Holning Lau & Kelley Loperin Thomas Giegerich (ed), The European Union as Protector and Promoter of Equality (Springer 2020) pp 487-502
Published online in July 2020
Abstract: The European Union’s (EU’s) foreign policy objectives include promoting equality rights around the world. Commentary on such efforts in Asia has focused on the EU’s application of economic pressure to influence Asian states. This chapter seeks to shift the focus to a range of non-economic tools that the EU uses to promote equality rights in Asia. These “soft power” options include, but are not limited to, conducting official “human rights dialogues” with Asian leaders, providing technical assistance to government and civil society actors, developing social media campaigns, and setting positive examples through progressive law reforms in the EU. This chapter first explains why it is important for the EU to support equality rights through the exercise of soft power. It then specifically considers the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), as a source of soft power. Some Asian courts cite the ECJ as persuasive authority. The ECJ thus indirectly promotes equality rights in Asia by setting examples. It is problematic, however, that Asian courts learn from the ECJ while the ECJ and other EU institutions fail to reciprocate by learning from rights-protective Asian courts. This unidirectional flow of information reflects and reinforces neocolonial dynamics. The EU could allay concerns about neocolonialism, and perhaps increase its influence in Asia, by engaging Asian courts in a two-way dialogue on equality rights.