The European Community and the World

A Historical Perspective

by Giuliana Laschi (Volume editor)
©2014 Edited Collection 182 Pages
Series: Euroclio, Volume 81


The European Community (EC) has taken on an outward-looking dimension over the years since its first establishment, developing structures and tools which are unprecedented in the history of international relations.
The original signatories of the Treaty of Rome accepted the idea of a «little» Europe only as a first step towards something that would be much bigger and more powerful; ultimately, they wanted to provide the EC with the international power necessary to realize the idea of the common market.
It is not possible to properly define the EC’s actions towards the rest of the world as «foreign policy» in every case and at every stage of its history; nevertheless, the EC has undoubtedly always played a strong and significant international role, even if this role has been expressed in an unconventional way compared to the international system.
This volume on European spaces and borders provides a meeting-point for a number of very different analyses and interpretations, from a variety of disciplinary, chronological and geopolitical perspectives, and in so doing develops a rich and complex debate.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • The European Communities and the World: An Historical Perspective. Introductory Remarks (Giuliana Laschi)
  • Élargissement contre le rideau de fer Un outil efficace mis à l’épreu (Giuliana Laschi)
  • Insularity and Europe of the Islan (Carlos Eduardo Pacheco Amaral)
  • Les Régions ultrapériphériques de l’Union européenne Contexte, évaluation et perspectiv (Isabel Maria Freitas Valente)
  • The Information Policy. How the European Communities presented themselves abroad (1952–196 (Fabio Casini)
  • Le PVCE: les relations extérieures de la CE comme vecteur d’identité (Alessandra Bitumi)
  • The Legal Status of the Caspian Sea and the EU’s Foreign Policy in the Regi (Gerd Morgenthaler)
  • Europe and Chile. The case of Patagonia (1870–191 (Raphaela Averkorn)
  • Instrumental Bridges or Fruitful Ties? Spain’s Role in the Consolidation of an EU-Latin America Partnersh (Cristina Blanco Sío-López)
  • Relations UE – Amérique latine. Une relation insérée dans un contexte en mutati (Paulina Astroza Suarez)
  • Latin America and Europe. Regional Fragmentation v. Regional Convergence. A Comparative Vi (Gian Luca Gardini)
  • EU-India Relations. Partners for Developmen (Marta Quintussi)
  • Series Index

← 8 | 9 → The European Communities and the World:
An Historical Perspective

Introductory Remarks

Giuliana LASCHI

The European Community (EC) has taken on an external dimension over the years, with structures and tools largely innovative in the history of international relations. The original signatories of the Treaty of Rome accepted the idea of a “little” Europe only as a first step towards something that would be deeply different in extension and power capability; they wanted to provide the Community with the international power necessary to realize the common market. Indeed, they believed that the EC would become a dynamic actor in the international system as an expression of the free world. From the very beginning, one of the fundamental tools of European foreign policy was the enlargement policy, which was also its most successful policy. Until the Nineties, the EC worked in a context where international political relations were characterized by bipolarism: at first this kind of relation fostered integration and cooperation in order to face the Soviet threat, but it eventually complicated the full implementation of European integration. The hegemonic role of the US in the Western world and in the international system restricted the capacity of the EC to develop as a fully autonomous actor, limiting also its international recognition. It is undeniable that the EC over fifty years developed a growing external dimension, capable of influencing third countries’ policies and economies. The EC has established international relations on every continent. It also has an important role in international crises and meetings, even if it often does not have a single common position. As a consequence, today the EU has a recognizable presence in the international system. Therefore, the attempt to analyze and understand the historical evolution of the external dimension of the EC from 1957 to the present is of fundamental importance to deeply understand the EC, its history and its present.

It is not possible to properly define as “foreign policy” the external action of the EC in every case and historical period; nevertheless, it is certainly possible to talk of external relations. From the very beginning, the EC developed close international relations with third countries, first ← 9 | 10 → of all because the EC was created and existed at the international level. This pure and simple international “presence” was supported by a growing external role, expressed by the exclusive competence in some internal policies (especially the commercial policy and the common agricultural policy), which also had external effects and a strong impact on third countries as well. Therefore, it is inarguable that the EC has always played a strong international role: even if this role is expressed in an unconventional way (as is true of most of the Community actions, all in all) compared to the international system, it is no less strong and significant.

The European Community had and still has strong and important external relations, which in this volume will be explored at their different levels, with a main goal of debating and deepening the history of the external relations of the EU. EU foreign policy and external relations are a very significant topic in European Studies, mostly investigated by political analysts, economists and jurists. On the contrary, external relations were largely neglected by the first generations of historians of European integration. In the last years, external relations, the EC sui generis foreign policy, have become a subject of research, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

This volume on the spaces and borders of Europe originates from research undertaken within the framework of the Jean Monnet Chair ad personam, awarded and financed by the European Commission – Jean Monnet Programme – and the logistical support of Europe Direct Punto Europa of Forlì. The project aimed at deepening the research and study of the external relations of the European Union, itself the subject of my studies for several years, and through this volume to provide the scientific community with some of the reflections that have resulted. The choral contribution is rich, given the geographical and interpretive diversity of the papers. As a matter of fact, this volume is conceived as a meeting point for different analyses and interpretations, from a disciplinary, chronological and geopolitical perspective, and I hope it proves useful in developing a rich and complex debate. Many scholars have welcomed my request to elaborate and develop some issues on the subject of external relations, according to their own disciplinary and research fields. My goal was to foster a reflection, as stimulating as possible, on identity and on the European spaces that establish a relation with the rest of the world, first at the European level, and later at a global level.

The contributions are interdisciplinary. Although my interest was primarily devoted to the deepening of the historical analysis of the external relations, I believe that, within European Studies, it is particularly challenging and important to stimulate interaction and exchange among all its different disciplines in order to shed light on elements and passages that would otherwise remain in the shadows.

← 10 | 11 → In order to understand which Europe has confronted the external dimension and before dealing with the question of what actually is truly and securely external to the Community, a reflection – in a historical perspective – must be devoted to the enlargement, beginning with acknowledging the fact that enlargement has played a fundamental role in “turning the outer space into internal space”. Besides, the effort is to understand the strength and the solidity of enlargements and the shortcomings produced by the big one in 2004–2007, including a change in the relations and alliances in the international system. In my paper, Élargissement contre le rideau de fer. Un outil efficace mis à l’épreuve, I offer an interpretation of the difficulties related to the big enlargement, highlighting the fact that there exists two Europes, a division that in my view could not be overcome with a process of pre-adhesion, no matter how long it should be. In order to actually go beyond the iron curtain that has divided the continent for 50 years, a new foundation act was needed, including both Europes, abandoning all temptations of western eurocentrism on one side and sentiment of national dignity on the other. Such an opportunity was offered by the process of European integration and also by the idea that “the others” had to conform to a model that, all in all, had proved successful.

Most contributions analyze more directly particular external relations of the Community, to understand how diverse they are and how they have influenced the EC/EU. The variety of the areas taken into consideration shows how different the arguments and solutions have been. Two papers investigate the insular and peripheral regions of Europe.

The contribution by Carlos Pacheco Amaral, Insularity and Europe of the Islands, deals with a particular theme, often neglected by the historiography on European integration: the European islands, especially those furthest from the continent.

Some islands are fully inside Europe, and no specificities follow from their insular condition; some are outside, and others yet are somewhat in between, as they are fully inside, yet know important derogations and special legal, political and fiscal regimes. For this present text, Pacheco Amaral’s attention is centered upon this last category of islands: the ones remaining somewhat in between. And they remain in between in a double sense. Firstly, because they enjoy a status of autonomy, and, accordingly, are in between independence and subjection. They are neither sovereign States of their own, nor are they integrally subjected to their respective metropolises. Secondly, they are in between Europe and their neighboring Indian, American, African or Asian continents. It is as if these islands possessed a complex identity and status, constituting true frontier posts of the Union. Not linear, nor closed frontiers, in the manner of modernity, but frontiers that constitute authentic spaces of interface, transition and interpenetration, both in geo-strategic, political and cultural terms. Vitorino ← 11 | 12 → Nemésio, one of the major figures of Portuguese culture of the 20th century, used to describe the Azoreans by saying that they possess a double nature, being made of both lava and flesh and bone. Paraphrasing him, the author suggests that the Azores and the remaining outermost regions of the Union that remain in between Europe and the rest of the world present a double character, belonging both to the Old Continent, that shaped them, and to the Atlantic, Caribbean and Indic space, in which they are located.

Isabel Valente has instead analyzed Les Régions Ultrapériphériques de l’Union européenne: Contexte, évaluation et perspectives. The ultraperipheral regions share very peculiar features, because they are European from a political-institutional perspective, but they are not so from a geographical perspective. European outposts far from the heart of Europe, remainders of a colonial past of the Community’s members, the ultraperipheral regions can play a relevant strategic role, as located in places that can facilitate efficient relations between the EU and other continents. With the ultraperipheral regions, the European Union is the only continental space that can affirm its presence at the heart of the Indian Ocean, of the Caribbean and of South America, opening possibilities for the EU to foster deeper external relations within a global international system.

Contrary to what is assumed, the Community has tried to present itself on the international stage from the very beginning. Already in place under the Coal and Steel Community, the information service of the European Economic Communities designed and communicated to the external world the image of a Community for which an important international role was prefigured, as Fabio Casini shows in his essay The Information Policy. How the European Communities presented themselves abroad (1952–1967). Indeed, the Community developed very early on an information strategy towards the third countries, first and foremost towards the USA and the UK, where information offices were opened in 1954 and 1955. Both countries had been involved in the European integration process since the Schuman Declaration of 1950. The UK, as potential addressee of the French proposal, and the US because in that project they recognized a first step towards the unity of Europe that they had strived to promote themselves, especially through the aid of the Marshall Plan. Throughout the Sixties, there was a boom of information services in third countries, to which it contributed the importance that this type of information had for the Council of Ministers, sometimes at odds with the common information service. In his contribution, Casini analyzes these debates and the information strategies of the Communities in the Sixties in the European states that were not members of the EC (Ireland, Greece, Switzerland, Turkey) as well as in Africa and Latin America.

Also Alessandra Bitumi investigates a very peculiar aspect of the external relations of the EEC in her essay: Le PVCE: les relations extérieures ← 12 | 13 → de la CE comme vecteur d’identité. Bitumi’s analysis departs from a very original perspective to investigate how the Community has developed its own identity and ability of global projection, primarily expressed through the articulation of complex external relations, beginning with the transatlantic relationship. The focus is on the first EC public diplomacy project, the European Community Visitors Program, originated from the stimulus of the “relance européen”, launched at the Hague in 1969. Moving from the presentation of this program, the author aims at offering a reflection over the dialectical tension between the internal and external space of the EC as a premise, and tool, for a gradual affirmation of the European identity, within and outside the Community borders.

Gerd Morgenthaler, in The Legal Status of the Caspian Sea and the EU’s Foreign Policy in the Region, analyzes the European strategic goals on the Caspian Sea, along with the instrument of the neighborhood policy. As a close neighbor, the European Union is particularly interested in the Caspian Basin and its adjacent areas for security reasons, both in the classic military meaning of the term and in a broader sense referring to good governance and the aspect of a reliable energy supply. The author underlines that, due to its geostrategic position and rich natural resources, the Caspian region has developed into one of the key areas of world politics. Therefore, the ongoing dispute among the littoral states over the legal status of the Caspian Sea has to be regarded as an issue of international alert. As long as the interested powers disagree in the basic questions whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake and how the existing treaties concluded between the littoral states should influence or amend the general rules of customary international law referring to seas or lakes, there will be no set delimitation of sovereignty over the surface, water column and subsoil. Furthermore, without a definite answer to these basic questions it will be difficult to achieve any consent in the subsequent questions of the legal regime which ought to entail solid solutions for highly political challenges like military and non-military navigation, the use of natural resources and, last but not least, effective environmental protection for an extremely fragile ecosystem.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (April)
international relations power common market
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 182 pp.

Biographical notes

Giuliana Laschi (Volume editor)

Giuliana Laschi is Professor of the History of European Integration (Jean Monnet Chair ad personam) and Contemporary History at the University of Bologna, Forlì Campus. Her books include L’Italia e il processo di integrazione agricola europea, 1947-1962 (1999), Potenza civile o entità in declino? (co-edited with Mario Telò, 2007), L’Europa nel sistema internazionale (2009) and Oltre i confini (ed., 2011).


Title: The European Community and the World