The European Union in International Politics: Acting as a Global Civilian Power (GCP)

Bedrudin Brljavac


During the Cold War the European Community lacking common military instruments was perceived as the example of a civilian power. However, in the early 1990s, under the framework of CFSP, the first concrete defence initiatives have been launched. By the end of the 1990s and after the agreement on the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) the first Rapid Reaction Forces were on the European military agenda. Such defence and military capabilities challenged the idea of the EU as a civil or civilian power. Thus, a main concern in the paper has been to assess the character and identity of the EU`s activities in the context of international relations. For this purpose, this study has explored the EU policy instruments such as the enlargement policy, external aid, environmental policy at the global level, multilateralism, and the EU armed forces. The study concludes that the enlargement policy accounts for an important EU strategy to shape the international environment through civilian means. Furthermore, the international aid policy of the EU states has primarily been based on the sense of duty to other countries as constructivists point out. The EU has also been vocal and has used environmental foreign policy as an instrument to demonstrate its global leadership role which is a clear indication of its commitment to global welfare. Thanks to its presence in the major multilateral interventions of the last decade, the EU has qualified itself as great supporter of multilateralism. Lastly, the EU military capabilities are not achieved by creating permanent European armed forces but are still based on the voluntary contributions of its member states. Therefore, the EU still can be portrayed as a global civilian power (GCP) or civilian power Europe (CPE).    


Civilian power; military power; constructivism; CFSP; CSDP; GCP; international relations

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