EU Soft Power and the Capability-Expectations Gap

Kristian L. Nielsen

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    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Contemporary European Research
    Issue number5
    Pages (from-to)723-739
    Number of pages17
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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