This paper re-examines the capability-expectations gap in the European Union´s foreign policy in light of recent developments in this field. Our point of departure is the observation that the expectations being placed on the EU’s foreign and security capabilities in recent years have been steadily increasing, in response to a number of external and internal developments, including the Arab Spring, the Ukraine crisis and America’s ‘pivot’ to Asia, as well as the Brexit vote. We argue, however, that the institutional changes introduced as a result have not succeeded in fulfilling the lofty ambitions held of the Union either by itself or by other actors, since they suffer from many of the same failings that have persistently bedeviled EU security initiatives. The result is a mismatch between the EU’s ambitions and its ability to deliver on these which threatens to re-open the capabilities-expectations gap that has been steadily declining since the late 1990s. Existing scholarly approaches have missed this problematic dynamic, since they have focused more on the institutional changes (the supply-side) rather than the increasing expectations (the demand-side). While pronouncements regarding Europe’s ‘strategic autonomy’ and suchlike offer clear gains for European leaders in the short-term, they may come back to haunt them in the years to come.
- capability-expectations gap