The European Union as a Middle Power

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A very popular concept in the late 20th century, especially after the fall of Soviet Communism left only one superpower standing on the international system, a middle power can be defined as an ambitious developed state with limited capabilities to impose its will on others, engaging in a diplomacy-focused foreign policy, in order to be relevant on the international scene, usually promoting multilateralism and stability on the international system. Historically, to that end, middle powers have resorted to “niche diplomacy” as a tool, specialising in particular issue where to invest their attention and activism. Such example of niche activism could be Norway’s and Canada’s support to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. We would argue the particular position of the European Union could be compared to that of a middle power, limited not by its size, population or military might but by its member states’ sovereignty, or the principle of subsidiarity, forcing it to specialise in specific areas where it is considered a leader, or has more room to manoeuvre: the environment, connectivity, human rights promotion and possibly others… We would then try to assess the validity, relevance, or usefulness of such a comparison.

Keywords: Middle Power, Niche Diplomacy, Niche Activism

Valentin Luntumbue | College of Europe

Valentin Luntumbue holds two bachelor degrees in History and Sociology-Anthropology from Université Saint-Louis, a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Université Libre de Bruxelles as well as a Master of Arts in European Interdisciplinary Studies from the College of Europe (Natolin). After an internship within the European External Action Service (EEAS) he has since 2018 been working at the Bruges campus of the College of Europe.