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The European Union in International Gender Politics: Internal Limitations to Normative Leadership



What kind of global gender actor is the European Union? Existing literature, although interested in EU’s external gender equality policy, does not place the EU in the larger context of international gender politics. Comparative discourse analysis of EU policy documents and statements in the Commission on the Status of Women shows tension between EU’s claim of leadership status in gender politics and little discussion of transformation, progress and change of the status quo as well as vagueness of EU’s position. This finding leads to inquiry into possible explanations of this mismatch. Internal rules of decision-making, especially the need to achieve agreement between EU member states, is found to explain EU’s foreign policy on gender. The study of the EU as a global gender actor shows that the ability of the EU to diffuse norms externally, as captured by normative power and transformative power concepts, is conditional upon proper norm formation within Europe.


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