Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

War in Ukraine and the Death of Normative Power Europe

Fri31  Mar05:00pm(15 mins)
James Watt South Room 375


Kamil Zwolski1
1 University of Southampton, UK


The argument I will make in this paper is that the European Union (EU) can no longer be conceptualised as a normative power in international relations, and especially in relation to Russia and Eurasia. That the EU is a normative power has long been accepted by scholars and even EU policy officials because the concept painted a compelling image of the EU’s distinct international identity, which has obviously been different from the identity of the nation states. This distinctiveness, as Manners explained in his original conceptualisation stemmed from the EU’s ‘historical context, hybrid polity and political-legal constitution’ (Manners, 2002, p. 240). The key to Manner’s claim to originality was his reconceptualisation of the EU’s global role away from the civilian – military dimension towards a normative one, entailing the ideational power over opinion, rather than stemming from material capacities. While this conceptualisation has performed a valuable role of making sense of the EU’s unique international security identity, I argue that we have clearly reached its limits when assessing the EU’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The EU’s measures, such as assistance packages to Ukraine, sanctions against Russia and the scramble for energy security clearly indicate that it is the tangible capacities, not ideational issues, that matter, and that serve as the basis for assessing the effectiveness of the EU as an actor.