In What Ways Is the European Union a Powerful International Actor?

Ensuring that relationships between states remain lawful and ethical is much more difficult than it might seem, even though the foundations of international relations etiquette might seem obvious. Due to the differences in the legal and economic standards across countries, the European environment, in general, would remain a grey area where the legal standards for interaction would be very difficult to parse it if were not for the European Union (EU) (Bradford, 2020).

Although the EU can be considered a powerful international actor due to its ability to regulate political and economic transactions, its actual power has been reduced significantly due to the rise in the agency of individual states and the increase in globalization, which has opened the opportunities for other European states to collaborate with one another and the rest of the countries on a global scale.

Created to regulate these relationships and coordinate them properly., the EU has been quite effective in its role as a mediator between European countries and their governments (Bradford, 2020). However, with the rise in globalization and the increase in the intricacy of international relations, the role of the EU has become increasingly more fragmented, thus, weakening the organization to a certain extent. Moreover, due to the globalization processes in question and the expansion of international and intercultural connections between states across the globe, the EU no longer serves to represent a single intermediary (Hodson & Puetter, 2019).

Therefore, the role of the EU has been transformed from a global mediator to that one of an observer and an occasional agent of change and peacemaker. Thus, the EU can be regarded as a powerful international actor, yet only in a limited range of ways, including its ability to intervene and manage conflicts within the European setting.

As emphasized above, the EU was initially seen as the body that would perform an active role of providing security and protection to the states that lacked the necessary resources, as well as serve as the body that controlled and supervised all trade-related transactions within the European market. However, over the past decade, the role of the EU has moved from being one of the primary agents of international relations to a secondary function of monitoring compliance with the established rules and regulations (Arantegui & Jäger-Waldau, 2018).

Therefore, even though Europe remains a superpower in the global economic and political environment, the EU no longer possesses the same extent of authority that could help it to retain its authority and reputation. For this reason, the EU could be regarded as a powerful international actor since it has been working to reinforce compliance with the existing international law. However, beyond the specified role, the influence of the EU has been significantly diminished, which is why it can no longer be seen as an undeniably powerful international agent.

Moreover, shifts in political relationships have marked the change in the range of power that the EU could exert. Given the recent changes in the relationships between some of the key EU participants, the role of the EU had to be curbed so that the internal conflicts within it could be resolved (Schimmelfennig, 2018). Specifically, the infamous Brexit situation, which hassled the United Kingdom from leaving the EU, has shaken the organization significantly, affecting both its performance due to internal problems and the drop in its perception due to the exposure on the international level (Oliver, 2017).

For this reason, the EU has suffered a tremendous blow to its reputation in the global political arena, which has caused it to experience a major crisis (Martill & Sus, 2018). Thus, claiming that the EU remains the superpower that it used to be at its conception would be stretching the truth. Consequently, the EU’s status of a powerful international agent appears to be in name only. Even though the organization has retained some semblance of power, it has been losing its influence quickly, particularly, in regard to its political developments. Thus, the EU cannot technically be considered the most powerful international agent in Europe.

However, the proposed perspective on the diminishing role of the EU in global politics is not the only way of assessing its status in the global context. Some recent studies insist that the EU has managed to adapt to the ever-changing political setting, thus, retaining its superpower and continuing to exert it (Walt, 2018). Specifically, Maldini and Takahashi (2017) explain that the refugee crisis has also taken its toll on the EU. Nevertheless, the changes observed in the EU context have been indicative of a drop in the EU’s power and its declining reputation in the global political discourse. Although the EU still represents a major political and economic force with which the rest of the world must reckon, it has lost a major part of its functions.

Furthermore, even the recent fiasco with the United Kingdom and the infamous Brexit could be seen largely as a sign of the EU’s declining power. Indeed, the UK’s decision to exit the EU might have been ethically questionable, yet it has been made based on the disappointment that a range of British citizens and government members have been experiencing lately due to the drop in the EU’s efficiency (Parker et al., 2017). Therefore, it would be an understatement to claim that the EU’s influence and power have declined over years.

Forced to accept new roles of managing the relationships within the global setting and having to navigate an increasingly complex political and economic context, the EU has been losing a substantial amount of power lately. Apart from the political and economic issues that Brexit has demonstrated, representing the fractured nature of international relationships within the EU, other problems have started to surface recently. Showing that the U may have lost a substantial part go its power, the current relationship dynamics within the EU indicate that the organization has been trying to retain its influence, yet the effects have been minuscule so far.

Finally, adopting the pluralist theory of power, one might want to consider the current conflict between European countries and Russia as a sign of the EU gradually losing its weight in the global political context. Specifically, the confrontation between Russia and the Western political world has been quite notorious over the past decade (Krickovic, & Weber, 2018). Although multiple efforts have been made by the EU to reduce the levels of conflict between Russia d the rest of Europe, particularly, Ukraine, the outcomes appear to indicate that the EU has been perceived quite coldly by the global community (Krickovic, & Weber, 2018).

Due to an increase in the levels of agency in different states on a global level, the EU has lost a certain degree of credibility and power, having been relegated from the body that controlled and represented every European state to the agent that functions primarily as an observer. Intervening only in the instances that involve an egregious breach of global standards and laws, the EU currently experiences challenges in managing the interactions between European states.


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Walt, S. M. (2018). The hell of good intentions: America’s foreign policy elite and the decline of US primacy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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DemoEssays. "In What Ways Is the European Union a Powerful International Actor?" September 27, 2022.