002). 2006). At the same time it is able to apply some of its own domestic laws outside its territory. few natural resources and tiny manufacturing production. but argue that it should become one. NJ: Princeton University Press. The United States may not be in a position to dictate international laws and agreements. accessed 1 April 2008. 2008 © 2008 The Author(s). See European Council. a power without identifiable purpose. pp. and shifting their economies to focus on providing sophisticated services.g. such as the United States. virtual states reshape productive and international relationships. The new imperialists (Oxford: Oneworld. The rise of the virtual state: wealth and power in the coming century (New York: Basic Books. For instance. there are currently more than 120 diplomatic missions of the Union (called EU delegations) all over the world and their number is growing. ranging from agriculture. 473 International Affairs 84: 3. administrative. They point to the EU’s ever expanding diplomatic service and its growing military capability.11 They talk about Europe’s mission in the world and discuss the ‘European security strategy’. 3–27. The Union has no effective monopoly over the legitimate means of coercion. Maier.10 They point to an ever stronger European government in charge of EU external borders and an ever growing list of functional fields. and it subjects other states and international institutions to its scrutiny. p. Belgium and the Netherlands. Hong Kong and Taiwan are usually viewed as belonging to this category. Such a strategy has indeed been adopted. Colossus: the price of America’s empire (New York: Penguin.8 At the other end of the spectrum there are huge territorial states with a global military. By investing in their people rather than amassing expensive production capacity. but it can ignore them or demand exceptions to them. The United States of Europe (London: Federal Trust.9 Some students talk about the European Union as if it were a state or a state in the making. a geopolitical entity without defined territorial 8 9 10 11 12 Richard Rosecrance.g. which also includes Switzerland. It is a polity without coherent demos. For other types of analogy see e. product design. all this is misleading. 2003). Colin Mooers. Bacevich. they usher in a world where education and human capital become more important than machines and physical capital. This is why it is seen as a new kind of empire and not just an ordinary state. migration and trade to foreign policy. The idea of a European superstate: public justification and European integration (Princeton. See also Guy Verhofstadt. by transferring the bulk of their home production overseas.Europe as a global actor: empire by example? states’: entities with small territories. economic and cultural reach. Its territory is not fixed. 2006). or Charles S. See e. because the EU is nothing like a state. MA: Harvard University Press. but with a high-level research. They inaugurate a world based on mastery of flows of production and purchasing power rather than on stocks of goods.int/comm/external_relations/delegations/ intro/. 2005). Niall Ferguson. They are anything but virtual.12 However. and they defy Westphalian characteristics. 137–228. anti-terrorism and defence.eu. Some commentators admit that the EU is not yet a state. Its geographical. It has no clearly defined centre of authority. American empire: the realities and consequences of US diplomacy (Cambridge. Singapore. nor is it likely to become one.g. It can impose its preferred norms on less technologically advanced societies and it can even invade other countries with impunity. The United States possesses a near-monopoly on the use of force internationally. esp. 1999). A secure Europe in a better world—European Security Strategy (Brussels: European Council. Among empires: American ascendancy and its predecessors (Cambridge. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs . Glyn Morgan. 12 Dec. financing and marketing capability. Andrew J.. See e. ed. See http://europa. economic and cultural borders diverge. 2006). 2004). MA: Harvard University Press.
either within the UN framework or via the OSCE. US business’. eds. It contributes to building police capacity in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. A16. Europe’s external trade relations are largely divorced from Europe’s foreign policy. Wall Street Journal. The article cites examples of EU efforts to cow large American firms such as Microsoft. The EU framework has become the most crucial centre for European foreign policy debates. p. 17 Jan. micro influence’. Sudan. Responsibility for external trade is shared or split between the European Commission. Nevertheless. Blesa Aledo and T. Council of Europe or NATO. Journal of European Public Policy 14: 6. Afghanistan. food and health protection. Iraq. and adopt over 100 joint statements. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs . In recent years the EU’s contribution to international peace and security has also intensified rapidly. Bosnia and Georgia. It is supporting policing elements of the African Union missions in Sudan and is also contributing to rule of law reform and border monitoring in Georgia. Los-Nowak. the EU is able to exercise significant influence in various parts of the world. a quarter of the world’s GNP and around 40 per cent of its merchandise exports. data privacy. also Richard G. it is a very powerful international actor. pp. communiqués and declarations. European foreign and security policies are often carried out by formal or informal coalitions of the willing. the euro area and the member states. the European Central Bank.16 13 14 15 16 See Christopher Hill. for instance. and frequently do so. reaching such different and often distant places as East Timor. and support the rule of law in Iraq and the reform of Palestinian civil police. and the civilian–military supporting action to AMIS II in Sudan. 827–46. Qualcomm and MasterCard with anti-trust laws. From civilian power to superpower? The international identity of the EU (London: Macmillan. The European Common Foreign and Security Policy is a misnomer because EU member states are allowed to act outside the EU framework. Today all EU member states try to speak and act ‘in the name of Europe’. Other frequently cited examples of European ‘regulatory imperialism’ include the Reach legislation on chemical products and the ban on the import of chlorine-rinsed poultry. even prompting accusations of ‘regulatory imperialism’. ‘Superstate or superpower? The future of the European Union in world politics’. EU regulations on financial markets. and a comprehensive array of economic. by contact groups or bilateral initiatives. European norms and regulations are progressively being adopted across the world.14 Consider. Congo. David Bach and Abraham Newman. 2007. The EU has launched civilian missions to monitor implementation of the peace process in Aceh in Indonesia. though the Union may not be a state. ‘Europe v. The missions currently in the field also include EUPOL in Afghanistan. where national policies meet and part. the EU border assistance mission to Moldova and Ukraine. 474 International Affairs 84: 3. 1998). 2003). S. See e. 2008. in P. The euro is now the world’s second most important international reserve and trade currency.g.Jan Zielonka limits. Narrowing the gap between east and west: a historical-political approach to current European challenges based on the Spanish and Polish cases (San Antonio and Wroclaw: Fundación Universitaria San Antonio. 2008 © 2008 The Author(s). diplomatic and military instruments at its disposal. Diplomats from EU countries meet about 100 times a year.13 With its 27 member states and their nearly 500 million inhabitants. There are also good reasons to take the European foreign policy project seriously. the Council of Ministers. if not through the Union itself. Lebanon. legal. giving substantial influence to the EU around the world.15 Europe is also the largest provider of developmental aid. the environment or criminal justice. which represents over 40 per cent of official aid internationally. support the stabilization process in the Democratic Republic of Congo. ‘The European regulatory state and global public policy: microinstitutions. In 2006 the EU paid out for this purpose over €2 billion. Whitman.
27. what is it? In my view. 2004). p.19 In the following two sections I shall first examine how the Union tries to shape its own unstable neighbourhood. The EU has a polycentric rather than centralized governance structure. persistence of socio-economic and cultural differentiation. If the Union is not a state. but on overcoming national borders. Consider. the mega-fine of $1.18 Soft powers shape institutions by setting agendas. The concept of soft power. the Union is not an empire like contemporary America or nineteenthcentury Britain. p. 31. Its territorial acquisitions take place by invitation rather than conquest. to gain access to the decision-making mechanisms of the European metropolis. and it tries to make other actors accept its norms and standards by applying economic incentives and punishments. See Ulrich Beck and Edgar Grande. The periphery is often able. 9–20. is based on diplomacy. 2008 © 2008 The Author(s). disjunction between authoritative allocations. The EU legitimizes its policies by claiming that its norms are right and that it promotes the most efficient model of economic and political integration. Financial Times. 17 18 19 I developed this argument in Jan Zielonka. Soft power: the means to success in world politics (New York: Public Affairs. and interpenetration of various types of political units and loyalties. economic and soft. 2008. The Union not only applies soft power of this kind. esp. Nye identifies three types of power: military.17 This kind of imperial politics is most pronounced in the periphery of Europe. That said. functional competencies and territorial constituencies. The EU’s ‘imperial’ instruments are chiefly economic and bureaucratic rather than military and political.4 billion imposed on Microsoft for failure to comply with European regulatory demands to end allegedly anti-competitive business practices. Nye. 2007). 2006). Of course. according to which the current European empire (unlike the empires of the nineteenth century) is not based on ‘national demarcation and conquest. bribes and even coercion. transnational interdependence and the political added value accruing from cooperation’. p. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs . 28 Feb. Legitimizing strategies of the Union do not follow the usual imperial motto of ‘might is right’. pp. Cosmopolitan Europe (Cambridge: Polity. 53. but merely constrained by the policy of EU conditional help and accession. the Union looks and acts like an empire because it tries to assert political and economic control over various peripheral actors through formal annexations or various forms of economic and political domination. as spelled out by Joseph S. and then look at the EU’s global agenda. 475 International Affairs 84: 3. They also rely on their normative power of attraction to spread values.Europe as a global actor: empire by example? This raises the question of what kind of power the EU really is. consensus. it would be wrong to identify the Union with soft power alone. ‘Brussels hits Microsoft with €899m antitrust fine’. See Nikki Tait and Kevin Allison. My concept of ‘neo-medieval’ empire is based on the following characteristics: soft borders in flux. Its sovereignty is not denied. but has also used economic power to further its objectives. Europe claims that its model of interstate cooperation has a universal character. Ulrich Beck and Edgar Grande developed a concept of ‘cosmopolitan empire’. voluntarism. Joseph S. for instance. Nye. including the instruments of sanctions. Europe as empire: the nature of the enlarged EU (Oxford: Oxford University Press. gradually. but one can also trace similar policy patterns towards more distant parts of the world.
at the end of the accession process they were offered access to the EU’s decision-making processes and resources. 2008 © 2008 The Author(s). even if most of them are not yet considered suitable candidates for EU membership.int/comm/external_relations/we/doc/cc06_03. The EU not only told the applicants what they should do—in terms of legislation or administrative reform—but also sent representatives to specific ministries to guide and monitor the required changes. the post-communist countries were not ‘conquered’ but invited to join the EU. the candidates’ compliance with EU instructions was often more apparent than real.21 The EU tries to make these countries look more like the Union itself. Nevertheless. European institutions and EU members are by far the largest donors to these countries. Moldova and Belarus. 476 International Affairs 84: 3. accessed 1 April 2008. but cheating is the essence of imperial relations characterized by structural asymmetries. Most of the laws and institutions in these countries are being set up and run under EU supervision. Tunisia. 2006). and they did so quite eagerly. and one wonders how much actual freedom the candidate countries could ever have had in the negotiating process leading up to accession. The case of the western Balkans might be extreme. Libya. liberalization of mutual exchanges and integration. it is gradual and conditional. http://europa. In fact. Morocco. Empire in denial: the politics of state-building (London: Pluto. EU officials frequently intervene in detailed economic and fiscal provisions. Syria. 11 March 2003. Egypt. ‘Wider Europe–neighbourhood’.20 Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina are de facto semi-protectorates governed by European officials under the formal auspices of the UN. eu. Of course. The EU’s imperial policies are also pronounced in the Balkan states. Lebanon. COM(2003) 104 final. Ukraine. True. In its essence enlargement was about asserting the EU’s political and economic control over the unstable and impoverished eastern part of the continent through a skilful use of political and economic conditionality. communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament. The more certain countries manage to become compatible with the Union. but the same pattern of how the EU deals with its poor and unstable neighbours is apparent everywhere—and in respect of such diverse territories as Algeria. the Palestinian occupied territories. They have their peacekeepers and police forces on the ground there. 18 June 2003. The process has a long timespan. See ‘Wider Europe—neighbourhood: a new framework for relations with our eastern and southern neighbours’. Moreover. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs . the discrepancy of power between the EU and the candidate states was enormous. See also Council conclusions. Neighbours are asked to adopt European laws and administrative solutions in exchange for aid. the Union has from the start made it clear that before entering the Union the candidate countries must adopt the entire body of European laws—an acquis communautaire containing some 20. Israel. Brussels.000 detailed laws and regulations. This is the essence of imperial 20 21 See David Chandler. The fact is that within empires the peripheral states operate under de facto (if not de jure) constrained sovereignty. the more they are integrated in various (but not all) functional fields.Jan Zielonka The EU’s regional agenda The imperial pattern is most pronounced when we look at the EU’s enlargement policy towards Central and Eastern Europe.pdf. Jordan.
2008 © 2008 The Author(s). but produces four times less oil. the Euro-Mediterranean agreement with Tunisia envisages general approximation of Tunisia’s legislation to that of the EU. but it does fear a dramatic rise in inward migration as a result of war or poverty in the neighbourhood. See Euro-Mediterranean agreement with Tunisia: http://europa. ‘Wider Europe—neighbourhood: a new framework’. it is an imperial politics of a peculiar type. in particular the introduction of value added tax (VAT). One of the objectives was to create and maintain efficient and effective customs controls and to support reform of the taxation system. The Union subsequently spelled out an elaborate procedure of monitoring. ‘Wider Europe—neighbourhood’. goods. but creation of ‘a zone of prosperity and a friendly neighbourhood’. accessed 1 April 2008. 23. cross-border cultural links. See also Gerhard Knaus and Felix Martin. The EU does not fear a military invasion of its territory. ‘Travails of the European Raj’.22 In other cases the EU tries to apply a less detailed. The application of political leverage by the EU has time and again proved most efficient when backed by a skilful application of economic sticks and carrots. Sometimes it takes the form of a very detailed economic engagement. Journal of Democracy 14: 3.eu/eur-lex/pri/en/oj/dat/1998/l_097/ l_09719980330en00020174. metrology. 60–74. 2003. 477 International Affairs 84: 3. The EU-25 consumes about twice as much energy as its neighbours. The Union also fears a possible energy crisis caused by instability in some of its new neighbours. potential instability outside the EU’s borders is likely to have primarily economic rather than security implications for the EU. It also contains provisions regarding respect for human rights and democratic principles. Most of the world’s oil production takes place in countries which are directly contiguous with the EU’s neighbours. pp. It is hoped that a 22 23 24 25 As reported by the Financial Times. However.23 For example.Europe as a global actor: empire by example? politics. Council conclusions. and joint tackling of security and environmental threats. For instance. ‘Wider Europe—neighbourhood: a new framework’. See n. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs . goods and administrative practices. more nebulous programme of exporting European modes of governance. interconnected transport.25 The proposed means of action to achieve this end are not limited to trade but include building a common infrastructure. July 2003. 11 Nov. services and capital (four freedoms)’. quality control and conformity assessment. The scope and nature of EU intervention varies from case to case. evaluating and conditioning these reforms and created a ‘Bulldozer Committee’ to push through simplification of tax codes and boost public revenues through VAT. in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina the EU envisaged a detailed package of 18 major reforms to be implemented in this country.24 The EU’s aim is not separation from or containment of troublesome neighbours. Georgia and the Balkans. The EU’s most powerful instruments of pressure are in the field of economics.pdf. the tools used in Europe’s neighbourhood are chiefly economic. with EU influence wielded principally through the export of laws. joint border management. in my view. as well as the use of Community rules in standardization. This is not surprising. energy and telecommunications networks. Moreover. Neighbouring states are asked to ‘approximate their legislation to that of the Internal Market’ and in exchange are offered ‘further integration and liberalization to promote the free movement of persons. Although some European military forces have been dispatched to Lebanon.
transport. and it remains to be seen whether the EU would be able to maintain its influence over the course of events in Turkey were the prospect of EU membership to fade away.100. The strategy is to bring the neighbours as close to the Union as they can be without being members. ‘East European value systems in global perspective’. health and labour. environmental and consumer protection. Dieter Fuchs and Jan Zielonka. This strategy works on the assumption that the EU acquis offers a universal model for the establishment of functioning markets and common standards for industrial products. pp. the EU’s neighbours to the south and east are very poor. Romania is an EU member and its GDP per capita in 2006 was estimated at $9. While the elites and the public in Central and Eastern Europe have overwhelmingly embraced democracy and the liberal market economy over the last two decades. However. 2005.060 GNP per capita or Tunisia with its $1. Turkey is likely to be the first major test case. See e. 2006). Following the 1999 decision to consider Turkey as an official candidate for EU membership. In 2001 an accession partnership was signed and in 2004 the EU engaged in formal accession negotiations. the same cannot be said of their counterparts in North Africa or Eastern Europe. The EU’s global agenda The EU has primarily been an experiment in regional integration. ‘Europeanization in Turkey: trigger or anchor for reform?’. In a world that is ‘flat’ it is difficult to confine policies to a certain 26 27 See Ronald Inglehart. regulatory and trading framework ‘exported’ by the EU will enhance economic stability and institutionalize the rule of law in Europe’s periphery. it is not evident that the EU would be able effectively to shape an equivalent transition in these neighbours without offering a credible prospect of EU membership. This is partly because of the pressures of global interdependence. energy and telecommunications networks. in Hans-Dieter Klingemann. pp. and has offered Turkey substantial economic aid. some of them concerning the most sensitive religious issues. 73–83. it is increasingly apparent that the value system of some of the current EU’s neighbours is strikingly different from the Union’s. Today. However. services. Algeria with its $2.g. in the early 1990s most of the current EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe were poorer than some of the countries in the Maghreb: for instance. Nathalie Tocci. the country has undertaken many important reforms to meet EU demands. South European Society and Politics 10:1. and not necessarily prone to adjustment through economic and institutional means. in recent months Turkey’s admission to EU membership has increasingly been questioned by leading politicians in several member states. but this need not be a problem. But this seems no longer to be the case. Of course. 67–84.27 The EU has been closely monitoring and advising on these reform efforts. 2008 © 2008 The Author(s). and the EU’s external policy developed essentially as a by-product of its internal dynamics.26 Moreover.420 looked much better than Romania. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs . After all. 478 International Affairs 84: 3. Democracy and political culture in Eastern Europe (London: Routledge.Jan Zielonka political. eds. where the corresponding figure was just $610.
the EU is already one of the most influential regulators in the world. speech delivered at George Bush Presidential Library Foundation and Texas A&M University EU Center of Excellence. The EU and the United States together produce around 80 per cent of international norms and standards that regulate global markets. Trade leverage also allows the Union to shape the multilateral agenda in this field—and it is a broad field.31 For instance. which represents the largest part of the EU’s GDP.32 28 29 30 31 32 According to the EU’s Commissioner for External Affairs. 2004. 902–21. 2008 © 2008 The Author(s). This is most visible in the field of trade and trade regulation. Benita Ferrero-Waldner. 25 Sept. government procurement. ‘The EU and the new trade politics’. health. banking. The Union already tries hard to apply its impressive economic leverage to shape other countries’ policies in various fields. Texas. As enlargement policy has fallen out of favour among large segments of the electorate. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs . See ‘Europe in the world’. p.30 For instance. in André Sapir. June 2006. 2438. ed. and the GSM standard is used for mobile communications. College Station. All these policies could indeed be called imperial because they are aimed at imposing constraints on the domestic conditions and operations of sovereign states (and other actors). including the dollar and the euro. See Alaisdair R. It is also the world’s largest importer of commercial services and second only to the United States as an importer of goods. p. and this has given it a clear boost of confidence. Journal of European Public Policy 13: 6. Young and John Peterson. The EU is both the world’s largest merchandise exporter and its largest services exporter.29 It is therefore able to use access to its market in order to obtain not only economic but also political concessions from its commercial partners. the EU has inserted clauses on democracy into its bilateral and multilateral trade agreements with Latin American and North African countries. trade facilities and other related matters. 2006. ‘70% of EU citizens want the EU to play a stronger role in the world’: see Benito Ferrero-Waldner. China has already applied EU regulations to its motor industry and in food safety. In fact. including trade not only in goods but also in services. 2007). Moreover. competition. ‘Europe and the global economy’. 795–6. ‘The European Union as a conflicted trade power’. 12. if not a kind of raison d’état. accounting. the global project has also given Europe’s elites a new mission. 479 International Affairs 84: 3. June 2006.Europe as a global actor: empire by example? territory only.. the ever larger EU has discovered its growing impact on various parts of the world. 3. See Sophie Meunier and Kalypso Nicolaidis. cordless phones and technologies that are delivering broadband internet access to tens of millions of customers globally. Journal of European Public Policy 13: 6. pp. Brussels. And it increasingly engages in peacekeeping operations outside Europe. DG External Relations. 59. ‘The European Union: a global power?’. accounting for over a quarter of world trade in each sector. ‘Taking Europe to the world: 50 years of the European Commission’s external service’. 2006. pp. as well as investment. Brussels. communication from the Commission to the European Council.28 The question is: Will this lead to an imperial EU policy in the global context? There are certainly grounds for an affirmative answer to this question. personal security and even ideologies are being influenced by developments in different and often remote places. 2006. p. Europe’s pensions. It also tries to promote its norms and values across the globe. This shift is encouraged by public opinion polls indicating support for the EU’s greater role in the world. Fragmented power: Europe and the global economy (Brussels: Bruegel. See André Sapir. document no. See also European Commission.
the Council. article 1-3) that the EU ‘shall contribute to peace. Brussels. The United States has vast regulatory experience. However. free and fair trade.33 The EU also champions the cause of international law and multilateral cooperation. Even in the areas where the EU and US share a common normative agenda. for example democracy or human rights. which by their nature are always intergovernmental. the EU tries to promote this agenda in a different. Its norms are often viewed and presented as alternatives to those promoted by another global norm-setter. 2007. while EU norms and regulations may well benefit targeted global actors. security. as well as to the strict observance and the development of international law. more benign manner. Some regulations on environment or food safety may appear to be mere technicalities. This is most vividly apparent in the EU’s opposition to the death penalty or its support of the rights of the child (the United States having failed to ratify the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child). implications for the targeted countries. communication from the Commission to the European Parliament. This activity represents another typical imperial agenda: promotion of the imperial centre’s norms and values in various peripheral actors. free and fair trade. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs . COM(2007) 581 final. 480 International Affairs 84: 3. See also Ian Manners. EU regulatory regimes also subject these actors to extraterritorial scrutiny and arbitration. or the Microsoft case mentioned above. EU officials openly declare that the aim of their global policy is ‘promoting the European interest’ and ‘making the EU a dynamic. 235–58. but their adoption often has major economic. eradication of poverty and protection of human rights. 2008 © 2008 The Author(s). 2006). The EU. See Justin Vaïsse. 3 Oct.35 The EU possesses unique know-how in setting up regulatory standards which gives it a clear edge over competitors. competitive. but also about orchestrating the fall of Milosevic’s regime there. Consider. ‘Normative power Europe: a contradiction in terms?’. including for the principles of the United Nations Charter’. supports the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and the International Criminal Court.34 However. 6. Journal of Common Market Studies 40: 2. the sustainable development of the Earth. 2002. the EU also uses trade to meet its foreign policy objectives. And. the Europeans have never attempted to promote democracy and human rights by orchestrating regime change in any country. pp. as noted above. for instance. the world’s new great economic powers in Asia may have impressive growth rates. Chaillot Papers 95 (Paris: EU Institute for Security Studies. if not political. but they have little regulatory experience. Etats-Unis: le temps de la diplomatie transformationnelle. they are at root designed to protect and promote EU interests. environmental protection. knowledge based society’. in particular the rights of the child. as envisaged in the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs. it can be argued that the European intervention in Serbia was not only about protecting Kosovars. but its norms are specific to its own particular environment and so less exportable than EU norms. For instance. unlike the Americans. 33 34 35 The EU Treaty states (title I. but also on labour standards. the United States. For instance. In fact. pp. 2. unlike the US.Jan Zielonka Various regulatory regimes advocated by the EU dictate to domestic actors across the world what they can or cannot produce if they want to export to the EU. ‘The European interest: succeeding in the age of globalization’. eradication of poverty and sustainable development. solidarity and mutual respect among peoples. the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. The EU is trying to promote its norms not only in the areas of democracy and human rights. the European Court decision effectively to prohibit the merger of two US companies (General Motors and Honeywell Bull).
And it is clear that citizens in all parts of Europe are reluctant to reduce their levels of social protection or compromise their environmental standards. Those preferences might not be identical across all EU member states.36 This is partly because the Chinese authorities have presided over nearly double-digit annual growth for a generation. 481 International Affairs 84: 3. pp. this has advantageous results for European companies because they do not need to undertake any costly adjustments. See Jeffrey Kopstein and Sven Steinmo. but there is no significant evidence that it is prepared to change its economic policy under EU pressure. There is even less evidence that the Chinese authorities are willing to embrace Europe’s normative agenda. After all. Contemporary Chinese views on Europe (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs.g. rather than the influence working in the other direction. Growing apart? America and Europe in the twenty-first century (New York: Cambridge University Press. American regulatory frameworks. investment. if other actors in the world adopt European rather than. 12–15. transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation. it looks as if numerous global actors are increasingly able to shape Europe’s normative agenda.37 In fact. especially when it comes to issues such as political rights or the death penalty. say. In its regulatory effort. 2008). human rights and sustainable development reduces the likelihood of external shocks. the Union is not just trying to enhance the competitive position of European firms. And it is debatable whether the EU has sufficient leverage to constrain the sovereignty of other important global players effectively. it is not only empires that use their comparative advantages to influence other actors. And there is general agreement among Europe’s elites that promoting democracy. The opposition of 20 developing countries led by India and Brazil has made it impossible for Europe to include the so-called ‘Singapore issues’— above all. but they are distinct from other regions nevertheless. It is not only the ever more powerful China that is able to frustrate Europe’s global policies. The Union’s external policies reflect these preferences. China may have embraced elements of the EU’s regulatory framework. Karine Lisbonne-de Vergeron. At the same time. has argued in the European Parliament: 36 37 See e. 2008 © 2008 The Author(s). and it actively promotes its own model of regional integration in Latin America and East Asia. it is also trying to defend the set of European social preferences.Europe as a global actor: empire by example? Moreover. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs . but partly also because they do not share Europe’s values. the EU itself is probably the most advanced example of this kind. The EU also has unique experience in setting up and running multilateral institutional arrangements which it can use to its own advantage. As the French President. However. compliance with EU norms is also an intra-European problem). This is most visible in the case of China. core labour standards and respect for environmental standards in trade relations—on the multilateral trade agenda. 2007). European interests are undermined if global competitors are free to profit from less rigid labour or environmental standards (of course.g. a code name for corruption. e. Nicolas Sarkozy.) And it is important to keep in mind that the United States is also Europe’s global competitor in many fields. Local wars and economic breakdowns have proved to be very costly to Europe by causing mass migration. disturbing energy supplies and spreading infectious diseases. (These issues also involve defining the rules of competition.
We do not know what kind of combination of power and norms best serves the EU’s ends. and these were largely provided by American military power. So far. it is also unclear whether the economic leverage would have produced the desired transformation without a promise of EU membership. EU efforts to foster greater convergence in these fields have been seen as a means of protecting Western Europe’s selfish interests and of blunting the newcomers’ own competitive edge. and not merely economic. this sounds quite obvious. As the Czech President. we do not even know which powers and norms are most decisive in explaining its successes and failures. Europe’s normative agenda in the environmental field may have to be given up or at least watered down because of competition from other countries that makes this agenda unsustainable for Europe’s economy. but this does not amount to a successful extension of Europe’s continental empire onto a global stage. it has problems implementing its policy agenda. 2002). with unsustainable 38 39 Speech delivered by the President of the Republic to the European Parliament. Liberal democracy and economics have been embraced eagerly throughout the region. 2008 © 2008 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs . The EU enlargement process is basically about exercising political. The EU simply lacks the power to impose its global agenda on key actors in various parts of the world. when the Union’s power is limited and its norms are not shared. as was the case in Central and Eastern Europe. Vàclav Klaus put it: ‘The claims for quasi-universal social rights are disguised … attempts to protect high-cost producers in highly regulated countries. Application of power and norms The EU’s imperial policy seems most effective when its power is overwhelming and its norms are shared. By a skilful application of its economic leverage and institutional know-how it can shape the policies of these actors at the margins. labour standards or social welfare. Strasbourg. In fact. 482 International Affairs 84: 3. The paradox of American power (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Likewise.39 In Central and Eastern Europe the EU’s economic leverage was certainly of enormous importance. it is generally accepted that the EU would not have been able to orchestrate changes in the region without a certain degree of security and stability there. It is even more difficult to assess the EU’s normative appeal in Central and Eastern Europe. Most of these countries’ trade and foreign direct investment came from the EU.Jan Zielonka ‘Europe wishes to set an example in the fight against climate change but Europe cannot accept unfair competition from countries that impose no environmental constraints on their companies. let alone practising imperial politics. But this did not imply eagerness to adopt EU norms on protecting the environment. However. 13 Nov. labour standards or financial services. This has been analysed particularly well in the American context in Joseph S. The same can be said about Europe’s agenda in the field of energy regulation.’38 In other words. power. As mentioned above. Nye Jr. with no appetite for experimentation. and the average per capita GDP of countries aspiring to join the Union was less than 15 per cent of that of the EU-15. but here clarity ends. 2007.
Although the Union now has a so-called European Security and Defence Policy. Advocates of the latter approach would like to shape policies of global competitors by example and persuasion. if ever. 21 Nov. and providing economic incentives for adopting these norms. The former approach would imply the creation of a strong European centre able to impose economic pain on uncooperative actors. but also on its ability to gain economic advantage in 40 41 Vàclav Klaus. Jan. 2004. even if this imposes on them significant domestic constraints. This policy is largely about exporting its own model of governance to other countries. even though the European Commission has been in charge of them. They point to the fact that for the past several years the EU has failed to make any significant progress in multilateral trade negotiations. centralization of EU decision-making is not necessarily helpful. Compromising on its normative agenda in the field of environment. See also Janusz Lewandowski. See R. and failure to export the same standards to other countries puts European firms at a comparative economic disadvantage. The power centre approach advocates setting up a tax mechanism for products from areas having low environmental standards. The success of the latter approach would depend not only on Europe’s normative attraction. 2007. 113. p. against cheaper labor in more productive countries. 42. 1997). But in the field of economics the Union is likely to remain a formidable economic actor. Put differently. The latter would imply showing other actors that European norms can also work for them. p. Despite all these uncertainties.Europe as a global actor: empire by example? welfare standards. ‘Skonczmy ze sztuka samoizolacji’. In their view. The question then arises: How is this to be done? The choice is between an assertive and a benign policy approach. capable of shaping global trade and finance.41 The model power approach advocates setting unilateral targets. Gazeta Wyborcza. the Union has little choice but to rely chiefly on its economic power and to promote globally norms that are already adopted within the Union itself. Advocates of the former approach would like to see the European Commission in charge not only of trade but also of other aspects of Europe’s external economic policy. 2008 © 2008 The Author(s). with the offer to go further if others do the same. Moreover. ‘Border tax adjustments: a feasible way to address nonparticipation in emission trading’. In their view. they argue that punitive measures applied to competitors often amount to protectionism that seeks to stave off globalization rather than manage it. the Union has no option but to try to influence the rules of international governance by the use of its economic power. The European public is very keen to maintain its current standards of life. labour standards and social welfare is not an option. Europe can try to act either as a superpower or as a power model. 483 International Affairs 84: 3. Ismer and Karsten Neuhoff. work and health.’40 Many Chinese. Renaissance: the rebirth of liberty in the heart of Europe (Washington DC: Cato Institute. In summary. They are also in favour of the application of various punitive measures to countries that do not follow EU norms. it is unlikely to acquire any significant military capabilities for a long time. partly for political and partly for economic reasons. a fragmented power such as the current EU is unable effectively to shape the policies of global competitors. Environmental policy is a good example of ground where the two approaches clearly clash. Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0409. Indian and Brazilian politicians would agree with this statement. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs .
However. Conclusions: Europe as empire For many years academics and commentators have debated the question whether the EU is a kind of state and will act accordingly in international affairs. procedures and rules that lead to empowerment of other actors. ‘Dimensionen eines Imperiums’. This is clearly an imperial politics. 2003). ‘Power and the battle for hearts and minds: on the bluntness of soft power’.45 This shift in discourse reflects changes in our thinking about the ways in which power and norms can be applied and disseminated. Die Welt. p. Great empires. even though it is carried out chiefly by economic means and even though the export products are norms and not soldiers. small nations (London: Routledge. however peculiar. The end of history and the last man (New York: Free Press. See the article by Harold James in this special issue: ‘Globalization. See Steven Lukes. See Zaki Laïdi. 42 43 44 45 46 47 See e.46 Its exercise of power should not be chiefly about indoctrination and subjugation. Power in world politics (London: Routledge. 421–36. in Felix Berenskoetter and M. Today more and more of them recognize that the Union is not a state. Williams. which effectively means imposing domestic constraints on them.44 Today it is widely acknowledged that the embrace of liberal norms and values is uneven around the world. 17 Oct. 484 International Affairs 84: 3. and whether it is appropriate to declare the end of history. 97. José Manuel Barroso.43 Academics and commentators have also debated whether the world has embraced core European (or western) values. The reception of Europe: EU preferences in a globalized world (London: Routledge. however weak. efforts to impose European norms where there is little demand for them seems to me futile. 3. 2007). Robert Cooper. Colomer. and that Europe has no choice but to come to terms with the non-European parts of that world. 2007).. especially considering power constraints.Jan Zielonka environmental innovation. May 2008. To be successful in the presentday world the EU needs to export its governance to other countries. I therefore agree with those who would like the EU to conduct its imperial politics through example. 1992). even if this requires certain adjustments of our normative agenda. See Francis Fukuyama. in Zaki Laïdi. 2008 © 2008 The Author(s). especially in the economic field. pp. forthcoming 2008).g. The breaking of nations (London: Atlantic. interview with José Manuel Barroso.47 Only then can Europe’s exercise of power be seen as legitimate. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs . empire and natural law’. recently argued that the EU has the dimensions (but not the structure) of an empire. eds.42 Even the President of the European Commission. ‘European preferences and their reception’. International Affairs 84: 3. p. The success of the former approach would depend on Europe’s ability to continue its trade-led growth regardless of the environmental tax system. The degree of the EU’s assertiveness may differ depending on its self-confidence and how it is received externally. ed. but rather a kind of empire. Josep M. Instead it should be about promotion of policies. Some observers even argue that the world is becoming ever less European. J. 2007. The EU should engage in a dialogue that will help it to establish commonly shared rules of morality and global governance. Only then can the empire by example have a practical rather then merely rhetorical significance.
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