EU Normative Power in Ocean Governance: The Case of Thailand’s Fisheries

The European Union has placed themselves in the center field for developing ‘ethical’ ocean governance. The EU has pushed to take such a central role; something not foreign to the power the Union has on dictating what should be perceived as normal.

One of their initiatives in the last decade has been valuing the environment such as regulating ‘ethical’ fishing. One country that was affected was Thailand and their fish sector. After the European Commission threatened Thailand with a ‘yellow card’ this prompted fast changes to their fishing practices. From 2015 to 2018, Thailand was able to transition from a ‘yellow card’ status to a ‘green’ card status in terms of their fisheries.

Source: EUObserver

Why did Thailand listen to the Commission? This sports-like card system of yellow card or green card is the EC’s way of threatening countries by labeling them as non-cooperating third countries.

Why would a third country such as Thailand care what standards the EU likes? The EU member nations are big importers from Thai fisheries and being closed of to the Union market’s affects the relationships Thailand has with other nations the are in business exporting the goods. This is how the third countries, out of economic and trade necessity, find themselves obeying to the powers of the EU.

Why does it matter that another country obeyed EU policy? The EU, whether by creating ethical policy or not, has a lot of power to influence other nations and has known to export its norms outside their borders. As Professor Cheeppensook put it, “the ability to generate norms has always been a distinctive feature of the European Union’s policies towards its external parties and the world at large” (672). Where this raises concerns is that the EU champions standards of appropriateness in policy abroad. Who is the EU to dictate what is appropriate across the globe?

Creating what is largely perceived as normal is what EU policy has exported. The reality is that Europe’s normative power is a practice of European identity construction. Without making moral judgments, it is never a sane task to allow any entity to dictate norm forming especially when it becomes their identity. This is no exception to the EU.

Sources: Cheeppensook 2020, Dept. of Fisheries-Kingdom of Thailand 2018, Diez 2005, Diez and Manners 2007, Gammeloft-Hansen 2011, Manners 2002, Tavornmas and Cheeppensook 2020.

Researcher interested in international law and migration governance; Graduate student at the London School of Economics mariomarset.com

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