How we can define the EU in the contemporary world: The EU as a global or framing actor?

EU as a global actor

I
n today’s globalized world, it is an arguable question for some analysts, academics, in particular commentators whether the EU is a typical kind of state or empire model carrying dimensions within the international plane. Basically, the EU has massive economic and political leverage that combines the pivotal set of values and norms in order to influence the various parts of the world.

It is undeniable fact that the EU with the rational implementation of economic and political power tries to enforce its different norms and values on other states as well. According to some analysts, the EU is not only an international actor within the international system.

There are some arguments in order to analyze this issue. First of all, in fact, today in global political economy, it can be false to take in account merely the EU as an international actor. In today’s world order, the increasing role of focal business firms, to a large extent, multinational corporations (MNC) or transitional corporations such as Mc Donald, Microsoft, Gazprom, and etc. gives them the opportunities to influence not only economic but also a political life of nation-states beyond boundaries. In a broad term, supranational corporations are not only the agents of member states but also independent and powerful actors. In today’s world, in order to create global governance, it is disputable to talk only about the EU as an international actor, therefore, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), non-governmental organizations and civic associations in international system can be able to also influence and change the international system. Hence, the enforcement measure of the EU is limited and cannot implement its norms and values in whole part of the world. Secondly, the US has a major power in terms of huge influence to different parts of the world. For example, the US has a legal legislative power and takes major privileges in order to execute the rules and settle the disputes in the WTO.

Furthermore, the problem with climate change is ongoing process and the EU cannot able to take unified enforcement measures and exact actions to tackle this problem, because of the fact that today, the major contributor of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide is the US, but compare to the administration of other US presidents, Barack Obama proclaimed last year the “climate year” to undertake major actions and steps regarding climate change. But in general, the hostility between the White House and congress impede the pivotal actions on climate change. Therefore, it is crystal clear that only with the involvement of the EU, nation states cannot talk about the settlement of the climate change. The EU has a regional power rather than international power. When it comes to naming the EU, we can say that the EU is not a state, because it does not have exact or unified boundaries, enforcement measures and etc. At the same time, the EU is not an empire like the contemporary US or nineteenth century Britain. To a large extent, the EU has a polycentric power structure rather than centralized governance dimension.

Currently, the enlargement and neighborhood policy of the EU is an ongoing process and provide the set of values, principles, and norms for other nation-states. The EU enlargement policy basically subjects to the political activities rather than economic and power policy. To a large extent, the policy of EU enlargement upholds the democratic principles and common values, the rule of law, respect for human rights, essential freedoms, basis of market economy, sustainable development and high-quality supremacy that be aimed at setting up democratic framework and basis for governmental structure for not only European countries, but also post-Soviet countries. Indeed, the EU is the only exterior power expected to control and influences the affairs in the Central and Eastern European countries, and also EaP’s countries through its transformative leverage. For the meantime, “furor” over the rising possible geopolitical gains of European Union also puts the Russian interests in jeopardy. We cannot say that the EU could not execute its policy regarding other countries; it has also a broad coercive diplomacy that imposed the economic sanctions on Iran, Russia, Syria and Sudan. The EU has also major implementation forces that broadly participated in the Kosovo and Yugoslavia crisis.

At that time the IFOR and SFOR (Joint Endeavor) implementation forces of NATO within the mandate of the UN were handed over to the supervision of the EU under the name of EUFOR. In conclusion, the EU is neither an empire nor a state, but in general, as a regional power it has a huge influence over nation-states. According to some analysts, the enlargement of the EU is much safer than the US power and it can be effective when its power is awe-inspiring and its set of values and principles are shared in not only the Central and Eastern European countries but also EaP countries. In order to be successful concerning its policy in the international plane, the EU needs to export its governance to other countries through economic means such as free trade, visa liberalization process and etc. Hence, the EU needs major enforcement measures through economic means, promotion of its policies, rules, and values that lead to the empowerment of other nation-states in the international system.

EU as a framing actor

The article investigates the EU foreign policy issues by engendering different kinds of debates and giving varied opinions in order to discuss the EU’s ability for upcoming years. Basically, in today’s world, according to some analysts, the main drawbacks of the EU capacity regarding its external policies are the lack of defining its own “national interests” and the threat of disintegration into national positions. The three main academic strands ignite the crucial debates in regard to the EU actorness in the contemporary world: legitimacy, attractiveness, and recognition.

The major trends over the three existing streams mention different approaches toward the EU foreign policy “power”. Therefore, it is crucial to understand and elucidate the paradigms of these strands. According to the legitimacy, the EU has its own national policy strategy and priorities that are perceived as an internally legitimate power by its own citizens. When it comes to the attractiveness and recognition the EU as an external actor can be characterized as a framing power and recognized by outsiders and other non-member states in terms of its external policy and functioning procedure. The EU as a legitimate actor has a huge ability to impose the national policy strategies and in particular undertake the enforcement measures belonging to entirely nation states. Hence it should follow its own interests coming from its internal policy strategy.

The second academic discourse envisages the wide-spread distribution of the EU system of governance beyond its boundaries without the use of force. In fact, the spreading of the EU governance policy toward nation-states has never based on the implementation of the use of force; instead, the pervasive acceptance of the EU’s set of norms and values concern on a voluntary incorporation with the EU by countries outside of it. Another broadly discussed topic mainly rests on the recognition of the EU as an independent power. Basically, in terms of its external policy and governance system, the nation states see the EU as a successful carrier of its own interests, especially, internal legitimacy and external power. To a large extent, the countries outside of the EU, perceive it as a successful independent actor within an international plane that can be able to undertake responsibilities and set up its own internal policy and own interests appertaining to member states of it.

In today’s world, the EU as an external actor has bilateral relations with some states as well. Basically, in order to analyze the relations with the EU in detail, Ukraine can be taken as an example in terms of the trends of relations between them. In fact, as one of the members of Eastern Partnership Programme, Ukraine is much more inclined to the pro-Western activities and supports its set of values and norms. Therefore, the EU and its institutions have fervent interests to nurture the relations with Ukraine and strengthen the relations for coming years. From the historical course, it is clear that Ukraine has faced many challenges and obstacles regarding the Russia-Ukraine energy (gas) crisis in 2009, and in particular, the 2004 Orange Revolution in regard to the Europeanization maneuvers of Ukraine. In the example of Ukraine, it is crucial to analyze the major procedures comes from the mass media and public discourse. In this case, the major European countries have to be taken into account towards Ukraine, the more inclined to the relations Germany, and less inclined to the relations with it, France and the UK. It is undeniable fact that those countries have a huge capacity to carry out diplomatic relations not only with Ukraine but also other countries. Therefore, they can be seen as major carriers of the EU external actions and maneuvers towards other countries.

The Orange Revolution in Ukraine brought more attention to an EU-wide approach in all three countries. Concerning the mass media and public discourse in Ukraine, although the EU is a predominant actor in national media analysis and discourse, at the same time, it has also a number of limitations. First of all, there is a lack of broad growth of the EU’s shares in the articles. Secondly, in terms of the bilateral relations with Ukraine, gives a less attention and care to the national media that how the data or information can be relevant for Ukraine in particular, the British media. In conclusion, the research apparently shows that the EU as a framing power mainly subjects to the shape of its governance policy rather than to rational perception of its exact policies and instruments. Inside the EU there are some limitations that it is facing today’s world. According to the fact that even today, there is not exact action and unified perceptions between the EU member states. Thereby, the EU’s stance and proposals can be characterized unidentified because of the contradictory views and approaches of the member states.

Nargiz Hajiyeva

Nargiz Uzeir Hajiyeva is a policy analyst and independent researcher from Azerbaijan. She holds master degree from Vytautas Magnus University and Institute de Politique de Paris (Science Po). She got bachelor degree with distinction diploma at Baku State University from International Relations and Diplomacy. Her main research fields concern on international security and foreign policy issues, energy security, cultural and political history, global political economy and international public law. She worked as an independent researcher at Corvinus University of Budapest, Cold War History Research Center. She was also a successful participator of International Student Essay Contest, Stimson Institute, on how to prevent the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons, by Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School. She is also an independent researcher and a policy analyst at Observer.ge and Politicon.net platform, and Wikistrat.Between 2014 and 2015, she worked as a Chief Adviser and First Responsible Chairman In International and Legal Affairs at the Executive Power of Ganja. At that time she was defined to the position of Chief Economist at the Heydar Aliyev Center. 

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