Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2008

The Relevance of Norms and Values in the EU´s Russia Policy

January 2005

Finnish Institute for International Affairs


For the European Union, the link between norms, values and foreign policy seems to be an obvious one. For example, the new constitutional treaty spells out the set of values on which the Union’s external action is based on: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law. In the treaty, the development of relations with third parties is made conditional upon sharing and upholding them.

In its external action the Union thus wants to be seen as an essentially normative power. This emphasis is understandable not only in the light of the EU’s own history as a successful economic project based on political reconciliation between former deadly foes, but its current post-modern, or civilian power nature as well: Despite the recent and hectic work on the development of its military crisis-management capabilities, the Union still largely lacks the traditional (military) means of coercion, and is consequently forced to rely on “softer” means for influence and persuasion instead. Moreover, it needs to be stressed that this choice is not merely practical, reflecting the lack of means, but it also stems from the Union’s self-conception (or identity) as a new and qualitatively different international actor that shuns away from traditional modes of “power politics” and seeks to promote a “rule-based international order” in its stead.