The Southern Mirror: Reflections on Europe From the Global South

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Publication Date June 2022
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Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine catapulted Europe to the forefront of a global crisis that is testing the continent’s aspiration to become a geopolitical actor. In response, the transatlantic relationship has solidified, and some of Europe’s allies have mobilized behind it. But the rest of the globe — representing over half of the world’s population — has been lukewarm in supporting the transatlantic response or has sat on the fence, with many states abstaining from condemning Russia and few supporting sanctions. From the perspective of the European Union (EU), which sees itself as a champion of multilateralism, a supporter of international solidarity, and the most generous donor of development aid, this reaction begs the question of why Europe has so few loyal friends in the Global South.

Taking an unusual and underexplored outside-in approach, this report uncovers views of Europe’s international role through the eyes of the Global South. In the past, the EU has commissioned polls about the way its image is perceived abroad, but the questions asked reflected the EU’s own self-perceptions. Scholarship — mostly from the United States, China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa, and the EU’s neighbors — has unearthed much evidence that shows how perceptions of Europe and the EU vary across countries, regions, and issues and are colored by burdensome historical legacies. The choice of geographies, however, left large parts of the Global South in the shade.

The existing literature reveals that the EU is recognized as three thematic types of actor: a global trade power or a provider of development aid; a political and security actor, supporting regional security through bodies such as the African Union or contributing to security operations abroad; and a normative power, supporting human rights and democracy, regional integration, and multilateral organizations.

This report investigates these issues and a broader range of themes that have recently become prominent. The climate crisis has made an extraordinary rise to the top of the policy agenda, including in economic and normative terms. The digital agenda is an increasingly strong component of the economy as well as a space for geopolitical competition. Migration policies are unquestionably shaping the way the EU engages with the rest of the world. And the coronavirus pandemic has brought health and global governance to the forefront of international cooperation.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction | Rosa Balfour & Marta Martinelli
  • Brazil: EU Relations at the Best and Worst of Times | Oliver Stuenkel
  • Ethiopia: A Conflict at Breaking Point | Hafsa Halawa
  • Indonesia: Hoping for More Active EU Relations | Evi Fitriani
  • Niger: Mixed Perceptions Amid Varying Awareness of the EU | Mamane Bello Garba Hima
  • The Philippines: Positive EU Ties Despite Divisive Rhetoric | Florisa C. Almodiel-Luteijn & Antonio G. M. La Viña
  • Venezuela: Perceptions of Europe Framed by Domestic Crises | Raúl Stolk & Gabriela Mesones Rojo
  • Zimbabwe: The Long Shadow of Sanctions | Chipo Dendere
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