By: Morgan Harris
Winner of the 2019 Karl Popper Prize
The European Union is typically regarded as a soft power institution that influences others through co-option and cultural integration. Research now indicates, however, that the EU is beginning to explore coercive hard power tools and tactics. In other words, instead of strictly enticing actors to behave through diplomatic soft power, scholars suggest that the EU is now forcing desired action. A key concept related to hard power is “lawfare” or the use of law and legal mechanisms in substitution of hard-military practices. Archival data collection of EU sanctions and flight bans from 1993—when the union was formally established—to 2017 reveals that the European Commission, European Parliament, and the Council of the European Union have been actively engaged in lawfare since the 1990s. The analysis finds that the European Union enacted 439 separate instances of lawfare against its enemies from 1993 to 2017 and that its lawfare usage is nuanced, either to cripple an enemy’s capability, condemn or punish a government or actor’s behavior, or to substitute specific military action. These findings complicate and challenge the idea that European Union is a strict soft power institution and that its possible hard power tactics are a recent development. In addition to providing critical insight into how the EU responds to domestic and international threats, this study, as both the first quantitative analysis of lawfare and of lawfare’s usage by a supra/multi-state institution, extends the literature to provide valuable insight into measuring and analyzing the global usage of law as a weapon of war.