External Images of the EU (EXIE): Images of the EU as Normative Energy Player - EU External Perceptions - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

External Images of the EU (EXIE): Images of the EU as Normative Energy Player

Time line

September 2012 – August 2014

Countries in Focus

 Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, UK, Germany, France and the EU


Project Description

This project focuses on two major global challenges that the European Union (EU) is currently facing:

  1. the establishment of a multipolar world order with emerging powers as prospective cooperation partners; and
  2. the challenges of creating a secure, competitive and sustainable EU External Energy Policy (EUEEP).

In an increasingly multipolar world with a growing demand for energy by newly emerging powers such as Brazil, Russia India, China and South Africa (BRICS), questions of external energy governance would appear to be a high-priority issue for European policy-makers. Yet, external energy governance with emerging powers (except for EU-Russia energy relations) is only scarcely addressed at the European level.

Driven by severe strategic constraints that risk the securitisation of energy policies, the EU is failing to harness the potential for cooperation with newly emerging powers, and the possibilities for multipolar energy relations. This is aggravated by the EU’s failure to systematically examine its external image in general, and of its EEP towards BRICS in particular. These perceptions are a basis for understanding and a foundation upon which actors make decisions. Ultimately, if the EU continues to overlook its EEP and its external images, the EU will leave itself exposed to strategic and ecological risks, bearing in mind the future impacts of climate change and resource scarcity.

In international fora, such as the Copenhagen and Durban climate conferences, the EU’s conduct in the field of energy policies risks isolating the EU and leading it to be perceived as a weak actor. As such, the EXIE aims to:

  1. Assess the external image and perceptions of normative orientation, governance and bargaining strategies of the EUEEP. Within this context the Euro crisis and the EU’s post-Copenhagen behaviour in EUEEP will be specifically examined (case of the BRICS news media); and
  2. Compare EU external imagery with the EU’s self-visions and with the BRICS’ visions of other global energy actors who may present alternatives to cooperation with the EU.

The comparison between self- and xeno-visions will highlight the areas of misunderstanding, miscommunication and misperception tainting the EU’s dialogues with Emerging Powers in the energy field. Energy is a cross-cutting issue involving the policy fields of external relations, trade, energy, development, environment, human rights and climate policies.

The following objectives shape our research programme:

  1. To identify the EU’s self-visions (response to the euro debt crisis, and in this context, images of the EUEEP) communicated via reputable news media
  2. To identify external media images of the EU responding to the euro debt crisis and, in this context, of its EEP (five case-studies of BRICS)
  3. To compare internal vs. external media framing of the EUEEP, as well as vs. the framing of external energy policy of other global energy actors
  4. To compare the EU’s and the BRICS interpretations of the three norms of energy security, sustainability and competitiveness

To outline recommendations which use images and perceptions to show EU policy makers how external images could facilitate (or subvert) the EU’s future “Good External Energy Governance” in an increasingly multipolar world. Ultimately, this research will facilitate a comprehensive approach towards global awareness of a more cooperative multipolar external energy regime.


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  • National Centre for Research on Europe
    Kirkwood Village KD04
    University of Canterbury
    Private Bag 4800, Christchurch
    New Zealand
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