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As seen from North-East Asia: Potential and limits of the EU as a strategic actor

Final Report Summary - EU-NORTHEASTASIA (As seen from North-East Asia: Potential and limits of the EU as a strategic actor)

The research project explored potential, and limits, of the European Union (EU) as a strategic actor in North-East Asia. The focus was on a comparative analysis between EU motivations and aspirations towards China on space and defence matters on the one hand and the perceptions, and reactions, of Japanese, Taiwanese, South Korean and American policy makers on the other hand. The overall objective was to discern whether, and to what extent, the promotion of EU space and defence interests in China would further a perception among the region's policy makers of the EU as a novel strategic actor and what the implications of this would be for EU foreign policy in the area.

The project started with the examination of the determinants for EU cooperation with China on space and satellite navigation (with particular attention to Sino-European collaboration in the Galileo satellite system) and the reasons put forward by EU policy makers for improving military and defence technology ties with China, including the proposal to lift the EU arms embargo. The research found that these initiatives had been adopted (or only proposed as in the case of the lifting of the arms ban) by the EU and its member states in order to upgrade political relations with Beijing and foster EU global competitiveness in key high-tech industrial sectors, thereby augmenting autonomy from the United States (US) in a part of the world that had become increasingly important for the socio-economic welfare of the EU.

This part of the research was carried out in Europe (2008 and 2009) and China (August 2008 and October 2009) resulting in the publication of a journal article and a chapter in an edited volume. The research findings have also been used by policy makers. In April 2009, the United Kingdom parliament (House of Lords, European Union Committee) invited this author to submit written evidence on EU-China cooperation in space technology and satellite navigation in relation to the House of Lords' inquiry into EU-China relations. The memorandum submitted was subsequently published and made available on the House of Lords' website.

The second part of the project explored how EU-China cooperation in space technology and satellite navigation and the attempt to promote closer military and defence ties have been perceived in North-East Asia and the United States, with particular attention to the reasons provided by Japanese, South Korean, Taiwanese and American policy makers for (strongly) opposing the proposal to lift the EU arms embargo on China. This part of the project was implemented through research fieldworks, including interviews, in the United States (September 2008), South Korea (April 2009), Japan (May 2009) and Taiwan (October 2009).

This part of the research led to the collection of a large number of interviews that would support - to varying degrees - the claim that the EU had begun to be perceived in the region not only (and solely) as an economic power bloc but also (and increasingly) as a potential strategic actor. The fieldwork research and interviews also led to the establishment of a network of contacts with scholars in some of the region's most prestigious universities as well as policy makers in the ministries of foreign affairs, defence, and science and technology.

The third part of the project produced a final evaluation of the evidence collected in the previous stages of the research, assessing both intended and inadvertent consequences of EU foreign policy towards a country (China) for the surrounding regional system (North-East Asia) and the US strategic interests in the area. This lent itself to a wider analysis of the potential and limits of the EU as a strategic actor in North-East Asia, thereby completing the project. Some of these findings have been included in my monograph: Remaking global order: the evolution of Europe-China relations and its implications for East Asia and the United States (Oxford University Press, October 2009).