To what extent can the European Union be considered as a global power? Muscles from Brussels

Masterarbeit, 2021

98 Seiten



Statement of Problem
Objective of the Study
Research Questions
Data Analysis
Chapter Outline
Historical Background

Literature Review
Theoretical Framework
Social Constructivism

What is Power?
Soft Power
The Application of Soft Power by The European Union
Cultural Strategy as A Means of Soft Power (ICR Strategy)
Normative Power
How 'norms' of the EU are expressed globally in practical terms
Hard Power
Successful EU Joint Military Operations
Reasons for The EU’s Limited Military Power in International Politics

The EU and the World Trade Organization
Evidence of the trade power of the EU in dispute with the USA
Trade Policy (Role of the EU in the WTO)
The Reproach of the EU in International Trade
The Muscle of the EU; a Case Study of the EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement
Humanitarian / Developmental Aid Actorness of the EU
Humanitarian Aid Actor
Developmental Aid Actor
Environmental Policy Actor

The problematic Leadership Ambition of the EU in Global Climate Change Politics

The Differences and Similarities between the EU-USA
The Challenge Existing Between USA-EU Relationship

Analyzing the Theories
The Power the European Union Possesses
Findings from the Case study of the EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement
Evaluating the Global Actorness of the EU
The USA and the EU


Limitation of Study



My deep gratitude goes to Prof. Dr. Hauke Brunkhorst and M.A. Margarita McGrory, who expertly guided me through this. Without his guidance, this research would not have been possible. My great appreciation also extends to my colleague and friend Adu Boahen Barima for his support and encouragement, especially through the vulnerable and challenging times. Above all, I am indebted to my mother, Mary Tuffour, and my sister Rose Amakwa-Sarpong. I thank them for sponsoring and championing my education from my childhood all the way to my master's education.

To the administration and staff of Europa-Universität and the European Studies department, I say a big thank you for organizing such an interesting program filled with fun activities and practical experience.


The European Union was formed after 1957 during Rome's Treaty with only six European heads of state. The EU has now grown with twenty-seven States, thereby making the EU sui generis. Some analysts and scholars term the EU as a super-state, and others term the EU as worthy of being a global power. This work will analyze the features and actions of the EU and will find out if the EU can be considered as a global power in these modern times. Using Realism, Liberalism, and Socio constructivism as the theoretical framework. The study employs a mixed-method design; more qualitative data was used than quantitative data. The sources of data for both qualitative and quantitative design for the work were retrieved from the websites of the Organization for Economic and Development (OECD), the European Union, the European Commission, and the European Council. Secondary sources include newspapers, online journals, online newsfeeds, journal articles, academic books, essays, and textbooks. All these sources helped in answering the research question and drawing a definite conclusion for the work.

The work identified types of powers and the kinds that the EU utilizes in its international relations. Thought-provoking information was unearthed from the EU's trade deals with several states worldwide, the EU's humanitarian/developmental aid, and its global advocacy and leadership in global environmental sustainability. Compared to the USA, the EU was the current global power; the partnership, differences, and challenges between the EU-USA relationship in the international space were then identified and explained. The general analysis of the information and data gathered was then discussed. The work argued that the EU is a dominant global actor with a strong economic/trade might, which is embedded in its soft/normative power; but for the EU to be considered as a global power, it needs to have a robust unified army, that will solidify its global presence and will then gain the merit be considered as a global power


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Since the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, various scholars have contended with diverse opinions as to whether the European Union (EU) is a global power or not. Some scholars argue that the EU is indeed a global power. In contrast, others argue against this notion, stressing that the EU faces problems such as mass migration, Russian subversion, right-wing revolt, slow growth, and anemic defense spending (Moravcsik, 2017). Some optimists believe that the European Union has made many strides to make its presence felt in the international domain; and has earned international steps worthy of being considered a global power (Forsberg, 2013). Some member states of the EU have challenged what they term as overly ambitious plans for its international role; the EU, in several instances, has attempted to boost its role as a global actor on the international domain (Forsberg, 2013).

Eurosceptics argue that the European Union’s foreign policy is ineffective and that the union is too weak, divided, and incoherent when it comes to its international role as a global actor (Haas, 2009:1). The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 gave birth to the rise of sovereign states(ibid). Consequently, the sphere of international relations was overshadowed by sovereign states, and their internal and external affairs (ibid). The actual implementation of a country's foreign policy and its values initially blended with its identity, history, and political culture, distinguished European nation-states from each other (ibid). However, since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, numerous events have undermined the Westphalian sovereignty(ibid). It has created global actors other than nation-states such as multinational companies, Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs), regional and supranational organizations, which can be seen as major actors on the international scene (ibid).

Despite these non-state actors’ actions on the international stage, the concept of “global power” is often associated with traditional nation-states wielding high political clout (ibid).

Statement of Problem

Most research findings into European and global politics have not been able to truly ascertain the level of the EU's global power and its role on the international stage. Not enough concrete research has been carried out to determine if the EU(being viewed as a state) can be considered as a global power or not. This study investigates and firmly analyzes if the EU can be considered a global power.

Objective of the Study

The specific objectives of this research are:

- To understand the type of power the EU possesses in the international realm.
- To determine the main strength of the EU in its international relations.
- To examine the extent to which the EU can be considered as a global power.

Research Questions

- To what extent can the European Union be considered a world power?
- What is the Muscle of the EU on the international stage?
- What type of power does the European Union have on the international stage?
- What is the EU's main means of influence on the international stage?
- What is the main strength of the EU globally?

Data Analysis

Information gathered was critically observed and examined to find answers relevant to the research question.

Chapter Outline

Chapter 1 introduces the topic and discusses the study's background, the problem, research question, research methodology, data analysis, and research objectives.

Chapter 2 employs the use of existing books and literature related to the topic. It uses all available books and research that is current to provide a comprehensive overview. The works theoretical framework will also be in this chapter. This is where the appropriate theories explain the study's subject matter.

Chapter 3 will discuss the term power in the political sphere. The various forms of power will be identified and explained. The chapter will analyze the forms of power the EU employs in its international relations.

Chapter 4 will explain the global presence of the EU in areas such as world trade/economy, humanitarian/ developmental aid, and its global contribution towards global environmental policies. Case studies will be employed to explain the muscle of the EU.

Chapter 5 will produce the partnership, differences, and challenges between the EU-USA relationship in the international arena. Indeed, if one can fully assess the potential or a legitimate claim that the EU is a global power or not, there should be a yardstick where the EU can be compared to come out with a definite claim.

Chapter 6 will deal with the analysis of the information gathered from the beginning of the work so as to understand and draw us closer to answering the main idea of the work. Findings made from pieces of information gathered throughout the entire work will be scrutinized, the discussion will also be done alongside.

Chapter 7 is the concluding part of the study. Here the entire research is summarized, together with the limitations of the research.

Historical Background

After the First and Second World Wars, Europe realized the need to unite and integrate to avoid future wars on the continent. The first step to unite and bring peace to Europe was to build a union that would bind Europe both politically and economically (Hillebrand, 2010:5). In 1950 after the Second World War, there was the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), and the European Economic Community (EEC) (creation of these transformed from one union to the other in different times) (ibid). The union grew from one phase to another, which eventually secured long-lasting peace between the European countries (Hillebrand, 2010:5). There were six founding members of the union, thus, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy, and France; these six members laid the foundation in signing the Treaty of Rome in 1957 (ibid). The Treaty of Rome gave birth to the Common Market, which meant a single market for goods, services, labor, and capital amongst the six-member states (ibid). This move was the first of its kind on the continent and proved to be a step in the right direction for the continent of Europe. The European Parliament, Council of Ministers, and the European Commission were created in 1967 after the ECSC, EURATOM, and EEC were merged (ibid).

On January 1, 1973, the union expanded with the United Kingdom and Denmark joining (Steiner & Crepaz, 2007:262). As the union grew, so did its citizens have the power to have a voice in the union; in 1979, the citizens of the union were given the mandate to directly elect the Members of Parliament of their choice (ibid). Hitherto, the parliamentarians of the union were taken directly from their respective national parliaments. The tenth nation to join the Union was Greece in 1981; Spain and Portugal joined the union five years later after Greece became a member (Hillebrand, 2010:6).

The Single European Act was signed in Luxembourg on February 18, 1986; this act created the means by which people, goods, services, and capital were free within the member states (ibid). It removed all barriers and created a conducive and harmonious economic and political competition amongst its member states.

The Maastricht Treaty, which was signed amongst the Member States on November 1, 1993, replaced the European Community with what we now know as the European Union (Steiner & Crepaz 2007:262). Coupled with the fall of the Berlin wall and the fall of the Soviet Union, there was a new wave of progress and joy amongst the member States of the Union; there was the birth of renewed hope and development for the union in the coming future (ibid). The Treaty set the agenda and the schedule for the single currency (Euro) for its member states; the Treaty also included the transfer of competence such as defense, justice, and home affairs from its Member States to the European Union (Hillebrand, 2010:6).

In 1995, the Schengen agreement came into effect; this agreement saw the abolishment of border checks within the union member states and allowed the member states to travel within the union without passport checks (ibid). In the same year of 1995, the European Union welcomed Austria, Finland, and Sweden into the European Union (ibid).

The Treaty of Amsterdam was signed on October 2, 1997, but entered into force on May 1, 1999. This Treaty extended more powers from the national government to the union, such as immigration, criminal laws, and Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) (ibid).

The Euro began to circulate and be used amongst its member states in 2002; 12 EU countries initially replaced its currency with the new Euro(ibid). Member states who used the Euro were known to be in the “Eurozone”; not all union members agreed to use the currency; countries like the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Sweden did not use the currency (ibid).

The Treaty of Nice was signed on February 26, 2001, but came into effect on February 1, 2003 (ibid). This Treaty changed certain old reforms like increasing the number of parliamentary seats in the European Parliament and setting the way for increasing the number of members in the union (ibid). The number of member states of the European Union sprung up; there were ten more new member states to join the union; seven of the ten new members were from the Eastern part of Europe, and three states were former Soviet states (ibid). These new member states were Cyprus, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, and Estonia(ibid).

The latest Treaty of the European Union was the Treaty of Lisbon. It was signed by the member states’ leaders on December 13, 2007, but came into full effect on January 1, 2009 (ibid). The Treaty amended the older treaties signed in previous years and amended the treaty protocols (Hillebrand, 2010:7). One peculiar section of the Treaty was that it gave the legal provision or option for the members who desire to leave the union and created the necessary steps (ibid).

The number of member states of the union grew to twenty-eight members until 2016 when the United Kingdom decided to opt-out of the union, popularly known as BREXIT. Its citizens made this decision through a referendum. 2020 saw the United Kingdom’s official exit from the union; this, of course, reduced the number of the member states to 27 countries. Today, 16 members are in the Eurozone, and the European Union can boast of the world's largest economy. A union founded on a series of treaties from 1950 till date has become an economic and political giant to the level of it being considered global power level (Hillebrand, 2010:7). The EU is a sui generis, a form of unique body or union with unique features that have never been tried before by any other state or continent.


In recent times, there have not been clear cut research findings that have assessed the EU's power if it could be considered a global power or not, based on its roles and actions on the international stage. There have been various works by political and international relations scholars concerning this theme, but few or no concrete answers. This study aims to bridge this knowledge gap and determine if the EU can be considered a global power in this modern era.

The use of qualitative and qualitative data would be employed in this research. Since the research work does not require a lot of empirical data, a lot of qualitative data will be used than quantitative data. As the work seeks to investigate the union's power, it is essential to use a more pragmatic approach by analyzing other scholars’ works and other existing kinds of literature against my neutral analysis and evaluation to draw more academic and scientific results and conclusions. The outcome of the research work does not have a definite answer. It still depends on how critical information gathered will be evaluated and argued to help develop my results and research viewpoint.

Secondary sources such as books, journals, and articles will be key in analyzing whether the European Union can be considered a global power. Works of scholars such as Andrew Moravcsik, John McCormick, Christopher Hill, and others will be utilized in the research work. These scholars here are authorities for related topics of the central idea of the research work. The use of chart will help analyze some actions of the EU, together with its member states; that is, there will be a small amount of quantitative data employed in the research.

Information gathered from these sources will be examined and will help solve the research problem set out fully. Actions of the Union in the past will be critically assessed; these actions will be grouped into groups of economic (trade), its developmental world aid, humanitarian aid, and environmental policies. A case study will be used in the work; this will further enable us to fully accept or reject the research's central idea.

The use of three main theories will examine how justifiable it is to determine the EU as a global power. The realist, liberalists, and social constructivist views will be engaged in this research to answer the research work's central idea. In every research work, theories are essential to help the researcher develop scientific and academic analysis.



This chapter of the work is divided into two parts, that is, the review of academic books, journals, scholarly articles, and other relevant literature that are important to the topic of discussion called the literature review. While the other part of the work seeks to bring to light reference to relevant existing theories relevant to the topic, this part of the work is called the theoretical framework. It presents various contexts of theories through which the topic or central idea of the work could be justified or be rejected. Three theories would be identified and explained to further illuminate the topic; thus, if the EU could be referred to as a global power. The three theories employed in the work are realism, liberalism, and social constructivism to assess, analyze, and answer the topic of discussion.

Literature Review

This part of the work will discuss experts and scholars’ works in politics and international relations who have written about the topic. It will entail arguments and claims that support or deny the work's central idea, that is, if the European Union is a global power or not, or if it is just a special powerful global actor?

Robert Guttman argues that for a state to be considered as a global power, it does not necessarily need to possess exceptional military abilities; he continues to argue that it is a historical conception about a state considered as a global power and that these criteria are too archaic to be used in the 21st century (Guttman, 2001:4-17). Guttmann emphasizes that instead of military capabilities, a state should have modern-day criteria like a very robust economy, a well- established characterization of the interest and protection of its citizen's human rights, a work based of young and exceptionally taught personnel’s who are working in a new rising innovative mechanical economic basis and the propensity to claim a world dominant presence (ibid). Petersen Arne also supports Guttman’s idea, thereby contending that the EU fits perfectly into the framework and conception. This muscle from Brussels is a distinctive sort of global power (McKendry,2013:1).

John McCormick, a renowned political science guru, and Petersen argues that the EU has achieved a global power status based on the scale of its economy and its worldwide political influence (McCormick, 2007:7-13). He adds that the nature of control has changed since the Cold War-driven meaning of global power was established (ibid). McCormick contends that military prowess is no more a yardstick and not an essential feature to be considered a global power “control of the means of production is more important than control of the means of destruction” (McCormick, 2007:12).

Paul Dukes refutes Guttman's arguments, stating that “a superpower must be able to conduct a global strategy including the possibility of destroying the world; to command vast economic potential and influence; and to present a universal ideology” (Duke, 2001:1). Ian Bremmer echoes this attestation by contending that a state is only a global power if it is a “country that can exert enough military, political, and economic power to persuade nations in every region of the world to take important actions they would not otherwise take” (Bremmer,2015:19). Suppose Duke and Bremmer's generally accepted definitions are applied. It will mean that the EU as an actor, is fundamentally not a global power since it lacks a joint and standing army that can destroy the world (McKendry,2013:1). McCormick believes that despite all this, the EU is nevertheless a peculiar successful, and powerful global actor (McCormick,2007:12). The EU is not one of the other global power, nor a “world player beyond its peak,” but an essential and uniquely strong global player (Peterson,1995:65-93).

The preceding paragraphs described the divergent approaches to a global power concept. Moreover, the subsequent dual school of thoughts can be broadly adjusted with the conceptions of global power that were distinguished by Nye (Nye,1990:154-170). That is, those who emphasize hard power and soft or civilian power.

Duke points out that the EU is not a global power, nor a virtually important global actor since it cannot use hard power “that is required to shape the international system” is a statement that was repeated by Van Hamman (Van Hamm,2008:3-17, Duke, 2001:35-59). This intensity often employs military force or monetary animosities such as occupations, invasion, and offensive airborne bombings such as drone strikes (Dukes, 2001:35-59).

Since the Second War, such has been the form of power influence that has been the American foreign policy (Dukes, 2001: 35-60). An era that has witnessed the US global dominance, counting military operations in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, South America, and others (Forberg,2013:24-45). McCormick argues that due to the USA's undeniable global power status, analysts and researchers sometimes erroneously misrepresent the idea of global power for others with the features of an American foreign policy (McCormick,2007:15-38). To be specific, military and economic warfare is within the interest of global cultural and ideological change (ibid). Sticking with McCormick, he argues that academics liken America's foreign policy's characteristics to the development of a superpower (McCormick, 2007: 27).

In his book, Forsberg argues that the EU is failing to contain Russia because the EU lacks a standing army and lacks America's militaristic antagonism (Forsberg, 2013:20-45). Forsberg’s claims may also be linked with the position of other scholars like Volger and Bretherton, who have also stated in their article that the EU is “a global actor past its pea” (ibid, Volger & Bretherton,2013: 375-390). However, it must be stated despite the absence of a standing army of the EU; it is made up of member states with profoundly fit and competent militaries who have responded to external dangers, such as the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan (McKendry,2013:2). Through these highly capable militaries of some of its member states, Duchene contends that this allows the EU to get to the form of hard-power proxy (Duchene,1972:30-48). However, it can be asserted that this is not the situation since hybrid member states also have inconceivably various ways to deal with security; as Hoffmann suggests that the EU member states have primarily stopped the EU from monopolizing any influence of military activity (Hoffmann,1995:35-55). With an unpopular minority of joint opinions, the EU cannot be expected, as Duchene argues, to have access to “proxy hard power” (ibid, McKendry,2013:2). Normative and Soft or civilian power is the alternate form of power the EU employs, as mentioned in the prior sections (Nye,1990:150-171).

McCormick contends that the absence of hard power is not a significant problem because the overall estimation and application of hard power have declined in the modern societal context (McCormick,2007:10-20). He continued with his argument that the dissolution of the Soviet Union heightened this infamous or decline use of hard power and along the lines of the conclusion of the cold war and ever since states in modern times experience lesser dangers and threats(ibid). Indeed, military use might have lost much credibility and effectiveness in postmodern times due to the decrease in hard power by powerful states(ibid). The statement can be strongly associated with the liberal school of thought that claims hard or military power is not the foremost and efficacious approach to accomplish successful results (Snyder,2004:50-65). Instead, “international organizations and institutions are also important, and that actors are interdependent and find that cooperation works in their interest” (McKendry,2013:2). McCormick entirely agrees with this point in his book, The European Superpower, affirming that “the most powerful actors in the new international environmental order will be those that create opportunities... not those that issue threat” (McCormick,2007:19).

The softer way to approach the execution strategy objectives of the EU was evident in the 1990 European Agreement through the signing of the Stabilization and Association Process (SAP) with its neighbors (Manners,2002:235-258.). Such programs included the guarantee of EU participation and duty-free exchange or budgetary and technical assistance on a contingent basis(ibid). Ordinarily, the premise of agreements like these stipulates that the states endeavor to reconcile themselves with liberal ideals and values of the EU and work cohesively with established EU legally binding connections, specifies regional collaborations and, excellent neighborly relations; this is a typical case of the EU exercising its soft or normative power as a form of influence (Hood,2001: 330-355, Manners, 2002:235-258).

Vogler and Bretherton acquiesce that the approach of the EU such as the SAP has delighted in a level of accomplishment; an instance can be sighted of how the SAP played a crucial role in encouraging the Croat and Serb government to convict war hoodlums and summon them to the International Criminal Tribunal (Bretherton & Vogler,2013:375-310). Hoods make a claim that supports this statement by stating that this EU approach triggered the abolishment of death penalties in eastern neighboring European countries like Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Albania, and Bulgaria (Hood,2001:330-355). This strategy has improved the security of minority rights in the Balkans, particularly the Western part; it has conjointly helped Croatia stabilize until the European Union in 2014 (Bretherton & Vogler,2013:375-310).

This thought is validated when scholars and analysts noticed that the SAP strategy had significantly decreased regional conflict through economic and political adjustment, especially in the Western Balkans (Maull, 1995:90-110, Maull,2005:775-800). This a strong indication of how soft or normative power can be an essential weapon; in achieving policy goals and also illustrate that the EU has the capacity to sanction existential reforms in countries that are considered as third world states without depending on military mediations (Manners,2002:235- 258, McCormick,2007:10-15). This endorses the assertion that even though the EU is not an acclaimed global power, it could be an extraordinary and peculiar worldwide on-screen actor (Trott,2010:1-45).

Researchers trying to downplay the EU's position frequently contend that the EU is being disrupted as an economic power (McKendry,2013:3). On many occasions, both Russia and the USA have disputed the dominance of the EU's global economic power actorness; Bretherton and Volger argue this statement in their book, “A Global Actor Past its Peak” (Bretheron and Vogler, 2013: 375-390). Bretherton and Vogler add that Russia's resurgence in world politics has been supported by generally high energy costs and the high intrinsic reliance by Europe and the USA to provide such resources (ibid). It must be noted that Bretherton and Vogler made this statement and published their book before the annexation of Crimea and Donbass war happened and the subsequent inconvenience of sanctioning on Russia by the USA and EU (McKendry,2013:3:4).

This sanction dished out by the EU and the USA significantly affected Russia’s economy, and since the beginning of 2014, the Rubles (the currency of Russia) has steadily decreased (ibid). This can be associated with dropping endorsement rates in Russia; Dolidze contends that this act of the EU appears to indicate that the EU has the potential to undermine Russia’s power (Dolidze, 2015:1-10). Dolidze expects that in the next three years, the bilateral imposition of sanctions will probably change Russia's situation on Crimea and Donbass since he continues to witness the continuous fall of Russia's economy and the Rouble(ibid). This will ostensibly push the union to collaborate and form a homogenous energy market in the EU(McKendry,2013:3:4).“It will see the construction of cableways and pipeline across the Pyrenees Mountains, allowing the flow of renewable energy from the Iberian Peninsula” (ibid). These measures were implemented to counterbalance Russia's energy influence, which it uses as an instrument for its foreign policy (Kaveshinkov,2010:580-610.).

The EU, in terms of economic power, has often been overshadowed by the USA and whichever economic plan the EU attempts, the USA has done in the past (Volger and Bretherton,2013:375- 400). Baldwin tends to agree with this point; he cites an example of how the USA often defies WTO rulings (the EU is a dominant force in the WTO) (Baldwin,2016:90-120). Though often not the case, it is evident that the WTO, on several occasions, regularly ruled in favor of the EU and has used financial sanctions to compel action from the USA to comply (Matsushita et al., 2006:111-125, McKendry,2013:4). In his book, Baldwin contends that the “union lacks the same economic gumption as the U” (Baldwin, 2016:90-120). In his book, Baldwin contends that the “union lacks the same economic gumption as the U” (Baldwin, 2016:90-120). He argues that the EU does not come close to the USA in applying economic power coerciveness, that is, sanctions and tariffs ( ibid).

On the other side of the coin, the EU in the past has proved that it has the willpower to change the economic status of the USA; the instance is taken from the year 2002, when the then President of the US, George Bush, decided to raise the prices of steel imports (McKendry,2013:4, Blogninen,2013:369-378). The importation of foreign steel would include a tariff of between 8 and 30 percent; although this move was targeted at Chinese steel imports, it however affected EU manufacturing steel states like Germany(ibid, Kriner&Reeves,2014:741).

At first, states like Brazil and Japan struggled to gain meaningful recognition because WTO was sluggish to react to the USA's decision to increase tariffs on the importation of steel, but once it became apparent that the WTO would not work effectively enough upon the issue; the EU formulated a retaliatory tariff that was explicitly focused on swing-states within the USA to alienate the voters that bush desperately needed because it was an election year (ibid). This appeared that the EU does not depend on international bodies to impose pollical intentions over what is generally known to be the last resort of superpower (Trott,2010:1-45). This move guaranteed that the EU asserts global economic power and further challenges Bretherton and Vogler's conception that the union is a “global actor past its pea” (of Bretherton and Vogler,2013:375-400, McKendry,2013:5).

To conclude, it has appeared from the previous paragraphs that the long verifiable perceptions of state control are old-fashioned (Guttman,2001:5-19). McCormick argued that states are not obliged to the Cold War’s militaristic realism but can also rely on soft or normative power to approach policy objectives (McKendry,2013:5). An instance was also drawn from how the EU used SPA to reform and balance the Western Balkans; the expansion process in 2004(ibid). Before the expansion, the EU exerted a wide-range of normative power in its negotiations with the eastern European Countries before they were received into the union (ibid, Kaveshinkov,2010:585-605, Maull,2005:770-800, Trott,2010:1-15).

The union worked out its penchant to utilize control by placing sanction on Russia in reaction to the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbass; reports showed that these sanctions appeared to have had a massive effect on Russia's economy and demonstrated the willingness of the EU to use hard bartering (Kaveshinkov,2010, McKendry,2013:5). The instance of the union's retaliation of Americans increase of tariffs on imported steel, later America had to revoke its initial decision(ibid). In conclusion, most scholars belong to a different school of thought regarding the definition and assessment of a global power state.

Theoretical Framework


Realism is a school of thought that was formally formulated by E.H Carr, one of the early enlightenment thinkers; it was then later used in the works of other scholars and thinkers such as Niccolo Machiavelli, Hans Morgenthau, Thomas Hobbes, and Henry Kissenger (Jackson and Sorensen,2007:305). Political realism is the oldest and most used theory in international relations (Burchill et al., 2005:29). Realism in international relations argues that the international system is generally chaotic(ibid). Since there is no international government to control these states’ behavior, there is always anarchy and aggression (Peters, 2012: 4).

Realists believe that anarchy is the key determinant to international politics, and there will be no eternal peace without a world state (Hill et, 2015:76, Morgenthau 1973). However, states on the international level are very skeptical when it comes to the possibility of forming a world government in the foreseeable future(ibid). Due to the absence of a supranational government, states are accountable for their security and are forced to increase their military might since the international system is anarchical(ibid). There is always a power struggle through aggression ( Hill et al., 2015:76). To emphasize this point, Leviathan Hobbes, a renounced realist scholar in the 20th century, points out that since there is no international central government to protect the vulnerable states and penalize culprits who misbehave (absence of common power), there will indeed be no law and if there is no law, there is injustice; therefore, vulnerable states will rely on themselves for self-protection since the international arena is full of anarchy and insecurity (Hobbes, 1997: 13, Peters, 2012:10). To facilitate this self-defense mechanism, states build their security (military) to protect themselves; this provokes other states to emulate, eventually leading to an arms race (Peters, 2012: 5). This arms race creates a “security dilemma” internationally, which eventually creates wars due to states’ insecurities (Peters, 2012: 5).

Realist argues that human beings are naturally greedy, selfish, and violent by nature; it implies that the state is formed by human beings(ibid:7). Since the state is formed and involves greedy, selfish, and violent humans, automatically state naturally possess these qualities, human insight influences state political behavior and shape states’ foreign policies (ibid). The state and human beings cannot be separated because the law is made by humans and determine how the state should be through decision making (Korab-Karpowicz, 2006:240).“It is believed that the way individual leaders view the world shapes their political choices either at the domestic and the international level” (Peters,2012:7).

Realists’ argument on world power is that states are always competing for power on the global stage and always seek to dominate other states and maximize their global power (Peters, 2012:10). To reach this height of global power, a state needs to beef up its military / security since realism preaches the world is in anarchy and always a struggle amongst states. The only which is regarded as the world superpower (ibid). They also argue that it is only these states that dominate and have the ability to influence global political, economic, and also diplomatic relations (Leiter, 2001:253, ibid). Realists do not deny the importance of a state possessing global economic strength. However, its global presence cannot be whole and guaranteed without a well-abled and robust military/security power (ibid).

In using the Realist theory to examine the paper's central theme, how can the EU be considered a global power? The military/security strength of the EU must first be evaluated. To start with, the EU lacks a standing army, even though in times of crises or wars, it assembles troops from its member states. The EU mostly depends on the USA through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Through the eyes of the realist, the EU cannot be a global power as a result of its weak military/ security strength. In the previous statement, realism sees the world as anarchic and struggles for power. The only way is to be regarded as a global power is a strong military/security.

Scholars like Zaki Laidi agree with this view of the realist concerning the EU; “the EU cannot become a superpower because Europeans do not see themselves as ultimate guarantors of their own security” (Tuoman,2013:26, Laidi,2008). Realist asserts to the view that the limited resources of the EU towards its military/security has resulted in its weakness and its hazy power on the global stage (Tuoman,2013:26). In 2000, Waltz released an article pointing out that the EU cannot become a global power without a radical change and was doubtful of the outcome (Hill et al., 2005:77). As a realist scholar like Waltz, his meaning of radical change was an extreme change in the EU's security/military policies and actions. He also adds that he is doubtful because he does not envisage the EU possessing a strong security/military (ibid).

In summary, to the realist, the EU cannot be considered as a global power in any discussion since it lacks the principal factor to be considered as a global power, that is, a robust security/ military of which the EU lacks a standing one. The world is naturally set up in an anarchical and aggressive atmosphere full of greed and states struggling for power; the only way to secure yourself is by beefing up your security/military to defend yourself and be a great global power. A state might possess economic power but will never be a global power if it lacks a robust military/security. The question that lingers is, does a state only need to have a strong/security army to be considered a global power in the world's current state?


The liberalist theory in international relations is a school of thought that has the view that military power/security strength has lost its foothold in modern international political interactions and that military power/security concerns have been replaced by economic power and welfare, “the power to produce and exchange” (Tuomas,2013:26). Liberals believe that nature’s laws are dictated by harmony and cooperation between states and individuals (Burchill et al.,2005: 58). Therefore, war is not natural for humanity, it is irrational and an artificial mechanism; liberals stick to the fact that the stain of war can be eradicated from human experience. They also believe in peace and argue that peace is a “normal state of affairs: in Kant’s words, peace can be perpetual” (ibid).

Liberalist theory directly contradicts the realist theory of aggression, anarchy, and military dominance. Whiles realist identifies economic power as a supporting role to military capability, liberals relate economic power as the core foundation of power (Tuomas,2013:26). According to liberals, military power/ security is essential, but it does not always dominate international political decisions (Hill et al., 2017:80). The reason is that the pluralist approach of liberalism emphasizes the importance of domestic politics, groups, and people are generally more concerned about their prosperity instead of an abstract quest for power (ibid).

When democratic states interact with other democratic states, both governments are vastly more interested in domestic groups’ economic growth and values (ibid). This further points out Immanuel Kant’s statement; according to him, unconstrained commerce between states and individuals will unite them in a peaceful and joint enterprise (ibid:63).'“Trade would increase the wealth and power of the peace-loving, productive sections of the population at the expense of the war-orientated aristocracy, and ... would bring men of different nations into constant contact with one another; contact which would make clear to all of them their fundamental community of interest” (ibid, Howard 1978:20; Walter 1996).

Therefore, when states cooperate, both tend to benefit; thus, there are mutual gains, and diplomacy is pitched at providing incentives, both good and bad, to stay away from disharmony (ibid). Conversely, when trade in goods and services increases, it results in economic efficiency; in so doing, conflicts are totally averted (ibid).

To narrow down to the central theme of the work and focus on the EU, through the lens of liberalism on issues relating to economic/trade capabilities, it is an undeniable fact that the EU is a trade/ economic giant globally. Through its common trade and its monetary policies, the union has enjoyed more than a decade of economic/trade growth, which has cemented it as one of the world's largest economic spheres (Hill et al., 2005:82). Scholars like Andrew Moravcsik argue that creating the common market and currency marked the union as the “most ambitious and most successful example of peaceful international cooperation in world history” (Moravcsik, 2002:14, ibid).

As a result of this market superiority, it has positively impacted the union in international politics, negotiations, and the power to influence the international system (Hill et al., 2005: 82). This economic prosperity of the union has attracted many non-EU states to trade with it, and the EU has been able to create a warm ambiance around itself in terms of its relations and negotiations with other states (Rosecrance, 1998:16-19, ibid). Though the union has not developed a fully-fledged common foreign policy like the USA, it has significantly affected global politics (Hill et al., 2005:82). The economic and financial sanctions by the union demonstrate the political use of its economic power and have given it foreign policy more international political clout than recognizing its global military presence (Baldwin 1985, ibid).

Critically analyzing this theory against the central idea of the work; thus, to what extent can the union be considered as a global power? From the liberalist point of view, we can argue that the union is a global power because it has built a powerful and strong economy for which it has trade deals almost worldwide. When it comes to powerful transnational bodies that embody free trade as their governing, such as the World Trade Organization (WHO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Bank, the union is present, dominant, and an influential player (ibid: 75). The biggest and strongest asset it possesses is its trade/ economy strength; through this, it has a luxurious platform to decide global political and environmental issues (ibid). It can spread its norms because it entrenches these norms in every trade deal it signs. Its common markets lucrative nature has attracted many states and continents; its currency is second to the US dollar in terms of the global reserve currency. According to liberals, trade can only occur in the spirit of peace and harmony; the union has always endeavored to always abstain from trading with states with political instability and does not respect its citizens’ human rights(ibid). By this, it tries to warn or even sanction states that are involved. If liberals relate power to economic/trade power, this theory is the best fit to support the paper's main idea.

In summary, unlike realists, who stand for hard/ military power, Liberals stand for peace and smooth trade between states as a from global power. Due to its strength and size of the combination of twenty-seven states economies, it possesses global economic and political dominance. But is economic power the only means to considered as a global power?

Social Constructivism

Social constructivism is the final theory employed for this work. This theory focuses on the concept that human beings are indifferent to their environmental structure (context), that is, the values, ideas, roles, beliefs, and identity contribute to the actions of a state or an individual (Social Constructivism and the EU,2013:1). In other words, social constructivist argues that states or individuals reproduce or reconstruct their surroundings through their actions and behaviour (ibid). Constructivism “is based on a social ontology which insists that human agents do not exist independently from their social environment and its collectively shared systems of meanings (culture in a broad sense” (ibid).

For them, the environment shapes how we think, who we are, and our actions at the end of the day (ibid). Social constructivists view world actors as behaving according to their beliefs and ideas, and it is through this, they can exert their influence on other states in terms of how they relate with other states on the global stage (ibid). They believe that every state has an identity, and it is through this identity that informs its interest and, in turn, its actions (Burchill et al., 2005:199). This theory also argues that states do not act on the premise of the personal outcome of decisions but instead what is the right and acceptable thing to do in the circumstance (Social Constructivism and the EU, 2013:4).

Consistent with these hypotheses, this theory is useful in terms of EU politics. It points out the conceptual and normative context that states find themselves in when dealing with the EU at their level (ibid). The EU is a normative power (further discussion in the coming chapter); it is an actor whose foreign policy is driven by norms, identity, and values rather than interest (Keukeleire & Delreux, 2008:326). The EU has gained the identity of putting conditionalities in agreements with countries, especially third world countries; these conditionalities include labor rights, environmental clauses in multilateral agreements, and the creation of definite instruments to promote human rights and democracy (ibid). Values and norms have always been the cornerstone of the EU foreign policy. Social constructivism emphasizes the idea. It also identities and provides insights into the work's central idea, as to what extent could the EU be considered a global power?

Using the theory as a context for the topic, social constructivists are of the view that the EU uses its attractiveness in terms of political and economic institutions or use diplomatic and other normative tools to change the international standards and foster behavior compatible with its view of the world shaping other conceptions of what they consider normal, but which is not (Hill et al., 2005: 86). It is an indisputable fact that the EU has worked to prove itself attractive to its immediate neighbors and the rest of the world; almost all its neighbors and some nonneighbors want to join the union, most states want to trade with the EU because of its sizeable common market (ibid). Other states know that if their goods and services can reach the EU market, there are ample opportunities they can benefit from. Ginsberg argues that Europe has power for merely being "present in the calculations of many non-members for what the EU broadly represents and what the EU can do for their interest (ibid, Ginsberg, 2001:274).

The admission of new members into the union has, in fact, changed the geopolitical structure of the European continent and has a profound influence on the political equilibrium and results, as it has been able to relegate the iron curtains to the past and ensure the amalgamation of other eastern European states (Hill et al., 2005: 87). To a large extent, it has eradicated violence like what was experienced in the former Yugoslavia region (ibid). The conditionalities and external incentives of the EU have placed it on a global power pedestal as in the USA's case, which is considered the global power (ibid).

In summary, the theory of social constructivism argues that humans are not far apart from the environment, and it is the environment that tends to shape individuals. The theory believes that values, ideas, roles, beliefs, and identity contribute to a state or an individual's actions. The EU is itself a normative power, which upholds these norms in high esteem, and in any trade deal it involves itself in, it makes sure that other countries respect and go according to these norms. These norms have given the union the power to influence its neighbors' behavior and the rest of the world due to its power and economic power. It wields the power of attraction, meaning its common market attracts other states. To be part of this economic interaction, a state must be on the EU level; thus, make sure that it follows the union's norms and values. Using this theory as a yardstick for the work's main idea, it could be said that the union possesses soft or normative power. If this soft or normative power is the only criterion used to determine a global power, it could be said the EU is undoubtedly a global power.



This chapter identifies the various kinds of power and highlights the main types of power which are significant to the research. There are many types of power in political science and international relations, such as hard power, soft power, structural power, normative power, cultural power, Smart power, etc. This work will focus on three main types of power, that is, soft power, hard power, and normative power, and link these three main types of power to the European Union; which type does the union employ in its dealings and agreement in the international stage. These three types of power will be analyzed to aid in answering the research's leading questions and to be able to fully access the statement as to what extent can the European Union be considered a global power. This chapter will further explain the concept of power in the realm of political science and international relations. It will also cite instances and case studies in which the union has been able to use these power types in the global scene.

What is Power?

"Power is the ability of one actor (whether a person or a state) to encourage others to act in a certain way" (McCormick: 2011:413). Joseph Nye, a Harvard professor, explained power in its simplest form, defining power as the ability to influence others' behavior to achieve the desired results (Nye, 2004). One of the most disputed concepts in modern-day social science studies is power; its study involves the questions of what means and effects of its ideas of the common good are acquired and acted upon (Rumford, 2009: 567).


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To what extent can the European Union be considered as a global power? Muscles from Brussels
Europa-Universität Flensburg (ehem. Universität Flensburg)
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european, union, muscles, brussels
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Gideon Tuffour (Autor:in), 2021, To what extent can the European Union be considered as a global power? Muscles from Brussels, München, GRIN Verlag,


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