Altruism or self-interest? An exploratory study of the EU’s external image in South Africa

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Series Details Vol.12, No.3, Autumn 2007, p401-419
Publication Date September 2007
ISSN 1384-6299
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Article is part of a special issue ‘Beyond self-perception: the others’ view of the European Union’.


This article provides an exploratory analysis of how the European Union is perceived in South Africa by public opinion, political elites, civil society organizations and the mass media. The EU’s image in South Africa is rather distant, if not marginal: it is scarcely known to the South African public at large and vastly ignored by the country’s media. In terms of public opinion polls, the EU is one of the least known international institutions, despite being South Africa’s biggest donor of development aid and largest trading partner. In official government documents, the EU is portrayed as an opportunity for the African continent and a model of regional integration, while civil society organizations criticize the EU for imposing developmental policies that are detrimental to the developing world. In view of the substantial diplomatic and financial investment the EU has made in South Africa over the years, and because of South Africa’s leadership role in Southern Africa, the findings of this article are likely to provide important insights into the external image of the EU as a global developmental actor.

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