The narratives behind the EU’s external perceptions: how civil society and elites in Ukraine, Israel and Palestine “learn” EU norms

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Series Details Volume 28, Number 3, Pages 284-303
Publication Date 2019
ISSN 0966-2839 (print) | 1746-1545 (online)
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The EU's normative promotion is a keystone in the arch of its Foreign and Security Policy, reflected in establishing a 'ring of friends' in its neighbourhood. However, the EU's normative impact in these countries is often hindered by domestic constraints. Conversely, deeper socialisation through persuasion and 'learning' may advance towards the promotion of EU norms better.

By tracing the 'learning' component of the EU's external perceptions in its Eastern (Ukraine) and Southern (Israel and Palestine) neighbourhoods, this paper elaborates upon the receptiveness of EU norms. Considering the specific attention that the ENP draws towards the support of civil society, this paper focuses on 'learning' narratives of EU norms among civil society elites in Ukraine, Israel and Palestine as the key targets of EU assistance – with a particular focus on various conceptualisations of learning in the learning process. Notwithstanding perceptions of the EU as a normative power, we find that the learning processes remain too complex to be captured within a single theoretical framework. Whereas communicative rationality implies learning about each other's identities through rational arguing, our analysis demonstrates that identity performance is one of the most emotive and crucial factors in perceptions of learning.

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