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Liberal Power Europe

Wolfgang Wagner

This paper suggests conceiving of the European Union as a liberal power, i.e. as an actor that is composed of liberal democracies whose interests, identities and institutions motivate and constrain its policy. Rather than stressing the unique character of the EU in international affairs (as notions of the EU as a Normative or Civilian Power Europe tend to do), the concept of Liberal Power Europe emphasizes that European external relations can be examined with the toolkit of the liberal school of thought in International Relations and Foreign Policy Analysis. This school of thought emphasizes that foreign policy does not result from the international balance of power but rather from an actor's domestic interests and identity as well as from the institutions that translate them into policy. With a view to European crisis management this perspective suggests that the member states' identities as liberal democracies come with a typically liberal philosophy of crisis management that emphasizes human, rather than state security as well as democracy, human rights and good governance as strategies to address the root causes of conflict. At the same time, the democratic accountability of member state governments leads them to be highly sensitive to risks for their own troops. Casualty avoidance and risk transfer are therefore key components of EU crisis management strategy.

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