By Lenz, Tobias, and Kalypso Nicolaidis
The paper critically appraises the idea, both descriptively and normatively, that the European Union (EU) system can and should serve as a model for governance beyond its own borders. Engaging the postcolonial literature, it proposes a critical analysis of the idea, discourse and practice of Europe-as-a-model. We argue for a problematization of the label “model” without denying the value added by EU governance for the rest of the world. We start by developing an analytical heuristic that builds on three semantic meanings of the term model and outline the challenges of interpretation and translation that are associated with each. We then discuss these challenges along the Hegelian three-step of the model idea (thesis), its postcolonial antithesis and our constructive critique that seeks to steer a middle ground. We advocate greater reflexivity on the part of Europeans, that is, to systematically question assumptions behind their discourse and practice. If the cosmopolitan promise is to be retrieved from the radical critic of Eurocentricism, Europeans need to infuse the EU’s message and practice with an ethos of mutual recognition as a crucial feature of a post-colonial agenda for the EU’s role in the world.