Images of the EU in EPA negotiations: Angel, demon - or just human?

Ole Elgström


A striking feature of the discourses surrounding the negotiations of Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and developing states is the starkly contrasting pictures given of the role and nature of the EU. The Union is either portrayed as an angel, an actor with altruistic objectives, concerned primarily with the economic and social development of the ACP countries, or as a demon, an actor driven by self-interest with an hidden agenda and using confrontational tactics. The first image is mainly held by Commission officials, the second by NGO representatives. In this article, I establish the existence of the two contrasting images, try to explain theoretically the nature of the debate by reference to cognitive theory, and discuss the potential consequences of constructing and utilizing black-and-white images. I argue that the EU risked being caught in rhetorical traps by describing itself in overly altruistic terms, thereby giving its counterparts argumentative advantages. NGOs, on the other hand, lost some of their possibilities of influencing EU policy by taking a totally confrontational stance.


civil society; development policy; European Commission; lobbying; trade policy

Full Text: HTML PDF

European Integration online Papers | ISSN 1027-5193
© 1997-2015 ECSA Austria | All Rights Reserved. Webmaster Editorial Assistant