The European Union as an Unidentified Political Object? The International Player in Search of a Strategic Culture

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Ana Isabel Xavier, FCSH-Nova, and NICPRI - Research Unit in Political Science and International Relations, Minho University, Portugal


    After the Maastricht Treaty created a new political figure and implemented a second pillar dedicated to the CSDP, we kept hearing that the EU is an “economic giant but a political dwarf”. However, assuming that the 2008 economic crisis has led to political and economic changes in power relations between the states and other actors, this paper attempts to present a literature review on how to define what the European Union is today. We will question if the EU is a global (Bretherton & Vogler, 1999), a strategic (Deutsch, 1961; Morel &Cameron, 2009), a normative (Manners, 2001) or Ethical power (Aggestam, 2008: 7), a postmodern international actor (Jupille & Caporaso, 1998), a civilian power (Duchêne, 1972) or a political player, reviewing the different academic contributions to conclude that its actorness (Sjursen, 2006; Söderbaum & Hettne, 2005) is a key defining component of the European Union’s labelling. Once we define these concepts, we will discuss if the European Union “fits” in any (or in all) of the mentioned catalogue and discuss which features of the EU are taken for granted today, what are its strengths and vulnerabilities. In fact how are we able to recognize a certain actor or player when we see it? And more important, how these characteristics distinguish the EU from other actors in the international system? We will conclude for the need for a balance between the political and economic dimensions to overcome the remaining a capability expectations gap (Hill, 1993), in particular in what concerns pooling and sharing, one of the elements that highlights the tension between economic constraints driven by the crisis and the maintenance of political will to be a major player.