Soft power

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Politique Européenne - Sonia da Silva, Lausanne, December 2009

Is European Soft Power a contradiction in terms of neo-realism?

In this paper I will explore the significance of Soft Power in International Relations. I will then focus on Soft Power as the source of emerging security and defence policy of the EU by questioning whether this kind of Soft Power is a contradiction in terms ofNeo-Realism theory.

Since the end of the Cold War, the EU decided to abandon the anarchic Hobbesian world focusing on Kant’s sphere of perpetual peace. The quest for eternal peace as well as acting as a global player, although its relative lack of military power and close alliance to Soft Power, makes the EU unique according to many authors (e.g. Koechlin 2008; Manners 2002; HydePrice 2006).The broad definition of Soft Power comes from International Relations theory and was first defined by Joseph Nye in 1990. In his book “Bound to lead: the changing nature of American power” Nye argues that Soft Power refers to accomplishing international aims through persuasion (political ideas, norms and policies) and co-option rather than what he names Hard Power. The latter requires the use ofarmed force or some other forms of coercion like the use of economic sanctions (Tulmets 2007). According to Elsa Tulmets Soft Power, in the long run, means lower costs because it avoids the use of traditional coercive foreign policy tools such as military interventions preferring to opt for prevention and crisis management activities. These conceptions of power are closely related to two majorparadigms of International Relations, Neo-Realists on the one hand and Liberals on the other (Pollack 2001).

Their opposite position is not about the definition of International Relations but rather the interpretation of Anarchy. For Neo-Realists anarchy symbolizes the eternal state of war, the constraint that requires states to rely on themselves and compelled them to follow the policy of force.Contrary to this viewpoint, Liberals see anarchy as an evolutionary variable that could gradually lead to the resolution of conflict through cooperation rather than military force (Battistella 2007; Pollack 2001). However, in the European case these two perspectives focus on the security dimension of the community expressed in different policies.

The first external policies of the EU where thenotion of Soft Power was clearly expressed were the policies of enlargement and Neighbourhood. The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was designed “to foster democratic values and market economy reforms enjoyed within the Union for the neighbouring states of the enlarging EU” (Tulmets 2007). In this way the objective of the policy was to encourage a more tighter political, economic (tradepreferences) and cultural relation with these countries instead of confining the EU within a fortress without external links. This Soft Power approach was also a way for the EU to position itself on the new security agenda launched after the 9/11, which was a reaction to the American security policy perceived as Hard Power. The neutral European member states (Sweden, Austria and Finland) asked for asofter European policy based on exporting internal norms, values and policies instead of coercion methods (Tulmets 2007). This has been reinforced by the contributions of J. Solana (Secretary General of the Council and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Europen Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy), who would like to build an internationalorder based on multilateralism that sets the main policies of security and defence.

Liberals see this kind of new strategy as a premise along the lines of the general set-up of a European based soft governance policy (open coordination policy; Bologna process; etc) wherein the EU acts as a collective actor. Contrary to them, Neo-Realists have a totally different point of view. They argue that...
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