Strategic Partnership between the EU and Japan


The article is focused on the concept of “strategic partnership” and its usage in regard to the EU-Japan relations. This term is widely used both in the European and Japanese political practice and was originally introduced to characterize bilateral relations in 2002. On July 18th, 2018 the two sides signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which fixes the usage of this term in the legally binding document. However, the term is vague and still has no commonly accepted definition. Research in Japanese and European foreign policy narrative on the “strategic partnership” issue showed that no definition of this term is needed: each specific “strategic partnership” is unique in nature and is named as such for a specific purpose. Employing this approach allowed to finding out what meaning Japanese and European sides imply when naming their relations “strategic” and for what purpose they have been using it so far. The conclusion the author comes to is that the European Union plays the leading role in using the rhetoric of strategic partnerships and applies it in two dimensions. The first, ideological one, implies, that Brussels is striving to spread the rules and norms it shares through interaction with its strategic partners, who are characterized by considerable economic and political weight. Japan is an important like-minded partner of the EU in this regard. The other, pragmatic dimension involves strategic partnership as an instrument for development of informal trust-based relations, which allows the EU to resolve disputes with its strategic partners more effectively. In case of EU-Japan cooperation the problem of lifting European embargo on arms supply to China was a challenge for EU-Japan strategic partnership, which finally ended up with keeping embargo valid and strategic partnership safe. Tokyo, according to the author’s findings, doesn’t have its own structured view on the usage of the strategic partnership concept and applies this term, among others, to the partners not playing a truly strategic role for Japanese diplomacy. Engaging with Brussels, Tokyo, however, fully accepts the rhetoric it practices.


European Union; Japan; EU-Japan relations; strategic partnership; normative power; international institutions.

Authors: Mariya Chizhevskaya

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