External Relations and External Perceptions of the EU in sub-Saharan Africa and the Black Sea Region

The collective foreign policy mission of the European Union claims to promote peace, prosperity and democratic values around the world. In many ways this is the external projection of the particular model of political and economic organisation and interaction that has materialised within the European Union since the end of World War Two. As part of this foreign policy mission the EU has established a multitude of formal relationships with countries and regions around the world: these range from Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and other long-term political and economic cooperation agreements, such as Cotonou and the Joint Africa-EU strategy, to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and candidate status for possible accession states. But does the global role that the EU ascribes to itself correspond to the perceptions of Europe and the EU in its partner countries and regions?

The proposed project will investigate the concordances and discordances between the foreign policy mission and the external perceptions of the EU and Europe in two regions which have close formal and historical ties with the EU: sub-Saharan Africa and the Black Sea region. Both regions are included in regional cooperation frameworks that support formal ties with the EU: Sub-Saharan Africa is part of the EU-ACP interaction framework, while the Black Sea region is covered by the EU Black Sea Synergy and the recently launched EU Eastern Partnership. What is more, both sub-Saharan Africa and the Black Sea region have historically been part of Europe’s wider area of political and economic interest and are now each subject to challenges from other (re-) emerging global powers: China and Russia.

A total of four case studies drawn from the two regions are designed to capture the wide range of perceptions of the EU’s role in the world. Two case studies in Kenya and Senegal will reflect the EU-ACP regional subdivisions, while in the Black Sea Region two case studies will concentrate on the Ukraine as a state with close formal ties with the EU and a long-term membership perspective and Georgia as a part of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). In focusing on these four case studies, we want to attract attention away from a customary focus on the “big players” in global politics such as the USA, Russia or China whose relationships with and perceptions of the EU have dominated most academic research. We thereby emphasise the importance of understanding differing perceptions of Europe’s geopolitical and geoeconomic role in its historical-geographic vicinity, where the EU continues to exercise significant influence. By contextualizing those perceptions with official accounts of EU external relations this research aims to contribute towards utilizing the appeal of Europe’s model of political and economic organisation and interaction – as manifested within the EU – whilst at the same time transcending an euro-centric viewpoint.