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Cover International Relations and the European Union

19. Principles in European Union Foreign Policy  

Helene Sjursen

This chapter examines the normative principles underlying the European Union's foreign policy and whether there are inconsistencies therein. Drawing on a distinction between the principles of sovereignty, human rights, and a common good, the chapter challenges the notion that the EU is a distinctive foreign policy actor. Each of these principles points to a different perspective on how international politics should be organized, and each would take the EU's foreign policy in different directions. The chapter shows that the unresolved tensions in the EU's internal constitution, between its cosmopolitan vocation and the ambition of (EU) nation building, are also reflected in the EU foreign policy.

Chapter

Cover International Relations and the European Union

19. Principles in EU Foreign Policy: How Distinctive?  

Helene Sjursen

Examination of the European Union’s (EU’s) foreign policies seems to rest on a dichotomy between interests and power on the one hand, and norms and values on the other. Based on this dichotomy, the EU is often portrayed as a unique international actor and as a voice of global values. But principles, values, and norms are key elements of any foreign policy, as they are in international politics in general, and different normative principles might induce the EU to exercise power in different ways. Looking at a difference between the principles of sovereignty, human rights, and a common good, this chapter challenges the conventional wisdom of the EU as a distinctive foreign policy actor. It suggests that while holding on to the importance of a transformation of international politics, of binding and constraining states, EU foreign policy mainly seeks to ensure the present system is sustained and improved. It does this via an emphasis on the principle of external sovereignty and its corollary norms. The unresolved tensions in the EU’s internal constitution, between its cosmopolitan vocation and the ambition of (EU) nation building, are thus reflected also in the EU’s foreign policy.