Why Europe Cannot Be a Superpower

  • Zaki Laïdi
Part of the The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy book series (SPIRP)


Much plethora of research has been conducted on Europe’s power.1 But aside from the fact that it tends to concentrate particularly on procedures and discourses, it winds up stumbling upon the same enigma: Can Europe be a superpower? This question in turn raises two new questions: Is it conceivable for a political actor that is not a state—even if it seeks de facto acknowledgment as such, particularly by international institutions—to rise to the rank of a superpower? Even more fundamentally, is the European project compatible with the very idea of power? As we will see, these questions are essential. And the fact that they are posed with regard to Europe and not China, India, Brazil, or Russia shows that Europe is indeed a specific case. Its specificity is twofold. Not only because Europe’s political structure has no historical equivalent—it is not a state, even a federal one (and nothing indicates that it is on the way to becoming one)—but also because, like it or not, the philosophy of the European project is historically dominated by a refusal of power: “Cooperation between nations,” wrote Jean Monnet, “solves nothing. What we need to strive for is to merge European interests and not simply to balance them.”2


Soft Power Military Power European Member State European Power European Arrest Warrant 
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© Zaki Laïdi 2008

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  • Zaki Laïdi

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