EU-ASEAN distinct power structure in international relations,
EU-ASEAN Relations: Assessment of EU’s normative power IntroductionEU’s role ininternational relations has been open to heavy debate due to the sui generisnature of the EU, and in light of this, there has been a new way ofcategorizing the EU’s distinct power structure in international relations,under the heading of “normative power” as stated by Ian Manners. This new idea sets itself apartfrom preexisting concepts of international power such as military or civilianpower, instead adopting the idea of “power over opinion” and shaping thementality of people beyond the capabilities of state-actorness. (Manners 2001) This newidea adds food for thought in the way the EU has been categorized as aninternational actor as it highlights the EU’s tendencies towards thepropagation of common principles and core norms as its definitive angle. Thenhow much credence can be given to this new idea of “normative power” as therepresentative role of the EU in international relations? In this paper, theconcept of “normative power” within the context of the EU will be furtherexplored, and by examining the EU’s interactions with ASEAN and the relationsthereof, an assessment of the effectiveness of this new way of categorizing theuniqueness of the EU actorness in international relations will be made byanalyzing the extent of the success the EU has achieved under the notion of a”normative power”.
Definition ofNormative PowerLike most forms of power in Internationalrelations, normative power’s definition and boundaries has been inconsistentamong scholars and academics following its proposal by Ian Manners in 2002.Before delving into how the normative power format fits into the EU’s framework,a more concrete definition as stated by Ian Manners will be used as the basisand understanding of normative power. Normative power, unlike other forms ofpower such as military or civilian, has its roots in the power of ideas insteadof the use of coercive measures or economic encouragement to drive the pivotalconcept of power as the ability to make another party “do something that they would not otherwise do” (Dahl1957). In the case of normative power, this ability is lotless apparent due to it being more subtle and under-the-surface, and uses theidea of presence in itself as the driving force behind the implementation ofthe power itself. Hence, in the matter of efficacy, the amount of time taken ascompared to other forms of power will be an issue, much like ‘water on stone’ (Manners2009). Normative power’s structure is built on a three-stage implementationprocess, starting from the principles that are to be imbued, the actions ofimbuement, and the impact of said imbuement.
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Concerning the principles that areto be imbued, the key point is that these principles are legitimate in worldpolitics, being both widely accepted as an agreed concept and delivered underconcrete moral authority. This legitimacy is usually ascertained in the eyes ofthe world through unified agreement in the form of treaties or conventions,with a large emphasis on the established legitimacy in accordance with UNmandated principles such as democracy and justice. A point to consider is thateven without the mandating of international authorities or states, theseprinciples themselves are uniform in its concepts and holds autonomous weightin social context. For the actions that propagate these principles as norms, itcomes in the form of persuasion through presence rather than a directsubjugation. As Manners states, in order for these actions are to be effective,”then the actions taken must involve persuasion, argumentation, and the conferralof prestige or shame.” (Manners 2009). These actions can take the form of “constructiveengagement, the institutionalization of relations, and the encouragement ofmulti- and pluri-lateral dialogue between participants.
” (ibid.), conferring a sense of to-and-fro communicationto iron out differing principles through agreement. Lastly, for the impact ofnormative power, Manners states that its impact must involve “socialisation,partnership, and ownership.” (ibid.) Socialization indicates the involvement ofa larger process of communication in the global stage, partnership indicatesinstitutionalization of relationships and ownership indicates the ownership of thesenew norms as part of a collaborative effort.
As Manners mentions, “the nurturingof domestic, transnational, and international support for internationalprinciples.” is the motivations behind the efficacy of normative power. This,however, poses an issue as this makes it difficult to truly judge the impact ofnormative power beyond that of improved relations or the adoption ofnormatively justified principles. Therefore, for the purposes of streamliningthe process, this will be the yardstick that will be used to measure the extentof the power of normative power. All in all, based on Manner’s statements,normative power can be summed up as the power to change the ideologies ofothers through presence and communication. As the leading authority innormative power, this depiction as stated by Ian Manners will be the main definitionof normative power.
EU as anormative powerOne of theconcerns of the EU is that the EU is technically not an international actor asit is not a state, as represented in the Westphalian concept ofstate-sovereignty. However, this has become more of a technicality over theyears as the EU has “presence” in international relations, giving it a sense ofactorness beyond preexisting ontologies, giving the EU the title of “less than a state, but more than aconventional intergovernmental organization” (Hill 1993).This “presence” has had varying interpretations in global politics for the EU, and amongthem there has been ideas of civilian power as the EU’s international power as stated by Duchene,or in this case, normative power. Presence is defined as “the property of ideas, notions, expectations and imaginations” (Allen & Smith 1990), and thisideational authority that the EU possesses is what Manners brings to the tableto categorize the EU as a normative power. The “presence” of the EU has the power to shape theconceptions of normal in international relations, albeit the credence towardsthis notion is difficult to gauge as it is both a slow process and itscompetence is open to interpretation.
Manners also mentions about the normative basis for theEU, being the core principles that set the foundations for the EU’s propagation of legitimate norms.The EU’s early roots were more focused oneconomic integration rather than an ideological one, with the Paris Treaty of1951 based around the creation of the ECSC to facilitate economic fluency inthe region of the 6 founding members. The EU’s first steps towards the adoptionof its core norms started later from the Single European Act of 1986, alongwith the establishment of its advocacy towards democracy, rule of law and humanrights made clear in the Copenhagen Criteria in 1993, the same year of theadoption of the Maastricht Treaty. For over 50 years, it has been made clearwhich each treaty or declaration and their involvement thereof that the EU hasmade great strides towards establishing this platform of core norms. The five core norms that the EUupholds are peace, liberty, democracy, rule of law and respectfor human rights and fundamental freedoms, all of which are stated in theTreaty of European Union of 1993.
1The table below clearly lines out the norms of the EU that has reached almost acommandment like position within the EU. Source: (Manners 2001)In summary, the concept of normative power EUhelps us understand the EU beyond preexisting ontologies by shedding the notionof the EU’s lack of preconceived actorness as a limitation and focuses on theEU’s ability to emanate its existence as an international entity that goesbeyond that of states or NGOs. The supranational governance structure of the EUgoes beyond that of its own borders and this gives it a significance as thepropagator of norms and the principles as defined by Manners.
EU’s Normative Power AssessmentHaving examined how the framework of normativepower is applicable to the EU, examination of the extent of its normative poweris needed to determine whether the normative power EU has actual certainty toit or is just a theory that conveniently fills in an academic void in interpretationof EU’s power structure in international relations. To do this, the EU’srelations and interactions with ASEAN will be studied to see if EU’s normativepower has managed to have had an impact in the norm setting of democracy in theSouth East Asian region. ASEAN Values and NormsTo understand the challenges the EU was to facein the propagation of their norms in the Asian region, a look at the early mentalityof Asia is necessary to see how the original values of the region came aboutand became a part of their norms. Historically, the SEA region was characteristically based on realistworldviews, as the South East Asian region’s history was rife with conflict andvolatility, in which rulerssurvive by conquering neighboring territories and preventing conquests ofexternal forces.(WANG)Furthermore, events such as the colonization of SEA countries by Europeannations from as old as the 16th century, the Japanese colonizationof the region in the 1940s and the negative impacts that the Cold-War hasbrought onto them has made the SEA region develop a wariness towards theoutside.
(Ruland 2000) This is reflected in the values of the region thatemphasizes state-sovereignty, national power and a strict hierarchy, with manySEA countries ruled by monarchies. In 1955, a conference by the name of the BandungConference played a major role in establishing the norms of “non-intervention” and”sovereign equality” for the Asian Region. (Acharya 2009) These principles setthe foundation for the inception of the norms that would represent ASEAN,institutionalizing these concepts as the defining characteristics ofinter-regional relations for the member countries that also affected the waythey interacted with the outside. These norms made it normal to avoid “criticizing the actions of a member governmenttowards its own people, including violation of human rights, and from makingthe domestic political system of states and the political styles of governmentsas a basis for deciding their membership in ASEAN”(Acharya 2001) Due to the establishment of these prior norms, theprinciples set out by the Bandung Conference became the primary code of conductfor the ASEAN region, diminishing attempts at democracy in lieu of autonomy.After all, the ASEAN institution was not pioneered on preexisting economicinterdependence nor at an aim at interregional integration, but instead as abulwark against communism and with the aim towards economic fluency in theregion to spur growth. (Eccleston, Dawson, & McNamara, 1998)To sum up, the South East Asian region had a stark absence of democratic values,and this was reflected in the way ASEAN set up their values and norms. EU-ASEAN RelationsFirst contact between the two parties originatedfrom ASEAN, but early interactions between both parties did not amount to much.Started in 1978, ASEAN made attempts to improve dialogue with their EUcounterparts through the first ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting, shortened to AEMM, with motivations to create cooperation betweenthe two regions in response to the shifting of power throughthe Cold-War and to gain access to the European economy.
(Ruland 2001) However, success in imbuingthe norms of the EU was limited as the EU was more focused on other regionssuch as the ACP and Mediterranean and the dialogue between the two EU and ASEANwere primarily focused on enhancing economic ties. Early dialogue placed almostno emphasis on human rights or in the propagation of interregional integrationand democratization. EU’s first proper steps towards assertingtheir normative power was at the end of the Cold-War. EU policies towards theAsian region changed, incorporating political conditionalities with theagreements between parties as a way to advocate the values of liberal democracyand human rights after the fall of the communist bloc. (WANG) This shift towardsemphasis on the implementation of norms as a prerequisite was met with lessthan favorable response from the ASEAN region, which considered the propagationof liberal democracy and human rights as a neo-colonialist attempt of establishing cultural hegemony. (Ruland 2001) The criticismstowards human rights violations by the EU towards ASEAN such as the suppressionof the democratic movement of Myanmmar in 1988 and the East Timor Massacre in1991 as a method to establish the EU’s focus on the importanceof human rights and liberal democracy was brushed off under the pre-existingprinciples of non-intervention as a breach of sovereignty autonomy.
The EU’s attempts at asserting a form of power to imbue the normof human rights were counteracted by ASEAN taking thestance that the West’s advocacy of individual human rights as overbearing,vividly stating their position of sovereign equality in the Joint Communiqué ofthe 26th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in 1993 that stated that human rights policieswas subject to the “regard for specific cultural, social, economic andpolitical circumstances”. The EU’s early attempts at consolidating their coreprinciples was a failure, diminishing the credibility of the EU as a normativepower. A better opportunity was handed to the EU toassert their normative power after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. The AsianFinancial Crisis took its toll on the ASEAN way due to the lackluster responseit had in resolving the crisis due to a lack of interregional integration.
(Ruland 2000) In orderto prevent such an incident or the weak crisis response it had shown, ASEAN setabout to redefine their interregional integration as a reform from their priorsoft institutionalism. In order to highlight the importance of improving integrationamong the ASEAN states, ASEAN adopted the Bali Concord II at the 2003 ASEAN Summitin Bali. The Bali Concord II set the framework for the establishment of anASEAN Community, which sets up three foundational pillars for improved interregionalrelations: the ASEAN Economic Community, ASEAN Security Community and the ASEANSocio-cultural Community.2This event also holds another significance as the Bali Concord II establishes theemphasis on democratization as one of its agendas. The EU was had undergone achange as well with the adoption of the New Asia Strategy of 1994, which notonly accentuates the importance of the EU to establish their economic presencein Asia, but also to ‘contribute to thedevelopment and consolidatione of democracy and the rule of law, and respectfor human rights and fundamental freedoms in Asia.”3 In response to the adoptionof the Bali Concord II by ASEAN, the EU supported the ASEAN’s new path towards regional integration, which became ajoint agenda between the two parties within dialogues and projects. A projectof significance is the ASEAN-EU Programme for Regional Integration which playeda major role in both enhancing interregional integration within ASEAN andimprove ties between the EU and ASEAN as well. More importantly, the indicatorstowards the “action” element of normative power came in twofold in conjunctionwith the above events: the European Commission’s SEA 2003 Asian strategy outline “A New Partnership withSoutheast Asia”, and the Nuremburg Declaration.
The “A New Partnership with Southeast Asia” documentshowed the joint agreement between the EU and ASEAN to “practicing dialogue in specific policy areas and a channel to discuss normative issuescontentious between the two regional groupings” 4and the Nuremburg Declaration of 2007 that highlights the promotion of “universalvalues of justice, democracy, human rights, good governance,anti-corruption, the rule of law, social equality and caring societies….for further strengthening and expanding EU-ASEANRelations”5 However, even with the “action” element of normative power coming into fruition, its “impact” is not as fruitful as expected.ASEAN still held onto their prior norms of non-intervention which would collidewith the new norms of democracy and human rights that the EU brought. Forexample, the Thailand political crisis of 2013 which eventually lead to theestablishment of a military dictatorship.
The military coup was not given aproper condemnation by the ASEAN, which instead responded with blanketstatements and an overall weak response to blatant violation of the norms thatwas set up in the ASEAN charter. Even with the EU’s efforts to establish and reinforce the core norms ofhuman rights and democracy, the “impact” has not been as effective as expected. In the end, thenorms did find their place in the documents of the related parties, butimplementation of these norms are not going as planned, diminishing the “impact” portion of normativepower. Conclusion – EU’snormative power AssessmentIn the end,it is difficult to say that the EU is a concrete normative power when takingthe EU-ASEAN relations as case study as even though the “action” part of normativepower was undertaken, the “impact” is not as impactful as it seems. Adding tothe Thailand example, a contemporary example of ASEAN internal affairs also bringup the EU’s normative power inadequacy into play with the ASEAN’s insufficient response to the human rightsviolations of the Rohingya crisis, which is reminiscent of ASEAN’s old norms ofnon-intervention still rooted in their international relations.6 That isnot to say that the EU’s normative power does not hold any credence at all,after all, the EU’s “presence” represented by the two pronged agreementsbetween the EU and ASEAN has given ASEAN a further need to underline theirsupport for these norms as part of their internal structure.
Furthermore, asmentioned earlier, the results of normative power assertion need time to takeplace, and is also difficult to gauge with only visible evidence. Even so, Iwould have to say that EU’s normative power is a convenient explanation towardsthe propagation of universal values that has become more common in modernsociety, but not with intention but rather by happenstance. Since the EU’sinteractions with other state-actors mostly rotate around economic dialogues, Iwould conclude by saying that the EU’s normative power is more of a secondary additionto the EU’s tendencies towards Soft power, or more accurately, Civilian power. Itis still a part of EU’s power in the global arena, but not the most prominentaspect of it. Citations Manners, I.(2001). Normative power Europe: the international role of the EU.
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