Academic journal article Insight Turkey

The Limits of Norm Promotion: The EU in Egypt and Israel/Palestine

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

The Limits of Norm Promotion: The EU in Egypt and Israel/Palestine

Article excerpt

The European Union's [EU] response to the events of the 'Arab Spring' has raised numerous concerns regarding the effectiveness and legitimacy of the policies it has launched aiming to advance prosperity, stability, security, and, perhaps most importantly, stronger economic ties with the Middle East and North Africa region [MENA]. Soon after the outbreak of the 2011 Tunisian and Egyptian revolts, political analysts and scholars alike proclaimed the EU's Mediterranean policies unsuccessful and inadequate, (1) while the Commission itself assessed that the time was ripe for a renewed approach to the region. The latter has since materialized into the 2011 Joint Communication entitled 'A partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean.' (2)

Policy implications aside, assessing the EU's less-than-successful involvement in the region necessitates a reconsideration of the impact and limits of the so-called 'normative power' upon which its approach has been based, implicitly or explicitly. This paper aims to do so by examining the EU's engagement with Egypt and the Israel-Palestine conflict to assess these limits; it also wishes to challenge the notion that EU-style normative power alone is well-suited to promote democracy and regional cooperation, particularly in regions with diverging dynamics where the promotion of EU-associated norms may stumble upon European trade- and diplomacy-related interests. In this sense, the paper aims to enrich and inform the debates on 'normative power Europe' and Euro-Mediterranean relations.

On 'Normative Power Europe'

With the end of the Cold War, the debate on the nature of power in the international environment assumed new dimensions. While the centrality of power in relations among states and international actors remained unquestioned, the concept's definition underwent significant reconsiderations. Emerging typologies of power began to include dimensions other than material capabilities as factors in the ability to persuade or shift another actor towards a desired outcome. In his seminal books Bound to Lead and Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, Joseph Nye coined the term 'soft power,' involving ideational rather than material elements, as 'the ability to achieve goals through attraction rather than coercion. It works by convincing others to follow or getting them to agree to norms and institutions that produce the desired behavior. (3) While Nye's work focused on United States' foreign policy, scholars of European integration, particularly those engaged with the EU's foreign policy and its identity as an international actor, (4) introduced various new terms in order to explain the non-material power of the EU such as 'civilian power', 'ethical power,' 'post-modern power,' 'quiet superpower,' and, most prominently, 'normative power Europe.' The latter, according to Ian Manners, referred to a power that acts through ideas and values. Thus, he argued that:

'the EU as a normative power has an ontological quality to it--that the EU can be conceptualized as a changer of norms in the international system; a positivist quality to it--that the EU acts to change norms in the international system; and a normative quality to it--that the EU should act to extend its norms into the international system'. (5)

The ideas of 'soft' and 'normative' power have been employed with particular intensity in the quest to explicate EU's identity as a global actor. In this context, the EU is viewed as exercising influence in the international system via the use of policy instruments and means that provide an alternative to traditional hard power, which is perceived as a less-than-positive force. As Smith observes, (6) the EU's foreign policy objectives operate mostly on the basis of milieu goals (7) using means that aim to shape the environment in which it operates. Combined with Manners' definition of 'normative power,' this suggests that, in managing its external relations, the EU actively pursues the formation of environments --or structures--which are receptive to EU-derived norms, and which might eventually absorb them. …

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