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Photo: “European Union Flags 2“, by Thijs ter Haar, licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Meunier, Sophie, and Milada Anna Vachudova. “Liberal intergovernmentalism, illiberalism and the potential superpower of the European Union.” JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 56, no. 7 (2018): 1631-1647.


Andrew Moravcsik has long argued that the EU is the world’s second superpower, albeit a quiet and overlooked one. This article explores how the EU behaves as a global power, and how the illiberal turn may diminish it. We present Moravcsik’s four core claims about the EU as the second superpower using the lens of Liberal Intergovernmentalism. We argue that the EU is more a potential than an actual superpower because its considerable hard and soft resources are not always converted into global influence. We focus on two challenges to this power conversion, which we illustrate in the areas of trade and enlargement: first, the uneven transfer of competences to the EU level and, second, the presence of illiberal regimes in the EU, which makes it more difficult to agree on common policies and tools anchored in democratic values.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.