Intra-European bargaining and the 'tower of babel' EU approach to the burmese conundrum

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-33
Number of pages19
Journal / PublicationEast Asia
Issue number1
Online published2 Sept 2009
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


Since the 1990 imposition of an arms embargo, the European Union has kept on furthering its sanction policies towards Burma's military regime in response to its poor record on human rights and authoritarian rule over the country. However, more than a decade after the 1996 EU Common Position on Burma, the European approach to the Burmese conundrum has still failed to achieve its initial objective of facilitating a transition to democracy and of stimulating aid and development in the country. This article seeks to underline the limits of the EU position by highlighting the internal and external obstacles the Europeans have been facing in their policymaking process towards Burma. It is argued that the varied and multiple interests of the 27 EU members; an influential European public opinion favouring an attitude of ostracism; and misunderstandings or miscalculations in appreciating the current state of Burmese affairs have hindered the EU from playing an efficacious role. Moreover these factors also impede its reappraisal.

Research Area(s)

  • Burma, Common position, Engagement, EU foreign policy, Myanmar, Ostracism, Sanctions