Facing the ‘pivot' to Asia EU's role in East and Southeast Asia from a neorealist perspective
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The rise of China and the “pivot” to Asia announced by the US pose new geopolitical challenges that should be recognized and properly addressed by the European Union. Adapting elements of the neorealist perspective on international relations, this article intends to briefly analyse current and possible role for the EU in the Asian power‑balancing game. It also examines the capabilities, interests and deficiencies of the EU as a security actor in the Asia Pacific, and investigates whether the EU’s capacities are enough to potentially counterbalance other powers in Asia. Even though there are numerous shortages to the EU’s “actorness” and capability to act, it is still the biggest economy in the world, which can be successfully translated into leverage while counterbalancing other powers. Also, developed expertise in non‑traditional security matters as well as recent institutional developments provide for the EU’s stronger international presence and growing power capacity. However, this potential needs to be well managed. The EU suffers from leadership deficiency and lacks a strong, coherent strategy towards Asia that could match the one of the United States. Such strategy is essential for the EU’s security and economic prosperity given growing interdependence between Asian Pacific and European economies as well as increasing role of the Asian powers in global affairs. Especially the rapid growth of China brings several implications not only for the general world order, but also for the EU’s position in its hierarchy. Often the power‑balancing game in Asia Pacific is depicted as centring around the US‑China rivalry for influence. Having in mind that the US is one of the key players in the region, also the EU‑US partnership needs a new, Asian dimension which could determine the further role of the transatlantic alliance in a changing security environment. Finally, all comes down to a question not only about the EU’s capacity and willingness to become a global power; but also about if it can afford not to become one.
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