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Asia's expectations of the EU (EXPECT)

08 December 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.


The EUGS was launched in difficult times - in the immediate aftermath of the UK Referendum, just prior to the election of President Trump and during the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

It mapped an path for the EU the context of which has been subsequently disrupted. It confirmed the EU’s commitment to global order through the norms of human rights, sustainable development and international law and stressed a readiness to “not impose” and to search for mutual understandings beyond EU borders.

The EUGS promises to “enhance strategic communications, investing in and joining up public diplomacy across different fields, in order to connect EU foreign policy with citizens and better communicate it to our partners”. Expectations were set high and it is incumbent on the new 2019 EU leadership to deliver on these commitments.

EXPECT builds knowledge and facilitates best practice by contributing to policy debates on global governance and fostering academia-practitioner dialogue. 

EXPECT consolidates practitioners’ policy insights and academic excellence by gathering data and producing methodologically rigorous analyses of expectations towards the EU and narratives that reflect EU external relations with Asia.

Renewed leadership opens new opportunities for EU re-branding and policy revision and can address the long-standing “expectations gap”.

Informed by EUGS priorities, EXPECT will help the EU to:

  • improve the consistency of external expectations of EU principles and action;
  • revise expectations towards EU messages and narratives tailored for diverse Asian societies;
  • offer factual information about changing EU contexts;
  • work via social media;
  • redesign diplomacy to address the dominant EU perceptions in Asia;
  • work with local opinion-makers in a culturally-sensitive way to manage expectations towards EU leadership;
  • Employ public diplomacy to foster an open media environment for insights into EU-Asian relations;
  • trace the evolution of EU expectations to “develop a more politically rounded approach to Asia” (EUGS: 38); and
  • establish a baseline of EU expectations in the context of leadership renewal and global disruption.

EXPECT gathers systematic data on EU recognition in societies marked by growing geopolitical weight and builds and exchanges knowledge across priority areas: expectations of the EU as an economic powerhouse; sustainable development, environmental and climate change advocate; an attractive investment, business and innovation hub; an effective security actor; and as a normative power.

Ultimately, EXPECT facilitates a better understanding of EU global actorness under new leadership thus enhancing the integration process by providing external feedback.

EXPECT draws on the experience of two decades of EU perceptions projects conducted in Asia by the National Centre for Research on Europe utilising existing academic collaborations, successful structures, tested methods and theoretical models.

EXPECT builds capacity between academics and practitioners from media, think tanks and the EEAS by studying EU external expectations and perceptions; EU global actorness and leadership; and EU-Asian relations. The academia-stakeholders axis fosters innovative research and teaching in EU Studies.

EXPECT also brings together a team of established scholars and EU-Asia practitioners to develop a new cohort of early-career researchers from the EU and Asia to promote sustainability in the fields of EU foreign policy, international identity and public diplomacy.

EXPECT will establish mentoring mechanisms to train a new generation of European Integration scholars. These early career researchers will be:

  • involved in all stages of data collection and analysis
  • individually assigned an academic mentor
  • supported in producing academic outputs, integrated into ongoing EU Studies courses and to develop new didactic materials

EXPECT will equip young researchers with skills and knowledge for effective careers.

Utilising EXPECT results and methods in designing innovative EU courses will give a distinctive profile to these early career academics. These future leaders will also acquire civic skills, e.g. networking with civil society, media, policy-makers and diplomats; and the design of policy recommendations together with members of EXPECT’s Policy Impact Team.

To guarantee quality and multidisciplinarity, EXPECT combines leading JM Centres of Excellence in the region with expert teams drawn from 9 universities in Asia and the EU.

It also connects established international JM Chairs with others outside the JM network maximising expertise in relevant 3rd countries. EXPECT is gender balanced (both for experienced and young academics).

The Policy Impact Team features practitioners (from media, think tanks, EEAS) and scholars of EU-Asia relations to provide policy relevance and focus and establish an on-going high-profile dialogue between academia and EU stakeholders.

EXPECT is a cohesive professional initiative to improve expertise in research and teaching of the EU as a global actor and its dialogue with external partners. It involves authors of the foundational studies in EU perceptions in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as leading scholars of EU-Asia relations, CFSP, Integration, media and image studies.

Drawing on key areas of specialisation, EXPECT adds academic and civic value by promoting a contemporary research agenda on EU external expectations  and high-visiblity policy-academia links in a time of new leadership, global disruption and the EUGS. EXPECT’s multidisciplinary approach serves as an innovative knowledge exchange platform to revisit theoretical approaches and methods and establish new synergies between them.

Media- and elite- focused EXPECT analysis maps:

  • differing expectations towards the EU’s renewed leadership and the consequences of global disruption among opinion-making audiences and e-media discourses in Asia;
  • successful EU social media strategies;
  • potential local partners, including opinion-shapers, open to cooperation with the EU;
  • topics where the EU could exercise the most impact; and
  • regional vs. global trends and opportunities for the EU’s new leadership to reconceptualise its public diplomacy and recalibrate the EU’s credibility and better manage expectations.

EXPECT’s multidisciplinary reflections facilitate an understanding of the EU’s new leadership and changing international role as challenged by global disruption, aims to influence behaviour and expectations amongst key audiences and serves as a reference for future EU policies towards Asia.

This contemporary research informs current and future EU teaching and promotes teaching innovations in EU Studies that are research and evidence-based.


EXPECT workshops 2022

China 2022 - social media analysis

Download (application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.presentation, 18 MB)

China 2022 - traditional media analysis

Download (application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.presentation, 3 MB)

ASEAN 2022 - social media analysis

Download (application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.presentation, 3 MB)

Indonesia 2022 - traditional media analysis

Download (application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.presentation, 4 MB)

South Korea 2022 - social media analysis

Download (application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.presentation, 1 MB)

South Korea 2022 - traditional media analysis

Download (application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.presentation, 3 MB)

Japan 2022 - social media analysis

Download (application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.presentation, 6 MB)

Japan 2022 - traditional media analysis

Download (application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.presentation, 6 MB)
2023 EXPECT grant findings

EXPECT grant findings presentation

Download (application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.presentation, 4 MB)

EXPECT - Japan Expectations Deficit

Download (application/pdf, 3 MB)
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