Normative Power Europe? The power of the EU in its Relation to the USA in the Policy Field of Counter-terrorism


This paper examines the extent to which the EU constitutes a normative power in its relation to the United States in the policy field of counter-terrorism. Normative power is analysed along three dimensions: normative intent (the genuineness of EU normative commitment), normative process (the extent to which an inclusive and reflexive foreign policy is pursued), and normative impact (the development of norms in the third country, in our case study the US). Our empirical analysis focuses on the promotion by the EU of three fundamental rights in the policy-area of counter-terrorism: the prohibition of inhuman treatment of detainees suspected of acts of terrorism, the right to a fair trial for these detainees, and the right to respect for private life and data protection of citizens whose personal data are being processed for counter-terrorism purposes. The findings of this study suggest an only moderate record concerning EU normative power in its relation with the US. For example, our analysis indicates that the EU – in its promotion of the norm of prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment – to some extent applied double standards in terms of what it expected from the US and what it expected from its own Member States. Furthermore, the study suggest that while in theory there have been substantive normative changes in the US towards the three norms promoted by the EU in the policy-field of counter-terrorism, these changes have so far only to a limited extent been implemented in practice. The picture arises of strong normative impact on paper but little normative impact in practice. Finally, we hold that side by side with the EU, the Council of Europe acts as a normative power vis-à-vis the US. The influence of the Council of Europe on the normative basis of the EU and on EU normativity vis-à-vis third states has so far been underexplored in normative power theory. This study illustrates that the Council of Europe has acted as a driving force behind the EU’s commitment to promote the above norms.

© Martha Groothuis and Arne Niemann 2012

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Marga Groothuis is Assistant Professor of Constitutional Law at Leiden University

Arne Niemann is Professor of International Politics at the University of Mainz