Soft Power or Neo-colonialist Power? - African Perceptions of the EU

Siegmar Schmidt


This article analyses African perceptions of the EU’s policy toward Africa from a constructivist research perspective. From this perspective perceptions are important because they contribute to a foreign policy identity. The interaction of self-ascribed roles with external perceptions and expectations creates a foreign policy identity which manifests in foreign policy roles such as “civilian power”. The main questions are: How do African elites and Africans at large perceive the European Union (EU)? What is the image of the EU in Africa? The empirical basis is characterised by deficits. The article gives a brief overview on historical legacies and the current interregional relations. In the following it assesses African perceptions of three key areas on the EU Africa policy: The EU’s promotion of democracy and human rights, the EU’s role in trade relations and the EU’s policy in the field of peace and security. The following conclusion can be taken from the investigation: The EU is neither fully viewed as a soft-power nor as a neo-colonialist power. The EU’s self-ascribed role is not fully accepted in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Review of European Studies   ISSN 1918-7173 (Print)   ISSN 1918-7181 (Online)

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