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Inside Normative Power Europe: Actors and Processes in the European Promotion of Human Rights in China. College of Europe EU Diplomacy Paper 8/2008, November 2008

Balducci, Giuseppe. (2008) Inside Normative Power Europe: Actors and Processes in the European Promotion of Human Rights in China. College of Europe EU Diplomacy Paper 8/2008, November 2008. [Working Paper]

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    In recent years an increasing number of scholarly contributions on EU international actorness focus on notions of ‘normative, value-driven external policy’. This is in opposition to the usual realist view of an EU unable to make its voice heard when real crisis emerges, mostly due to its lack of military capabilities, or the criticism of proponents of the term ‘fortress Europe’, for whom the EU merely serves as a vehicle to reinforce member states’ economic interests vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Informed by liberal and constructivist approaches, these works have given rise to concepts of ‘civilian’, ‘normative’, ‘ethical’ or ‘gentle’ power Europe. All these works point to the unique role that the EU has played and could play on the international stage as a promoter of its distinctive norms, which range from multilateralism to sustainable peace, from democracy to human rights and rule of law. In particular, numerous authors identify in the respect of human rights one of the main tenets of EU international identity and argue that the promotion of human rights is one of the main foreign policy objectives of the EU. However, the majority of this literature presents two major shortcomings. First, it tends to merely analyse EU foreign policy leaving aside the foreign policies of the member states, uncritically assuming that they are in line with those of the EU. In this way, it is unable to assess the actual political impact of Europe on international relations, which requires the analysis of the coherence and consistency of the EU’s and its member states’ foreign policies. Second, the existing literature tends to reify the EU and to conceive it as a single international actor. This allows applying classical tools of foreign policy analysis, which yet are unable to make sense of the complexity of foreign policy within the European context. How can these theoretical and analytical shortcomings of the Normative Power Europe (NPE) concept be rectified? I argue that the NPE concept at the analytical level must take into account the EU member states’ foreign policies, while at the theoretical level it is necessary to pry open the EU’s ‘black box’ through a liberal constructivist conceptual framework that can explain the European foreign policy outcome on the basis of the material and ethical interests of the member states as shaped by the interaction within the EU institutional setting. After briefly sketching such an analytical and theoretical approach to NPE, this paper attempts to empirically test it in the specific case of the European promotion of human rights in China. What emerges is that in this case the EU appears more as a ‘normative trap’ rather than a normative power, where member states are ‘entrapped’ to pursue policies not in line with the EU normative basis.

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    Item Type: Working Paper
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > External relations > human rights & democracy initiatives
    Countries > China
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > College of Europe (Brugge) > EU Diplomacy Paper
    Depositing User: Professor Sieglinde Gstoehl
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2008
    Page Range: p. 33
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 18:02

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