East Asia

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 15–33 | Cite as

Intra-European Bargaining and the ‘Tower of Babel’ EU Approach to the Burmese Conundrum

  • Renaud Egreteau


Since the 1990 imposition of an arms embargo, the European Union has kept on furthering its sanction policies towards Burma’s military regime in response to its poor record on human rights and authoritarian rule over the country. However, more than a decade after the 1996 EU Common Position on Burma, the European approach to the Burmese conundrum has still failed to achieve its initial objective of facilitating a transition to democracy and of stimulating aid and development in the country. This article seeks to underline the limits of the EU position by highlighting the internal and external obstacles the Europeans have been facing in their policymaking process towards Burma. It is argued that the varied and multiple interests of the 27 EU members; an influential European public opinion favouring an attitude of ostracism; and misunderstandings or miscalculations in appreciating the current state of Burmese affairs have hindered the EU from playing an efficacious role. Moreover these factors also impede its reappraisal.


Burma Common position Engagement EU foreign policy Myanmar Ostracism Sanctions 



The Author would like to thank the organizers of the 3rd annual EU-NESCA conference held in Brussels on 25-26 November 2008 for their invitation and assistance, as well as David Camroux (CERI-Sciences Po Paris), Mael Raynaud (EBO, Brussels), Andreas List (EU) and the anonymous reviewer for their constructive advice. The views expressed hereafter are his own. Email:


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hong Kong UniversityHongkongChina

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