N° 39, 2013/1 – The European Union and the New Balance of Power


edited by Antoine Mégie, Frédéric Mérand, 2013/1 (n°39)


Special Report


Antoine Mégie, Frédéric Mérand – The European Union and the New Balance of Power


Tuomas Forsberg – The power of the European Union. What explains the EU’s (lack of) influence on Russia?

There is much disagreement and confusion as to how much power the European Union actually has in international politics, whether it is increasing or onthe wane, and how the EU can best use what power it has. Although no single analytical framework suffices for understanding power in international politics, it is important to be able to understand what difference alternative theories of power make. First, power can be seen in terms of its sources: military, economic and normative. Second, it can be conceived in terms of resources, perceptions, and intersubjective understandings. Third, in addition to resources, effective power also depends on strategy and will to use power. Fourth, the assumption that the more powerful party is always able to impose its will might be mistaken. Because power depends on context, there are many instances where it is unreasonable to expect that the EU could influence Russia, regardless of the formers resources or strategic skill. This article compares these four basic ways to understand power and applies them to EU Russia relations. I argue that explaining the success or failure of the EU to advance its interests concerning Russia has little to do with the traditional understanding of power as military capability. On the contrary, much more attention should be paid to the other dimensions of power.


Catherine Gegout – The Withdrawal of Europe and the Rise of China in Africa: Evaluating the Relevance of Realism, Liberalism, and Constructivism. An Evaluation of Realist, Liberal, and Constructivist Approaches

Both China and the European Union and its Member States are economic and security actors in Africa. China’s trade with Africa gained importance in the early 2000s. In the security field, China started taking part in United Nations peacekeeping missions in the region in the late 1980s. For their part, European states have a history of presence on the African continent, and the EU began to deploy troops there in 2003. Despite similar interests, there is hardly any cooperation between European actors and China in Africa. This paper shows that although European and Chinese actors differ in their policies when addressing security and political issues in Africa, they have increasingly similar economic policies. Realist and liberal approaches seem more appropriate than the constructivist approach if we are to understand European and Chinese foreign policies toward the African continent.


Elena Aoun – The European Union in the Mediterranean: Discarded Norms and Retreating Power? Orphaned Norms and Retreating Power

The dramatic events that started unfolding in the Mediterranean region since 2011 revealed how volatile it remains in spite of 40 years of European structural foreign policy. Though it is much too early to fully grasp the mid- and long-term consequences of the Arab Spring, it is almost certain that this chain of events will have a deep impact on the sociopolitical reconfigurations of North African and Middle Eastern countries and on regional power equations, thus creating the need for external actors to adapt. This is all the more true for the European Union because of geographic proximity, migration realities, and economic, political, and social challenges as well as the close relationships that emerged out of Euro-Mediterranean policies. In line with the concept of normative power, this paper attempts to identify some of the factors that might substantially contribute to the future reconfiguration of Euro-Mediterranean relations. After surveying the various dimensions of European foreign policy since the 1970s, the paper focuses on post–Arab Spring reorientations, trying to substantiate the claim that being limited by both an institutional and a conceptual path dependency that perpetuates the contradictions of the EU’s normative power posture, these reorientations seem to portend a weakening of the Union’s performative potential and a reduction in its standing in the future balance of power in the Mediterranean.


Sebastian Santander – The EU, Inter-Regionalism, and Rising Powers. The Case of the EU-Brazil Partnership

The European Union now seeks to bind rising powers through strategic partnerships. Yet it has long privileged relations with regional blocs rather than individual relations with specific countries, as has been the case in its relations with Latin America, where the EU has payed special attention to relations with Mercosur. However, it recently established a direct and regular channel with Brazil through a strategic partnership. The paper analyzes the reasons for this partnership, the interests at stake, and the way in which relations between the EU and Mercosur are articulated with this new associative agreement as well as the obstacles it is facing. Our findings show that the European approach to rising powers is aimed not only at conquering new markets for European business but also at increasing the visibility and recognition of the EU as an international actor and demonstrating its ability to be a player in a state-centric world. In so doing, the EU is reversing its strategic logic, moving from a strategy based on the idea of a normative actor that promotes international regionalism and interregional relations to a Realpolitik approach that, rather than taming and multilateralizing the international actions of the BRICS, enhances the power of these states.


Niels Lachmann – Rivalry, Community, or Strained Partnership? Relations between the European Union and the United States

With the United States now considering the Asia-Pacific region as the futurestrategic zone of interest, the European Union appears liable to vanish from the picture. This slide into irrelevance, however, presupposes that the EU will not become a significant rival to the US in a multipolar world. It also assumes that the EU is no longer an indispensable partner for the US in dealing with international issues. Yet rivalry and partnership, which more or less correspond to the conceptual approaches of “soft balancing and “security community”, are still widely used to describe the EU-US relationship. This contribution asks whether and to what extent these two opposing approaches are relevant. While the security community approach corresponds to current EU-US relations more than the idea of the EU acting as a soft balancing rival to the US, important tensions and contradictions are apparent in the partnership. This leads to the conclusion that the EU and the US being partners does not prevent a challenge to the former’s ties with the latter.


Reuben Wong – The Issue of Identity in the EU-China Relationship. Les enjeux de l’identité dans les relations UE-Chine

This paper argues that rather than trade competition, ideology, civilizational differences, or changes in the international balance of power, the root of frequentswings between cooperation and conflict in the EU-China relationship lies in their ever-changing identities. As its role expands in the international system, China is forced to re-evaluate its identity and preferences, choosing to selectively remember or forget symbols and representations of the past and present. Transitioning from a developing country to an important member of the international system, its self-image has undergone a dramatic revolution. The EU meanwhile, has expanded from an EC-9 of similar Western democracies in 1973 to an EU-27 of diverse countries by 2007. Its attempt to develop a distinctive European presence in world affairs that of ‘normative power Europe; set it on a course of collision with China. These changes in identity have important consequences for actions and foreign policy interactions. We can thus expect China-EU relations to develop in the context of the ongoing redefinition of their identities and roles in the evolving international order. Both China and the EU will likely continue to respond to each other according to the needs and demands of their respective populations, and to the external expectations placed on them as important players in global politics, diplomacy, economics, trade, finance and security.


Areas of Research


Josua Gräbener – Europe and Equal Representation. Discriminatory Uses of the European Social Fund by Organizations and Joint Funds for Continuing Education in France and Italy


Comparative Readings


Franck Petiteville – European Foreign Policy: Between Empirical Research, Theorization, and an Attempt to Provide an Interpretation