Public Diplomacy

European Union Soft Power

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The lack of a firmly established, coordinated EU public diplomacy strategy is surprising, when considering that the soft power resource and public diplomacy activities of several EU-member countries themselves are rivaling even those of the US, a country with abundant resources, long tradition and experience in public diplomacy. The British Council and Goethe Institute, for example, are both long established public diplomacy instruments. And yet they represent only a small portion of the general soft power potential of the continent. Joseph Nye in his book “Soft Power�? gives various examples of Europe’s advantages in the competition for global popularity, cultural and political attractiveness and influence.

Taken individually, many European states have a strong cultural attractiveness: half of the ten most widely spoken languages in the world are European. Spanish and Portuguese link Iberia to Latin America, English is the language of the United States and the far-flung Commonwealth, and there are nearly 50 Francophone countries who meet at a biannual summit at which they discuss policies and celebrate their status as countries having French in common. […] Though much smaller than the United States, Britain and France each spend about the same as the United States on public diplomacy. […] The Europeans have a longer tradition and spend more, particularly in international cultural relations, an area in which France had the highest per capita spending, over $17 and more than four times that of second-ranked Canada; Britain and Sweden rank third and fourth. In comparison, American State Department funding for international cultural programs spending was only 65 cents per capita. […] Europeans provide 70 percent of overseas development assistance to poor countries – four times more than the United States. Europe also has ten times as many troops as the United States involved in peacekeeping operations under multilateral organizations such as the UN and NATO. […] At the same time, many European domestic policies on capital punishment, gun control, climate change, and the rights of homosexuals are probably closer to the views of many younger people in rich countries around the world than are American government policies.

The EU itself also accumulates a considerable amount of soft power due to its nature as a multilateral organization based on shared values and principles and its status as the world’s largest aid donor. The pursuit of European countries to find economic well-being, political unity and peace through multilateralism is a central asset of the EU. “The idea that war is now unthinkable among countries that fought bitterly for centuries, and that Europe has become an island of peace and prosperity creates a positive image in much of the world.�? Acknowledged should also be the role of the EU as a generator of democratic change in all Eastern European countries, which undertook wide-ranging political, economic and legal reforms in order to conform to the EU standards. Joseph Nye writes that “(EU) ‘soft power is demonstrated by the fact that not only millions of individuals but also whole states want to enter it’. […] In Turkey, the desire to join the EU led the government to pass difficult legislation reducing the role of the military in politics and improving Turkey’s record on human rights issues.�? The EU has exercised a positive influence not only on candidate-countries, where the prospective integration and economic dividends have been a major incentive for change. Its appealing image in the rest of the world is built on its support of environmental issues, human rights, criminal law, and eradicating poverty. “The vast majority of Americans recognize this as well: nearly nine in ten agree that the EU can help solve world problems through diplomacy, trade, and development aid even though it is not as military powerful as the US.�?

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