The EU’s identity as a global actor is firmly anchored in a distinct normal and political agenda. The Union has consistently portrayed itself as a normative power committed to the ethos of international law, democracy, human rights and multilateralism.
But the success of these efforts depends on the EU’s credibility and the extent to which it can generate support for and trust in its global role as a leading normative power. As proven time and again, precisely this is a more challenging task.
Externally, the EU’s efforts are complicated by the shifting geopolitical balance of power: the ‘America first’ approach by the US, the rise of protectionism and State-led economies, such as China, increasing migration flows, digitalisation, and climate change. Internally, the Union’s credibility is called into question with Brexit and the current rule of law crisis in new EU member states. How can the Union lead the world by example if its member states openly challenge the very values the EU seeks to embody?
The challenges are not bound to the political realm, but also encompass legal complexities. The EU has seen the rise of autonomy as a ‘structural principle of EU external relations’, which further complicates the tension at the heart of the EU’s project: to what extent can the principle of autonomy be reconciled with the EU’s constitutional commitment to respect international law? It is precisely these questions that the ‘Global Europe’ project is founded on.
The project is based on three pillars. First, it seeks to explore the internal and external factors that may challenge the EU’s capacity to exercise value-based global leadership on a number of crucial issues. Second, it aims to critically reflect on whether the external projection of the EU as a virtuous normative power comports with its practice on the ground. Third, it addresses the descriptive, conceptual and normative challenges that complement the ever-expanding global reach of EU law. Ultimately, the project deals with questions of trust pertaining to the EU as an international legal actor.
The ‘Global Europe’ project is part of a broader research strand of ‘Advancing Public Interests in International and European Law’ of the TMC Asser Institute.