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Is the EU Acting as 'One' in Africa?

Fredrik Söderbaum

The overarching question addressed in this paper is to what extent and under what circumstances the EU should be seen as 'one actor' in its relations with Africa, with a particular focus on trade, aid and peace policies. The paper shows that whereas the EU often speaks with one voice, for instance in trade, it is more ambiguous and pluralistic in other policy areas, such as aid and security/peace, where decision-making is either 'shared', or is based on national and intergovernmental policies. Sometimes there is even little in the way of articulated EU policy, and the EU member states pursue their own national policies outside of the EU framework. What explains this pattern? Much like other global actors, including the most powerful EU member states, the EU's actions in Africa are characterized by the pursuit of power and the manifestation of various regional and national identities and interests. Going beyond the EU's official rhetoric (which invariably contain an often misleading egalitarian flavor), the EU is strongly concerned with establishing itself as a global actor and with gaining political power (for various purposes). It is nevertheless clear that the EU deals with the external world — including Africa — in a different manner from that of an ordinary great power driven by geopolitical interests. This is because the civilian or 'normative' power employed in the EU's own region-building is also being projected in its external relations as the preferred world order model.

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