Kristian L Nielsen


The European Union has in the past ten years frequently emphasised its soft power as its primary currency in international affairs. Yet a systematic analysis of the EU’s foreign policy performance, through the prism of the classic ‘capability-expectations gap’, suggests that soft power in itself does little to address the weakness of the EU as a foreign policy actor. This article elaborates on the soft power concept and on the interplay between hard and soft power as seen in the EU’s foreign policy. It argues that in few of the roles the EU seeks to fulfil does soft power in itself bridge the gap between the expectations and the capabilities. Rather, soft power, when it is present, widens that gap even further by adding to expectations, thus leading to even greater eventual disillusionment when the EU’s hard power capabilities do not match.


External Relations; Soft Power; EU international roles; Capability-Expectations Gap; foreign policy effectiveness.
Research Articles
Article Copyright
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Material published in the JCER is done so under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence, with copyright remaining with the author.
  • Articles published online in the JCER cannot be published in another journal without explicit approval of the JCER editor.
  • Authors can 'self-archive' their articles in digital form on their personal homepages, funder repositories or their institutions' archives provided that they link back to the original source on the JCER website. Authors can archive pre-print, post-print or the publisher's version of their work.
  • Authors agree that submitted articles to the JCER will be submitted to various abstracting, indexing and archiving services as selected by the JCER.
Further information about archiving and copyright are contained within the JCER Open Access Policy.