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  2. Abstract

The European Union (EU) spreads its norms and extends its power in various parts of the world in a truly imperial fashion. This is because the EU tries to impose domestic constraints on other actors through various forms of economic and political domination or even formal annexations. This effort has proved most successful in the EU's immediate neighbourhood where the Union has enormous political and economic leverage and where there has been a strong and ever-growing convergence of norms and values. However, in the global arena where actors do not share European norms and the EU has limited power, the results are limited. Consequently, it is not only Europe's ethical agenda that is in limbo; some basic social preferences across the EU seem also to be unsustainable. Can Europe maintain, let alone enhance, its environmental, labour or food safety norms without forcing global competitors to embrace them? The challenge lies not only in enhancing Europe's global power, but also primarily in exporting rules and norms for which there is more demand among existing and emerging global players. This means that Europe should engage in a dialogue that will help it to establish commonly shared rules of morality and global governance. Only then can Europe's exercise of power be seen as legitimate. It also means that Europe should try to become a ‘model power’ rather than a ‘superpower’, to use David Miliband's expression. The latter approach would imply the creation of a strong European centre able to impose economic pains on uncooperative actors. The former would imply showing other actors that European norms can also work for them and providing economic incentives for adopting these norms. To be successful in today's world, Europe needs to export its governance to other countries, but it can do it in a modest and novel way that will not provoke accusations of ‘regulatory imperialism’.

  • 1

    For definitions of power and norms, see David Baldwin, ‘Power analysis and world politics: new trends versus old tendencies’, World Politics 31: 2 (1979), pp. 16194; Zaki Laïdi, La normesans la force. L'énigme de la puissance européenne (Paris: Presses de Sciences Politiques, 2005), esp. pp. 49–54.

  • 2

    Most scholars agree that these are the basic characteristics of empire, but disagree on other matters. For typologies of empires see e.g. S. N. Eisenstadt, Political systems of empires (New York: Free Press, 1963), pp. 10–12. See also Alexander J. Motyl, Imperial ends: the decay, collapse, and revival of empires (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), pp. 18–20; Herfried Münkler, Empires: the logic of world domination from ancient Rome to the United States (Cambridge: Polity, 2007), pp. 1–17.

  • 3

    The concept of norm used here refers to a ‘freely accepted process of harmonization of actors’ preferences in order to advance common interests by strictly adhering to a certain number of rules’. A vast body of such norms is already agreed within the EU, but it is not shared by the EU's global economic competitors such as the United States, Japan, China, Brazil or India. See Zaki Laïdi, ‘The normative empire: the unintended consequences of European power’, Garnet Policy Brief 6, Feb. 2008, p. 1.

  • 4

    Harold James, The Roman predicament: how the rules of international order create the politics of empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), p. 4.

  • 5

    David Miliband, ‘Europe 2030: model power not superpower’, speech delivered at the College of Europe, Bruges, 15 Nov. 2007,, accessed 1 April 2008.

  • 6

    For an earlier effort to conceptualize what constitutes an international actor, see e.g. Oran R. Young, ‘The actors in world politics’, in James N. Rosenau et al., The analysis of international politics (New York: Free Press, 1972), pp. 125–44. For a recent analysis of the EU's nature as a global actor, see Charlotte Bretherton and John Vogler, The European Union as a global actor, 2nd edn (London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 12–36.

  • 7

    The term ‘failed states’ is a commonly used but highly contested concept. It usually refers to states whose central government is so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory. See e.g. the annual Failed States Index published by Foreign Policy, most recently in July—August 2007.

  • 8

    Richard Rosecrance, The rise of the virtual state: wealth and power in the coming century (New York: Basic Books, 1999), p. 3–27.

  • 9

    See e.g. Niall Ferguson, Colossus: the price of America's empire (New York: Penguin, 2004), or Charles S. Maier, Among empires: American ascendancy and its predecessors (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006). For other types of analogy see e.g. Andrew J. Bacevich, American empire: the realities and consequences of US diplomacy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002); Colin Mooers, ed., The new imperialists (Oxford: Oneworld, 2006), esp. pp. 137–228.

  • 10

    Some commentators admit that the EU is not yet a state, but argue that it should become one. See e.g. Glyn Morgan, The idea of a European superstate: public justification and European integration (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005). See also Guy Verhofstadt, The United States of Europe (London: Federal Trust, 2006).

  • 11

    For instance, there are currently more than 120 diplomatic missions of the Union (called EU delegations) all over the world and their number is growing. See, accessed 1 April 2008.

  • 12

    Such a strategy has indeed been adopted. See European Council, A secure Europe in a better world—European Security Strategy (Brussels: European Council, 12 Dec. 2003).

  • 13

    See Christopher Hill, ‘Superstate or superpower? The future of the European Union in world politics’, in P. S. Blesa Aledo and T. Los-Nowak, eds, Narrowing the gap between east and west: a historical-political approach to current European challenges based on the Spanish and Polish cases (San Antonio and Wroclaw: Fundación Universitaria San Antonio, 2003); also Richard G. Whitman, From civilian power to superpower? The international identity of the EU (London: Macmillan, 1998).

  • 14

    ‘Europe v. US business’, Wall Street Journal, 17 Jan. 2008, p. A16. The article cites examples of EU efforts to cow large American firms such as Microsoft, Qualcomm and MasterCard with anti-trust laws. Other frequently cited examples of European ‘regulatory imperialism’ include the Reach legislation on chemical products and the ban on the import of chlorine-rinsed poultry.

  • 15

    See e.g. David Bach and Abraham Newman, ‘The European regulatory state and global public policy: micro-institutions, micro influence’, Journal of European Public Policy 14: 6, 2007, pp. 82746.

  • 16

    The EU has launched civilian missions to monitor implementation of the peace process in Aceh in Indonesia, support the stabilization process in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and support the rule of law in Iraq and the reform of Palestinian civil police. It contributes to building police capacity in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It is supporting policing elements of the African Union missions in Sudan and is also contributing to rule of law reform and border monitoring in Georgia. The missions currently in the field also include EUPOL in Afghanistan, the EU border assistance mission to Moldova and Ukraine, and the civilian—military supporting action to AMIS II in Sudan.

  • 17

    I developed this argument in Jan Zielonka, Europe as empire: the nature of the enlarged EU (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), esp. pp. 9–20. My concept of ‘neo-medieval’ empire is based on the following characteristics: soft borders in flux; persistence of socio-economic and cultural differentiation; disjunction between authoritative allocations, functional competencies and territorial constituencies; and interpenetration of various types of political units and loyalties. Ulrich Beck and Edgar Grande developed a concept of cosmopolitan empire’, according to which the current European empire (unlike the empires of the nineteenth century) is not based on ‘national demarcation and conquest, but on overcoming national borders, voluntarism, consensus, transnational interdependence and the political added value accruing from cooperation’. See Ulrich Beck and Edgar Grande, Cosmopolitan Europe (Cambridge: Polity, 2007), p. 53.

  • 18

    Joseph S. Nye, Soft power: the means to success in world politics (New York: Public Affairs, 2004), p. 31. Nye identifies three types of power: military, economic and soft.

  • 19

    See Nikki Tait and Kevin Allison, ‘Brussels hits Microsoft with €899m antitrust fine’, Financial Times, 28 Feb. 2008, p. 27.

  • 20

    See David Chandler, Empire in denial: the politics of state-building(London: Pluto,2066.

  • 21

    See ‘Wider Europe—neighbourhood: a new framework for relations with our eastern and southern neighbours’, communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament, Brussels, 11 March 2003, COM(2003) 104 final. See also Council conclusions, ‘Wider Europe—neighbourhood’,, 18 June 2003, accessed 1 April 2008.

  • 22

    As reported by the Financial Times, 11 Nov. 2003. See also Gerhard Knaus and Felix Martin, ‘Travails of the European Raj’, Journal of Democracy 14: 3, July 2003, pp. 6074.

  • 23

    ‘Wider Europe—neighbourhood: a new framework'; Council conclusions, ‘Wider Europe—neighbourhood'.

  • 24

    See Euro-Mediterranean agreement with Tunisia:, accessed 1 April 2008.

  • 25

    ‘Wider Europe—neighbourhood: a new framework’. See n. 23.

  • 26

    See Ronald Inglehart, ‘East European value systems in global perspective’, in Hans-Dieter Klingemann, Dieter Fuchs and Jan Zielonka, eds, Democracy and political culture in Eastern Europe (London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 67–84.

  • 27

    See e.g. Nathalie Tocci, ‘Europeanization in Turkey: trigger or anchor for reform?’, South European Society and Politics 10:1, 2005, pp. 7383.

  • 28

    According to the EU's Commissioner for External Affairs, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, ‘70% of EU citizens want the EU to play a stronger role in the world': see Benito Ferrero-Waldner, ‘The European Union: a global power?’, speech delivered at George Bush Presidential Library Foundation and Texas A&M University EU Center of Excellence, College Station, Texas, 25 Sept. 2006. See also European Commission, ‘Taking Europe to the world: 50 years of the European Commission's external service’, DG External Relations, Brussels, 2004, p. 59.

  • 29

    See Alaisdair R. Young and John Peterson, ‘The EU and the new trade poli tics’, Journal of European Public Policy 13: 6, 2006, pp. 7956.

  • 30

    See Sophie Meunier and Kalypso Nicolaidis, ‘The European Union as a conflicted trade power’, Journal of European Public Policy 13: 6, 2006, pp. 90221.

  • 31

    See André Sapir, ‘Europe and the global economy’, in André Sapir, ed., Fragmented power: Europe and the global economy (Brussels: Bruegel, 2007), p. 12.

  • 32

    See ‘Europe in the world’, communication from the Commission to the European Council, June 2006, document no. 2438, Brussels, June 2006, p. 3.

  • 33

    The EU Treaty states (title I, article 1–3) that the EU ‘shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child, as well as to the strict observance and the development of international law, including for the principles of the United Nations Charter’. See also Ian Manners, ‘Normative power Europe: a contradiction in terms?’, Journal of Common Market Studies 40: 2, 2002, pp. 23558.

  • 34

    See Justin Vaïsse, Etats- Unis: le temps de la diplomatie transformationnelle, Chaillot Papers 95 (Paris: EU Institute for Security Studies, 2006). However, it can be argued that the European intervention in Serbia was not only about protecting Kosovars, but also about orchestrating the fall of Milosevic's regime there.

  • 35

    ‘The European interest: succeeding in the age of globalization’, communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Brussels, 3 Oct. 2007, COM(2007) 581 final, pp. 2, 6.

  • 36

    See e.g. Karine Lisbonne-de Vergeron, Contemporary Chinese views on Europe (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 2007).

  • 37

    See Jeffrey Kopstein and Sven Steinmo, Growing apart? America and Europe in the twenty-first century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), e.g. pp. 12–15.

  • 38

    Speech delivered by the President of the Republic to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 13 Nov. 2007.

  • 39

    This has been analysed particularly well in the American context in Joseph S. Nye Jr, The paradox of American power (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

  • 40

    Vàclav Klaus, Renaissance: the rebirth of liberty in the heart of Europe (Washington DC: Cato Institute, 1997), p. 113. See also Janusz Lewandowski, ‘Skonczmy ze sztuka samoizolacji’, Gazeta Wyborcza, 21 Nov. 2007.

  • 41

    See R. Ismer and Karsten Neuhoff, ‘Border tax adjustments: a feasible way to address nonparticipation in emission trading’, Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0409, Jan. 2004, p. 42.

  • 42

    See e.g. Josep M. Colomer, Great empires, small nations (London: Routledge, 2007); Robert Cooper, The breaking of nations (London: Atlantic, 2003).

  • 43

    ‘Dimensionen eines Imperiums’, interview with José Manuel Barroso, Die Welt, 17 Oct. 2007, p. 3.

  • 44

    See Francis Fukuyama, The end of history and the last man(New Yourk: free Press,1992)

  • 45

    Some observers even argue that the world is becoming ever less European. See Zaki Laïdi, ‘European preferences and their reception’, in Zaki Laïdi, ed., The reception of Europe: EU preferences in a globalized world (London: Routledge, forthcoming 2008).

  • 46

    See the article by Harold James in this special issue: Globalization, empire and natural law’, International Affairs 84: 3, May 2008, pp. 42136.

  • 47

    See Steven Lukes, ‘Power and the battle for hearts and minds: on the bluntness of soft power’, in Felix Beren-skoetter and M. J. Williams, eds, Power in world politics (London: Routledge, 2007), p. 97.