The European Union in the Asia-Pacific: Current Representations and the Potential Impact of the EEAS.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The European Union (EU) has been called an experiment in a world system traditionally dominated by nation states and the use of military coercion. Because of its uniqueness, academics have sought new theories in order to understand it. This thesis draws on two of these theories in order to gain an understanding about the driving force behind the proposed European External Action Service (EEAS); the socalled ‘expectations-capabilities gap’ and Normative Power Europe (NPE). The former is agency-centred and draws on understandings about the capability of the EU as an international actor and the impact of both internal and external expectations placed on it, that it does not necessarily have the means to live up to. The latter theory –NPE- is identity centred, and concerns how the EU is understood with a focus on norms and values which it wishes to export to the rest of the world. One of the connecting themes of the two theories is a stress on the need to have effective communication. Using both a qualitative and quantitative methodology, this thesis aims to understand how the EU is currently represented in the Asia-Pacific and the potential of the EEAS to improve this representation. Ultimately, there are three findings for this thesis. Firstly, how the EU sees itself and its role in the world does not necessarily correlate with outsiders’ perceptions of it. Secondly, part of the confusion and ineffectiveness of the EU to be recognised could be directly related to its confusing multirepresentation in third countries. Finally, the EEAS has the ability to greatly improve the way the EU operates and communicates, thus potentially narrowing the ‘expectations-capabilities gap’ as well as improving the capability of the EU to be a normative power. However, the vagueness of the EEAS proposals means that steps must be taken to ensure that the EEAS is supported by the other EU actors who will be affected by the new system, as well as ensuring that the proposals are effective in carrying out the goals that it has set out to achieve. This is important if the EU aims to be taken more seriously as an international actor and is to be a force for good in the world. However, caution must be taken against building up the expectations placed on the EEAS too much – history demonstrates that it would be foolish to market the EEAS as a panacea for all of the EU’s problems.