The European Union's (EU's or hereinafter 'Union's') self-understanding has to be perceived as one of the most essential factors shaping the EU's role in world politics. This article focuses on how the EU perceives itself as an international power. The EU's self-understanding, which first outlined European unity as a force for change in the world, moved in the Cold War context in a more state-centric direction. The protection of European security and - gradually - the EU's own territory and citizens were seen as the primary goals of the EU's power. The idea of the EU as an owner of common rights, responsibilities, and interests emerged and has been efficiently used later on in the EU's policies.
With the historical enlargement, the big power identity was all the more emphasized. In the context of enlargement, the successes of European integration started to appear as a firm source of the Union's power. The EU sees itself as a large territorial actor, whose power emanates from its economic might, political unity, and a very special system of internal cooperation. The comprehensive framework of instruments is clearly viewed as the main asset of the EU's power.European Foreign Affairs Review