Fractured Integration x Soft Power Debits: Contested Legitimacy in Europe
The European Union’s (‘EU’) soft power resources and underpinning constitutional values (including the rule of law, solidarity, equality, non-discrimination and respect for human rights) have historically exerted a magnetic attraction, offering distinct opportunities for regional and international development. If the EU regime and legal order have induced public acceptance until now it is because most of the people have considered that it serves their interests most of the time. However, through a series of crises from the Eurozone crisis to the migration crisis and now Brexit, the EU has endured growing party-based Euroscepticism and a changing perception of its value from within and without. This crisis narrative is impacting negatively upon the EU’s capacity to contribute to European development, while also shrinking its soft power resources. The future of European integration (‘EI’) and of European influence depends not only upon the EU’s ability to maintain legitimacy as a producer of public goods but also on its ability to invoke acceptance of its legal order or regime and to sustain an alluring narrative of expansion, influence and success. This article examines the extent to which the EU’s normative power and its capacity to act in the international sphere are shaped by its measurable achievements and its soft power resources.