Global Justice and Foreign Policy: The Case of the European Union

27 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2017 Last revised: 22 Jun 2017

See all articles by Helene Sjursen

Helene Sjursen

ARENA Centre for European Studies

Date Written: May 31, 2017


Since its inception, the European Union has proclaimed an ambition to promote values and justice at the global level. In this paper, I discuss how we can assess a foreign policy that has such an ambition. There is no common understanding of how claims to justice beyond borders should be met. Further, in order to be relevant, any critical assessment of foreign policy must take into consideration the constraints of global politics, while at the same time not losing sight of normative requirements. In order to take heed of these concerns, I suggest an analytical framework based on three different conceptions of global justice. These conceptions come with strengths and weaknesses, as they prioritise some challenges to global justice over others. The differences between these conceptions facilitate the empirical effort of discerning inhibiting and facilitating factors for the conduct of a just foreign policy – of taking into account the constraints of global politics. At the same time, the framework acknowledges the contested nature of justice without compromising on the need to assess foreign policy practice against explicit normative criteria. The approach makes it possible for the analyst to provide a more nuanced assessment as well as one based on what might be considered feasible criteria for justice, and to specify the strengths and weaknesses of the observed foreign policy practice from different perspectives.

Keywords: EU External Policy, EU Global Strategy, Global Political Justice, Human Rights, Impartiality, Mutual Relations, Non-Domination

Suggested Citation

Sjursen, Helene, Global Justice and Foreign Policy: The Case of the European Union (May 31, 2017). GLOBUS Research Paper 2/2017. Available at SSRN: or

Helene Sjursen (Contact Author)

ARENA Centre for European Studies ( email )

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Oslo, 0855

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