The European Union as a Global Actor
24 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2009 Last revised: 1 Dec 2009
Date Written: October 7, 2009
There has been considerable debate surrounding the nature of the European Union’s international capacity. Early conceptions of the Union as a civilian – or non-military actor – dominated early thinking, characterising the Union as a new kind of international actor.1. Others2, meanwhile argued that this simply sought to make a virtue of weakness and that if the Union were ever to be taken seriously, then it would have to develop a full-spectrum military capacity. That debate, in a somewhat different form, continues today. The ‘civilian power’ thesis3 has evolved to one in which the Union continues to be posited as a new kind of international actor, but now as one which is somehow uniquely capable or uniquely configured as effective exporter of norms and values in the international system4. Others insist that only as the Union develops its nascent military capacity can it begin to shoulder real international responsibilities.5 Within this second debate exist more polemical positions on the adverse, or other, consequences of the ‘militarization’ of the Union’s international profile and transatlantic arguments surrounding a division of labour between the US and EU in delivering ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ security capacity. This paper will outline and critically engage these debates. It will conclude that while the Union remains a distinctive international actor, the trajectory of its development may suggest the pursuit of an ‘enlightened power’ model.
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