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Challenging the EU’s claim to moral authority: Russian talk of ‘double standards’


  • James Headley



Normative Power Europe is not just an academic concept: it is part of the self-understanding of many EU policymakers. They believe that the EU is setting standards of state behaviour in Europe and globally. The EU is regarded as an elaborator and epitomizer of European and ‘civilised’ values, as a model for other regions and states and as inherently an ethical actor. Russian policymakers reject these notions and, in doing so, increasingly accuse the EU of ‘double standards’, arguing that EU external action is inconsistent and does not always match its rhetoric; that the rhetoric therefore masks the pursuit of interests in its foreign policy; that the EU is like any other state (or state-like entity) and has no special claim to act ethically or to be a moral authority; and that internally, the EU does not live up to the values it seeks to impose on others. This article gives examples of Russian talk of EU double standards, analyses the motivations and assesses the likely impact. It argues that for such criticism to have any impact on EU policy, the critic must be seen as a moral equal, which the EU’s sense of moral superiority over Russia rules out. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Suggested Citation

  • James Headley, 2015. "Challenging the EU’s claim to moral authority: Russian talk of ‘double standards’," Asia Europe Journal, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 297-307, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:asiaeu:v:13:y:2015:i:3:p:297-307
    DOI: 10.1007/s10308-015-0417-y

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Schimmelfennig, Frank, 2001. "The Community Trap: Liberal Norms, Rhetorical Action, and the Eastern Enlargement of the European Union," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(01), pages 47-80, December.
    2. Ian Manners, 2002. "Normative Power Europe: A Contradiction in Terms?," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(2), pages 235-258, June.
    3. March, James G. & Olsen, Johan P., 1998. "The Institutional Dynamics of International Political Orders," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(04), pages 943-969, September.
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