Normative power Europe, ASEAN and Thailand
Natthanan Kunnamas ()
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Natthanan Kunnamas: Chulalongkorn University
International Economics and Economic Policy, 2020, vol. 17, issue 3, No 10, 765-781
Abstract Recognising the existence of political, democratic, and humanitarian problems in ASEAN and the fact that human rights remain an important stumbling block in the relations between the two regional organisations, the European Union (EU) has opted for a more pragmatic approach in two ways: first, by addressing a wide range of developmental issues and agendas in the numerous forms of cooperation with ASEAN; second, by implementing an adaptative policy to focus more on a region-to-state approach through development aid packages, and by fostering agreements of cooperation, especially with Thailand, a country case study. Since the EU possesses more leverage in region-to-state than region-to-region relations, it is apparent that the EU’s pressures on Thailand have yielded more desirable results than on ASEAN. The EU’s pressure to make Thailand conform to a set of values such as democratic elections, freedom of expression, and just and fair trade has generated tensions between the two, particularly during the period of military junta rule in Thailand between May 2014–July 2019. This paper therefore examines how the bilateral relations between the EU and Thailand contribute to the EU’s normative aims. It uses Ian Manners’ concept of Normative Power Europe (NPE) to assess the extent to which the European Commission, as the EU’s external relations actor, could exert normative pressures on Thailand and contribute to changes in the latter’s political and economic norms. The paper raises four examples to illustrate its point: the EU’s call for democratic election and protection of human rights; the campaign against capital punishment; the ban on illegal fishing; and the implementation of EU emission trading system (ETS).
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