Tulmets, Elsa. (2007) Can the discourse on "soft power" help the EU to bridge its capability-expectations gap? European Political Economy Review No. 7 (Summer 2007), pp. 195-226. [Policy Paper]
Very recently, a new buzz word has appeared in official speeches in the field of the European Union (EU)’s external relations: “Soft power”. The notion was first coined for the American foreign policy and is now at the heart of EU foreign policy discourses, especially on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The ENP launched in 2003 for the new EU neighbours heavily draws on the experience of enlargement by exporting internal norms, values and policies abroad. The article explores the hypothesis that the discourse on “soft power” represents an attempt to go beyond a traditional understanding of foreign policy and of conditionality. By developing its own definition of “soft power”, the EU tries to position itself on the international stage by preferring civilian over coercive means and thus seeks to increase the ENP’s legitimacy through attraction instead of accession. Nevertheless, it will need to improve internal consistency if it wants to avoid serious criticism on the ENP and bridge its famous capability-expectations gap.
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