EU Soft Power and the Capability-Expectations Gap

Kristian L. Nielsen

    Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review

    213 Downloads (Pure)


    The European Union has in the past ten years frequently emphasised its soft power as its primary currency in international affairs. Yet a systematic analysis of the EU’s foreign policy performance, through the prism of the classic ‘capability-expectations gap’, suggests that soft power in itself does little to address the weakness of the EU as a foreign policy actor. This article elaborates on the soft power concept and on the interplay between hard and soft power as seen in the EU’s foreign policy. It argues that in few of the roles the EU seeks to fulfil does soft power in itself bridge the gap between the expectations and the capabilities. Rather, soft power, when it is present, widens that gap even further by adding to expectations, thus leading to even greater eventual disillusionment when the EU’s hard power capabilities do not match.
    TidsskriftJournal of Contemporary European Research
    Udgave nummer5
    Sider (fra-til)723-739
    Antal sider17
    StatusUdgivet - 2013


    • External relations
    • Soft power
    • EU international roles
    • Capability-expectations gap
    • Foreign policy effectiveness