From Political Liberalization to Geopolitical Turn (Evolution of the EUS Discourse, and the Link between the Normative and the Material)

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2022-66-8-25-33
T. Romanova,
Saint Petersburg State University, 1/3, entrance 8, Smol’nogo Str., St. Petersburg, 191060, Russian Federation.
Saint Petersburg State University, 1/3, entrance 8, Smol’nogo Str., St. Petersburg, 191060, Russian Federation.

Received 25.03.2021. Revised 19.04.2022. Accepted 23.05.2022.

Acknowledgements. The article has been supported by a grant of the Russian Science Foundation (RSF). Project no. 22-28-00682,

Abstract. The article explores the geopolitical turn in the European Union’s policy, realized through two new and synonymous concepts in the EU’s official discourse – those of strategic sovereignty and strategic autonomy. The author demonstrates that these concepts do not imply a radical turn to pragmatism and materiality. Rather it is exposed that Brussels’ neoliberal paradigm has always presupposed the link between neoliberal normativity (liberal democracy of the Western type) and materiality (which incorporates prosperity through market economy, and security). The article defines several periods in the EU reconfiguring this link, each associated with a new concept (first democratization, then modernization, then resilience and, finally, strategic sovereignty/autonomy). Empirically, the study is based on speeches of the top EU officials, as well as on debates and documents of the European Parliament. Discourse analysis is used to define the link between normativity and materiality that evolves yet preserving its structure. It is demonstrated how the concepts of strategic sovereignty/autonomy incorporate virtually everything from peace, security and democracy to climate and innovation. The research most particularly focuses on the place that Brussels’ discourse allocates to Russia, which vividly reflects the specificity of the link between normativity and materiality in each period. More specifically, Russia evolves in the European Union’s discourse from being a country of modernization and democratic transition to a threat to the EU’s resilience and then strategic sovereignty, thus turning from an insider to the outsider in the symbolic space that the European Union establishes through the link between normativity and materiality.

Keywords: geopolitical turn, strategic sovereignty, strategic autonomy, EU–Russia relations, resilience, critical geopolitics, democratization, modernization, discourse


1. Fiott D. Strategic Autonomy: Towards “European Sovereignty” in Defence? The European Union Institute for Security Studies, 30.11.2018. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

2. Leonard M., Shapiro J. Strategic Sovereignty: How Europe Can Regain the Capacity to Act. European Council on Foreign Relations, 25.06.2019. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

3. Juncos A.E. Resilience as the New EU Foreign Policy Paradigm: A Pragmatist Turn? European Security, 2017, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 1-18. DOI: 10.1080/09662839.2016.1247809

4. Huntington S.P. Democracy’s Third Wave. Journal of Democracy, 1991, vol. 2, no. 2. pp. 12-34. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

5. Romanova T.A., Pavlova E.B. Russia and EU countries: partnership for modernization. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2013, no. 8, pp. 54-61. (In Russ.) Available at:

6. Romanova T.A. Resilience category in the European Union. Contemporary Europe, 2017, no. 4 (76), pp. 17-29. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

7. Bodin J. Six Books on the Commonwealth. Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1967. 212 p.

8. Romanova T.A. The EU’s discourse on sovereignty: content and consequences. Contemporary Europe, 2021, no. 5, pp. 32-44. (In Russ.) Available at:

9. Agnew J.A. Geopolitics: Re-visioning World Politics. Second Edition. London, Routledge, 2003. 154 p.

10. Tuathail G.O. Critical Geopolitics: The politics of Writing Global Space. London, Routledge, 1996. 250 p.

11. Hermann C. Neoliberalism in the European Union. Studies in Political Economy, 2007, vol. 79, no. 1, pp. 61-90. Available at:

12. Manners I. Normative Power Europe: A Contradiction in Terms? JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 2002, vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 235-258. DOI: 10.1111/1468-5965.00353

13. Thielemann E.R. Between Interests and Norms: Explaining Burden‐Sharing in the European Union. Journal of Refugee Studies, 2003, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 253-273. Available at:

14. Farrell M. A Triumph of Realism over Idealism? Cooperation between the European Union and Africa. European Integration, 2005, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 263-283. Available at:

15. Kubicek P. et al., eds. The European Union and Democratization. London, Routledge, 2003. 232 p.

16. Schimmelfennig F. The Normative Origins of Democracy in the European Union: Toward a Transformationalist Theory of Democratization. European Political Science Review, 2010, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 211-233. DOI: 10.1017/S1755773910000068

17. Korosteleva E.A. The European Union and its Eastern Neighbours: Towards a more Ambitious Partnership? London, Routledge, 2014. 228 p. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

18. Inglehart R., Baker W.E. Modernization, Cultural Change, and the Persistence of Traditional Values. American Sociological Review, 2000, vol. 65, pp. 19-51. DOI: 10.2307/2657288

19. Behr H. The European Union in the Legacies of Imperial Rule? EU Accession Politics Viewed from a Historical Comparative Perspective. European Journal of International Relations, 2007, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 239-262. DOI: 10.1177/1354066107076956

20. Holling C.S. Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 1973, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 1-23. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

21. Korosteleva E.A. Paradigmatic or Critical? Resilience as a New Turn in EU Governance for the Neighbourhood. Journal of International Relations and Development, 2020, vol. 23, no. 3. pp. 682-700. DOI: 10.1057/s41268-018-0155-z

22. Romanova T.A., eds. The “Resilience” Concept of the European Union: Articulation and its Implications for Russia. Saint Petersburg, Izdatel’stvo Sankt-Peterburgskogo universiteta, 2019. 312 p. (In Russ.)

23. Pavlova E.B., Mazanik S.V. “Resilience” in the official rhetoric of the People’s Republic of China. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. International Relations, 2019, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 77-92. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.21638/11701/spbu06.2019.105


1. Discours du Président de la République, Emmanuel Macron, à la Pnyx, Athens, 7 September 2017. The President of France. 07.09.2022. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

2. Speech by President-elect von der Leyen in the European Parliament Plenary on the Occasion of the Presentation of her College of Commissioners and their Programme. European Commission. 27.10.2019. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

3. “Strategic autonomy for Europe – the aim of our generation” – Speech by President Charles Michel to the Bruegel Think Tank. European Council. Council of the European Union. 28.09.2020. Available at:;jsessionid=2e_b0BzfTb9SUGWfMNd3QTFU4QfhvNruLYakrUtACLb7jhT5g7B2!1448265314?docId=6503828&cardId=6503827 (accessed 30.01.2022).

4. On the Path to “Strategic Autonomy”. The EU in an Evolving Geopolitical Environment. European Parliament. 01.09.2020. 52 p. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

5. Europe as a power, European sovereignty, strategic autonomy: a debate that is moving towards an assertive Europe. The Robert Schuman Foundation, 01.02.2021. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

6. Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council. A Strategic Approach to Resilience in the EU’s external action. EUR-Lex. 07.06.2017. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

7. European Security Strategy – A Secure Europe in a Better World. European Commission. 08.12.2003. 16 p. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

8. Report on the Implementation of the European Security Strategy – Providing Security in a Changing World. European Commission. 2009. 43 p. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

9. Common Strategy of the European Union on Russia. European Council, Cologne, 3 and 4 June 1999. Publications Office of the European Union. 3–4.06.1999. 29 p. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

10. Debates. Wednesday, 25 May 2005 13. EU–Russia Relations. European Parliament. 25.05.2005. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

11. Key Outstanding Issues for the EU in its Relations with Russia. European Commission. 10.11.2010. 29 p. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

12. News Conference following EU-Russia Summit. President of Russia. 01.06.2010. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

13. Brussels, 14 December 2011 EU-Russia Summit to Improve Citizen’s Mobility. European Commission. 14.12.2011. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

14. Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe. A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy. European Union External Action Service. 02.06.2016. 56 p. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

15. Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the Press Conference following the Foreign Affairs Council. European Union External Action Service. 14.03.2016. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

16. Debates. 16. Russia – the influence of propaganda on EU countries (topical debate). European Parliament. 17.01.2018. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

17. Digital Sovereignty is Central to European Strategic Autonomy – Speech by President Charles Michel at “Masters of Digital 2021” Online Event. European Commission. 03.02.2021. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

18. A New Industrial Strategy for Europe. European Commission. 10.03.2020. 16 p. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2022).

Registered in System SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Romanova T., Kotsur G. From Political Liberalization to Geopolitical Turn (Evolution of the EUS Discourse, and the Link between the Normative and the Material). World Eonomy and International Relations, 2022, vol. 66, no. 8, pp. 25-33.

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment






Dear authors! Please note that in the VAK List of peer-reviewed scientific journals, in which the main scientific results of dissertations for the degree of candidate and doctor of sciences should be published for the “MEMO Journal” the following specialties are recorded:
economic sciences:
5.2.5. World Economy.
5.2.1. Economic Theory
5.2.3. Regional and Branch Economics
political sciences:
5.5.4. International Relations
5.5.1. History and Theory of Politics
5.5.2. Political Institutions, Processes, Technologies


Current Issue
2024, vol. 68, No. 4
Topical Themes of the Issue:
  • Financial Contagion Propagation in Europe under the Impact of Global Shocks
  • Regional Powers on the African Continent: Trends and Prospects
  • Investment Activity of the PRC in the Kyrgyz Republic
  • “Land Grabbing” Concept: Global and National Aspects
Submit an Article
The Editorial Board invites authors to write analytical articles on the following topics:
  • changes in the processes of globalization in modern conditions
  • formation of the new world order
  • shifts in civilization at the stage of transition to a digital society

The editors are also interested in publishing synthesis articles / scientific reviews revealing the main trends in the development of certain regions of the world - Latin America, Africa, South Asia, etc.