Asia's expectations of the EU (EXPECT)

20 November 2023

Global disruption has become a contemporary EU phenomenon. Asia's expectations of the EU (EXPECT) delves into how changing international environments, leadership renewals, and disruptions like Brexit shape perceptions and expectations of the EU in Asian countries. These include China, Indonesia, Japan, and Korea. Learn more about EXPECT. 


2019 presents a turning point in how the EU will be perceived globally, balancing renewal against disruption.

Global disruption has become a contemporary EU phenomenon. The trigger of Article 50 created shockwaves that questioned EU solidarity, the direction of integration and the EU’s effectiveness as a global player. The Trump Presidency has similarly undermined the TransAtlantic consensus on norms and values. Russia has re-emerged as a disruptor for Europe. Together these phenomena fundamentally affect 3rd country expectations of the EU. The EU Global Strategy (EUGS) has become central to balancing these expectations as it seeks to redefine strategic priorities, threats and principles.

Additionally, 2019 provides an opportunity for EU leadership renewal through European Parliament elections and the selection of new Council and Commission Presidents and the High Representative for FASP. How will this “new EU” be viewed internationally?

The Network – Renewal versus Global Disruption - Asia’s Expectations of the EU (EXPECT) - traces the impact of this new context from the perspective of key EU Asian partners - China, Indonesia, Japan and Korea.

EXPECT examines how China, Indonesia, Japan and Korea’s expectations towards the EU’s global role are affected by a changing international environment and leadership renewal. How is the implementation of the EUGS perceived externally? Is it effective? How does Brexit, Trump and Russia alter expectations? Can the EU successfully profile its new leadership team in 3rd countries?

Methodologically, EXPECT analyzes Asian press and e-media opinion-making discourses, communications by official and think tanks and views of opinion-shaping elites. It also examines how EU Delegations in Asia communicate EUGS priorities via social media.

EXPECT draws on two decades of EU external perceptions research by the National Centre for Reseach on Europe (NCRE). EXPECT’s innovation is the conceptual evolution from “perceptions” to “expectations”. This intentionally traces how the EU’s international role is being redefined through internal (the EUGS and leadership renewal) and external (the global disruption of Trump, Brexit and Russia) drivers:

  • How will expectations towards the EU be constructed in the shadow of Brexit, Trump and Russian disruptions in the 2019-22 period?
  • Will the EU’s new leadership be recognised as a significant change?
  • Does the EUGS resonate with Asia’s key players?

The Asian focus reflects the EUGS ambition to “deepen economic diplomacy and scale up our security role in Asia” in light of “the economic weight that Asia represents for the EU” – “peace and stability in Asia are a prerequisite for our prosperity” (EUGS 2016). EXPECT traces Asian expectations towards the EU in the context of the EUGS’ emphasis on principled pragmatism, governance and resilience. These principles guide the analytical frames used to trace the EU’s communication, recognition and reception in Asia.

Change will be studied in each country and comparatively – across locations and across time drawing on the NCRE’s internationally recognised “EU Global Perceptions” research undertaken since the Lisbon Treaty (

EXPECT prioritises the dialogue between academia and practitioners and the mentoring of early career researchers by leading scholars and practitioners of EU-Asia relations.   It unites leading academic experts with EXPECT’s EU Policy Impact Team comprised of media and think tank commentators and EU pracitioners. EXPECT offers multidisciplinary expertise in EU external perceptions, CFSP, public diplomacy, media and communication studies.  Its research strategy examines:

  • Asian official policy and analytical discourses towards the EU;
  • EU communications via social media to Asian partners;
  • Framing of EU expectations by opinion-making e-media and opinion-shapers;
  • EU expectations among EU policy-makers, particularly early career diplomats;
  • Policy recommendations to address expectations in the EUGS context.

systematic account of EU expectations, reception and recognition by Asian actors will equip the EU with operational and programming level tools. EXPECT focuses on:

  • the recognised strengths of the EU and EU messages to build on these expectations;
  • key audiences which are the most receptive to EU messages;
  • protocols to assess effectiveness of EU diplomacy in Asia informed by EUGS; and
  • cost-effective initiatives to improve managing EU expectations, communication, recognition and reception.
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