The European Union: What kind of international actor?

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The contested nature of the EU‟s role, status and impact as an international actor is clearly demonstrated in the literature. From this three broad categories of analysis emerge: realist, civilian power and normative power. This article offers an analysis of each of these, rejecting the realist critique as too narrow and state-centric, and arguing that an approach based purely on an examination of the EU‟s capabilities is insufficient when seeking to explain its international actorness. Instead, it contends that the most appropriate basis for analysis is through a framework that draws on both the civilian and normative power approaches. These encapsulate both where power exists within the EU in terms of policy-making and policy instruments, and how it sets out to exercise this power in practice. To illustrate this, the article examines two important but contrasting areas of foreign policy activity: economics, with a focus on regulatory and competition policy, and security. These demonstrate that the EU has much greater scope to act, and a clearer international identity, in those policy areas where internal integration is more advanced, but that even where not, the EU is still capable of significant if smaller-scale international interventions. It therefore argues that new, alternative approaches to analysis of the EU‟s international actorness are necessary that move beyond the state-centric paradigms that currently predominate.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)8-32
    Number of pages17
    JournalPolitical Perspectives
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • EU actorness
    • EU security
    • CFSP
    • Civilian Power Europe
    • Normative Power Europe

    Cite this