Moving beyond the Normative-Geopolitical Ambiguity of the EU’s Imperial Politics in the Neighbourhood: The case of Lebanon

Research output: Contribution to conference (unpublished)Paper


Since 2005, the European Union intensified its political commitment in Lebanon. The same year an Association Agreement was signed and the first Action Plan published in 2007. The Arab Uprisings of 2011 – and on its coat-tails the brutal war in Syria – fortified an enduring imperative of stability. Over the last years, the EU became more realistic in its ambitions – more assertive in its claims for influence, and demonstrated a greater capacity to play to its political strengths. An increasing realism was obscured by prevalent normative discourses reflected in EU documents. A particular normativegeopolitical ambiguity in its external relations is caused by the imperial nature of the EU. This paper argues that Brussels operates in legacies of imperial rule in its efforts to stabilize and transform the Near East. The first chapter of the paper conceptualizes the EU’s imperial politics. The second section analyzes contents of the bilateral agenda, as formulated in the Action Plan, which can be compared with 19th century ‘standards of civilization’ developed by European states; whereas the stabilization policies resemble geopolitical concepts. The third chapter examines the current role of the EU in Lebanon, especially in light of the “three M- approach” introduced by the revised ENP of Spring 2011 and beyond “three M” addressing security issues. Despite its successes, the Union still remains an underestimated actor in the Levant. This is the case mainly because the ENP suffers from its normativegeopolitical ambiguity, demanding at the same time a geopolitically motivated stabilization of the peripheries (in terms of power) and a sustainable transformation of the neighbourhood converging with the value system of the EU (in terms of norms).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2014


  • European Union
  • External Relations
  • Lebanon


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