EU-ASEAN relations in the post-Cold War era
: an analysis of the impact of normative factors on interregionalism

  • Xuan Loc Doan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the relationship between the European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with a focus on why their normative elements, e.g. values and norms, affect their ties in the post-Cold War era. Since the end of the Cold War, policy-makers and academics have become interested in region-to-region interaction, termed interregionalism. Though interregionalism is considered to have become an indelible feature of post-Cold War international politics, there are question marks over its importance. It is often argued that interregionalism reinforces the collective identity of the regional organisations involved. It is also maintained that its overall relevance to the international system depends on the level of actorness, which is primarily measured in institutional and material terms, of the participant regional organisations. This thesis contends that the normative components of the EU and ASEAN are also fundamental constituents of their actorness and, consequently, define significantly their interregionalism. This is based on a crucial observation that normative factors are of importance to the regional and international relations of the EU and ASEAN. Yet, while they strongly espouse norms and values to guide their internal and external activities, their normative premises radically differ from each other. Furthermore, these normative differences jeopardise their cooperation. Building on this observation the inquiry takes the normative components of the EU and ASEAN as the criterion as well as the focus for investigating their interregionalism. In doing so, it hypothesises that the EU and ASEAN are two different regional actors that adopt two dissimilar sets of norms to conduct their regional and international affairs and that such normative differences hinder their relations. Within this hypothesis, it seeks to address three central questions. First, what are the normative features that constitute the EU and ASEAN as actors in world politics and that make them different from each other? Second, what are the main sources of their normative differences? Finally, why do their normative differences become an obstructive factor in their relationship? To address these issues, the inquiry adopts a constructivist interpretation (of International Relations) and opts for a narrative and empirical inquiry, which is based on information and data acquired from official documents, scholarly works and interviews and questionnaires. In doing so, it finds that as they were born and evolved in two dissimilar temporal and spatial settings, the EU and ASEAN are two different norm entrepreneurs and normative powers. The former advocates a set of liberal cosmopolitan norms whereas the latter champions a set of traditional communitarian principles. Their normative differences become a major obstacle to their cooperation, especially when one regional organisation’s norms are refused or violated by the other. Thus, a key lesson drawn from these findings is that in order to explain more fully EU-ASEAN interregionalism, it is essential to consider their norms, the reasons behind their normative differences and the implication of those differences to their relations
Date of Award30 Sept 2013
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorUwe Wunderlich (Supervisor)


  • European Union
  • post- Cold War
  • interregionalism

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