The Neighbourhood Policy of the European Union is characterised by normative imperialism. Starting from Zielonka's reading of the EU as an empire and Manners' concept of 'normative power' my contribution will argue that the Union due to its institutional set-up of governance resembles an imperial polity (internal dimension). This implies a specific logic of external behaviour which differs significantly from conventional state foreign policy, as empires need to provide their 'large polities' with a sense of community and identity (external dimension). The argument offers an explanation to the question why the EU needs to adopt a normative agenda in external relations. The paper will move on to briefly assess strategies of normative imperialism in three EU neighbourhoods. With enlargement the Union adopted an effective imperial stragegy of 'assimilation' in Central Europe. In the Southern neighbourhood the Union simulated 'accommodation' and de facto established a buffer zone. In Eastern Europe however, ENP failed based on deficient assumptions about political realities in the target countries and underestimating the antagonistic relations with Russia. Finally, the ENP will be compared to neighbourhood strategies of the historical empires of Habsburg and the Ottomans to shed further light on the imperial nature of EU relations with its peripheries. Due to their inherent weakness, the Habsburg and Ottoman empires had to defend their precarious identities against strong 'national' competitors through an externalised 'civilising mission' as well. In conclusion, the EU therefore needs to adopt either a more state-like foreign policy or embrace its imperial nature more openly.
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