The chapters set out above give us a detailed description of this quite ambitious concept. Manners designed Normative Power Europe concept with an intention to step away from dominating military and civilian approaches which, as he thought, were emphasising empirical aspects of EU policies and institutions. So, this concept should have broken away with this tradition by enriching the debate over EU international identity and role with more focus on cognitive processes. However, achieving this ambitious goal turned out to be quite challenging task and the title of Manners’ his principal work – “Normative Power Europe – a contradiction in terms?” – speaks for itself. Quite understandably, assessment of the concept in the academic circles was not unambiguous. Some authors (Hyde-Price 2006) have expressed thoroughly critical evaluation declaring its inability to explain several changes occurring in the area of EU’s military building16 as well as the stance of EU in recent conflicts (Yugoslavia, Iraq). While others (Diez 2005, Sjursen 2006, Tocci 2008) in overall accepted this approach even though criticized certain parts of it. But this critique has meant to polish and supplement it rather than to discredit.
One of the commonly criticized points in Manners’ concept is the question about the sources of this normativity. 17 Unlike Manners and Tocci who resolve the problem appealing to Kantian philosophy and EU’s institutional peculiarities that shape a distinctive manner of how EU views the world, Kagan (2003) suggests completely contrasting point of view. According to Kagan, the EU’s inclination towards normative behaviour is inspired by its military weakness and the lack of relevant foreign policy tools making the EU unable to solve pressing security challenges. Thus, the EU prefers to act normatively in order to compensate the lack of its defence capabilities while most of the “dirty work” is left for the US.
Reconciliation of normative goals with non-normative interests is another dilemma in the normative concept. The pursuit of normative interests (promotion of democracy, human rights etc.) may ultimately gain EU some strategic advantages. In this sense, practice of “humanitarian intervention” for protection of human rights during the international conflicts can help the initiator to advance its hegemonic power (Lieven and Hulsman, 2006). By the same token, initiating normative action in one case and refraining from acting normatively in another or, in other words, applying double standards in circumstances when material interests prevail (e.g. pursuit of energy security) represents another side of this problem.
Another disputable point in the normative concept concerns instruments, particularly sanctioning. Imposing economic sanctions on countries, even if their behaviour violates international law, undermines ethical compliance of sanctions with normativity criterions. Although, some authors defend sanctioning policy referring to its “targeting” nature that helps to evade harmful impact on masses (e.g. sanctions against government officials in Belarus), but in practice this policy can be extended to span key areas of economy, consequently affecting common people (e.g. sanctions against Iran which included ban of oil/gas import).
Finally, Forsberg (2011) argues that the terms “normative” and “power” usually in academic use acquire multiple meanings. So, the notion of “normative power” tends to be interpreted differently by authors causing theoretical confusion. The meaning of normative interests or means are understood more precisely than the notion of normative power. Thus, one alterative option is to refer to EU as an entity employing normative means and pursuing normative goals in particular cases instead of concluding that it is a normative power (Forsberg, 2011: 1199). In this continuum, Tocci (2008: 21) concludes that setting up strict parameters of goals, means and impact which must demonstrate normative qualities can raise the bar of normativity too high so that no political entity will be ascribed to normative power.
Used as a theoretical framework for our research, the concept of Normative Power Europe has established very solid conceptual structure that will be applied in the analytical parts. The NPE embodies both internal nature of the EU, its identity, and the external behaviour which is preconditioned to be normative by the former. Manners’ threefold typology of categories – normative principles, actions and impact, has been supplemented by the fourth category – normative goals. This category has been derived from the secondary literature which has rightfully argued that the international actors may exploit normative values for personal non-normative goals. Moreover, this category will be important in the analysis of the normative initiatives of the EU (European Neighbourhood Policy and Eastern Partnership) and will be a category within the qualitative document analysis. Therefore, all 4 normative categories we have outlined in the theoretical framework will be a part of the research design. First, to assure that the European Union via ENP/EaP holds on to the image of Normative Power Europe, we will apply qualitative analysis of the documents in order to identify 3 categories – normative values, normative mechanisms and goals in the documents so that to ascertain their compliance with theoretical framework we are relying on. Moreover, when searching for the normative values, we will make emphasis on democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms and rule of law as far as in the theoretical framework they have already explicitly outlined them. As for normative mechanisms, the theoretical part has presented numerous tools – from contagion through power of example to procedural diffusion. Therefore, selection of normative mechanisms in the documents will be made on ad hoc basis. However, relying on our conclusion regarding the principle of conditionality, we can confidently exclude it from the list of normative mechanisms and if necessary observe it independently. The very same categories will be searched in the second qualitative analysis, to be able to adequately evaluate and compare findings.
Evaluation of normativity requires successful compliance with all 4 categories. So, the category of normative impact will also be addressed in the course of analysis of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. Due to the peculiarities of the field we will analyse and of the political context of Azerbaijan, we cannot certainly define the form of normative impact we will seek for in advance. However, the theoretical part has set out a general framework of what we can expect by impact. The most general form of impact is acceptance of norms which are promoted by the EU. More specifically, normative impact emerges in the form of change of behaviour of the target government towards more obedient fashion and usually takes form of legislative amendments and adoption of laws in compliance with the expectations and recommendations. These are general forms of normative impact applicable in our case as well, but more accurately they will be specified in the respective part devoted to the freedom of expression.