The Role of External Perceptions in the European Identity Formation

  • Abstract:

    The question if the European Union is an actor and what kind of an actor has been an object of numerous theoretical and empirical investigations within the International Relations and European Studies. While the overwhelming number of scholars has come to the conclusion that the EU is an actor, the EU´s identity defies easy classification. One of the few points that scholars seem to agree on is that the EU is definitely a distinctive actor. However, the research has tended to be self-reflexive and the EU-centered because the Other´s perspective has been widely neglected, despite the fact that the Other´s role in the European identity formation has been acknowledged. So it has to be pointed out that the alleged distinctiveness of the EU acquires meaning only if it is recognized by its relevant outsiders. In this sense, the EU leaders, who are the active creators of the European nascent identity, in their aspirations for a more active role for the EU in the world as a promoter of such values as multilateralism, democracy, liberty, rule of law and respect for human rights, should take into account how other actors respond to such claims. This made the academia aware of the necessity of a new approach that would illuminate the way the external perceptions contribute to the formation of the EU´s identity and consequently, to the adoption by the EU of foreign policy roles. This paper attempts to reverse the Self/Other theorizing with the aim to develop a theoretical explanation of the linkages between the external images and the EU´s identity formation, which in turn has a direct bearing on the EU´s foreign policy roles.